Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Recognition for "Teaching metaliteracy" and SoTL

Posting a brief update to share a few exciting things that have happened in the past few months.

First, my article "Teaching metaliteracy: a new paradigm in action," authored with my co-everything and dear friend Teresa Grettano, and published in 2014 in Reference Services Review 42.2, has been recognized for two different awards and honors.
In addition to the final publication version, linked above and freely available for one year, our post-print version of the article can also be accessed freely and openly at this link.*

This was the article Teresa and I wrote after the first run of our co-designed and co-taught course, Rhetoric & Social Media. In it we describe the effects of social media use on students' information behaviors, attitudes, and practices, including that: 1) information now comes to users; 2) information recall and attribution are now social; 3) evaluation is now social; and, 4) information is now open. 

This article also develops further in the literature the relationship between information literacy and metaliteracy, by presenting our findings through the lens of Mackey and Jacobson's emergent metaliteracy framework

In addition to the above recognition for our article, Teresa and I were both awarded by our Provost Faculty Enhancement Awards for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning this past Spring 2015. 

The citation that accompanied both of our awards described our work in our Rhetoric & Social Media course, which has now ran four times since we first created it, as well as our "Teaching metaliteracy" article, as evidence of our excellent work in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). More information about the Provost's Faculty Enhancement Awards can be found at this link (scroll down to item III.), and the list of 2015 winners in all categories (not just SoTL) are viewable here.

These SoTL awards were a complete surprise to both of us: we didn't even know we were nominated. And, we found out while in Portland, OR for ACRL 2015, where we were co-facilitating a workshop about writing and information literacy collaboration--so, in other words, doing the very work abroad we were being recognized for back home. All of our colleagues who attended the awards dinner heard our names announced and texted us the news, which was a surreal experience to say the least. 

And, believe it or not, this recognition comes with a $1500 award to be put toward any activity or equipment that will directly contribute to my continued professional success (!!!). I plan to use it to buy an iPad, which I will use to begin experimenting with doing my research-reading digitally (including highlights and annotations).   

All in all, it's been a very rewarding (~rimshot~) past few months that have made me feel fortunate and blessed that I get to do the work I do, with the people I get to do it with. 

And the above awards and recognitions are all the more valuable to me because they are evidence of the power and awesomeness of collaborative partnerships like the one I share with Teresa. #partnas4lyfe 

Phew, onward and upward!

*Edited 7/15/15 to add a note to say: Please excuse errors in the final publication version of "Teaching metaliteracy" introduced by Emerald's copyeditors in the final stage of the publication process. Teresa and I were not given the option to review proofs before the article went to print, and attempts to have the final publication version corrected have not been successful. For this reason, while the Emerald version is the better version to cite, it may be that our author-archived post-print version is easier to read. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Flexible Frames for Pedagogical Practice: Using the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education

This is an experiment in sharing my work, and in effect the contents of my brain, in a manner that is "unfinished" (please be kind!). What follows are my slides and speaking notes for a presentation I gave yesterday at the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the Pennsylvania Library Association's 2015 Spring Conference. The presentation is called Flexible Frames for Pedagogical Practice: Using the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. 

The first thing below is the embedded Slideshare of my slidedeck, which is useful because all of the citation links on the slides themselves are clickable within the Slideshare version. Below that are the static slide images, each followed by my notes for that slide. Obviously I did not read these notes verbatim, but they contain the information I intended to share over each slide; generally speaking, text that does not have a linked citation within or after it are ideas that are my own. Text in bold were points I wanted to be sure to include and emphasize in my verbal presentation.

I don't have time to prose-ify these, so I am sharing them in their raw form in the hope that they may be of use to others. To this end, I am licensing the content in this blog post CC BY-NC 4.0 (Attribution-NonCommercial: full license; human-readable summary).



Point out Twitter handle.

Point out hashtag.

Ask how many people have read the Framework.

Ask how many people have begun to use the Framework (however they define “use”).

[Explain rationale for content of presentation today.]

For today’s presentation, I am using the term “theory” loosely.  

  • “a contemplative and rational type of abstract or generalizable thinking, or the results of such thinking”
  • “generalized explanations of how nature works”
  • “an explanatory framework for some observation”
  • “a thoughtful and rational explanation of the general nature of things”
Today I am using it to mean the theoretical background information about learning / information / information literacy learning that will better enable the practitioner to achieve the goals of information literacy instruction (as well as to define what those goals are/should be).

Engagement with theory leads to praxis.

  • “the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted, embodied, or realized”
  • “the act of engaging, applying, exercising, realizing, or practicing ideas”
  • “a form of critical thinking [that] comprises the combination of reflection and action”
“Practice” vs. “praxis”: practice is doing without thinking/learning before and reflecting after; while praxis necessitates the practitioner engaging new ideas, putting them into practice, and then reflecting on how it went in order to know and do it (the practice) more deeply and effectively the next time. 
  • Here we are referring to our INSTRUCTIONAL PRACTICE/PRAXIS.
  • Many of us have been doing praxis for years, so this is not to minimize the information literacy instructional practice of our communities prior to the Framework; however, for the first time the Framework requires we move from practice to praxis
  1. Theory Crash Course
  2. Praxis with the Framework
    • An Excursus on Learning Outcomes + a practical example from my own praxis
  3. Activity in which we can hopefully put these approaches into practice/praxis as a group

What are the major theoretical approaches to the Framework?
  • Threshold Concept Theory (“TC theory”)
  • Understanding by Design (UbD, “backward design”)
  • Metaliteracy
  • Critical Information Literacy (“crit IL”, #critlib)
These are the four most prevalent: there could be others though!

These were/are intentionally invoked by practitioners before/during/after the Framework’s development.

This diversity is a GOOD thing: you don’t need to buy into any one of them completely to still thoughtfully USE the Framework in your praxis. 
  • Example: I don’t fully buy into TC theory, though I do find aspects of it useful as a way to understand and communicate information literacy concepts and learning to both students and colleagues.

Jan Meyer and Ray Land (2003) first introduce this approach and term through research about learning in the discipline of economics. 

Korey Brunetti, Amy Hofer, & Lori Townsend bring this approach to information literacy through their ongoing research (2015), first published in portal: Libraries and the Academy in 2011.

“Threshold concepts are the core ideas and processes that define the ways of thinking and practicing for a discipline, but are so ingrained that they often go unspoken or unrecognized by practitioners” (Townsend, Brunetti, & Hofer, 2011).

Characteristics (Meyer & Land, 2003): transformative (shift in perspective), integrative (separate ideas into unifying whole), irreversible (cannot be un-learned), troublesome (counterintuitive and thus often where students get stuck), and bounded (may help define the boundary of a knowledge domain or discipline)

Imagery and phrases often associated with TC theory: thresholds, liminality, stuck places, “ah ha” or “lightbulb” moments

  • TC theory situates IL within the disciplines.
  • And yet, “TCs for IL” are in fact meta-TCs because they are being defined FOR IL (which is a meta-discipline/community of practice), which means they are shared across disciplines, and yet they LOOK DIFFERENT in practice for each discipline. 
Examples of IL practitioners embracing TC theory in their approach to using the Framework:
  • Sara Miller (2015): Faculty development workshop at Michigan State University; first half: faculty recognizing TCs for IL in their own disciplines (i.e., as meta-TCs).
  • Xan Goodman, Samantha Godbey, & Sue Wainscott (2015): ACRL 2015 workshop + LibGuide; approach to library instruction design incorporating TCs and UbD (more in a moment on latter) targeting students’ “stuck places”.

Grant Wiggins [who just passed away suddenly on Tuesday] and Jay McTighe (2005) first coin Understanding by Design in 1998, which is not limited to IL and in fact at first focused on K-12 education. 

UbD answers the question: “How do we make it more likely—by our design—that more students really understand what they are asked to learn?” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005) = BACKWARD DESIGN:
  • Begin with the desired results (learning outcomes)
  • Identify the evidence needed to determine the results have been achieved (assessments)
  • Design learning experiences through which that evidence will be produced and the needed knowledge and skills will be developed (pedagogy)
This should sound familiar to those in the room who have experience with IL assessment. 

Imagery and phrases often associated with UbD: backward design, spiral curriculum, big ideas and enduring understandings
  • Spiral image (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005) for both student work (designing curricula so concepts are revisited with deeper engagement each time appropriate to development), and instructional designer work (teachers assess the results of their designs and revisit/revise their approach based on evidence of learning that has occurred). 
  • “Big ideas are the building material of understandings. They can be thought of as the meaningful patterns that enable one to connect the dots of otherwise fragmented knowledge” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005).
  • Enduring understandings are “the specific inferences, based on big ideas, that have lasting value beyond the classroom” and “are central to a discipline and are transferable to new situations” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005).  
    • Sound familiar??? Similar (though not identical) to TCs! And, lifelong learning!
  • Developing IL understanding through “big ideas” about information / disciplines / research processes / etc.
  • And yet, my concern: dispositional learning not intentionally baked into UbD = “enduring understandings” come close because transferable, but not the same as the development in learners of values / attitudes / dispositions toward the learning process. 
Examples of IL practitioners embracing UbD in their approach to using the Framework:
  • Nicole Pagowsky (2014): blog post sharing development of “Big Questions” across the frames through which to develop program-level SLOs at the University of Arizona.
  • Eveline Houtman (2015): ACRLog blog post describing shift in Framework to include UbD explicitly, and what this means in practice (highly recommended). 

Tom Mackey and Trudi Jacobson introduce the term metaliteracy to the library profession in their 2011 College & Research Libraries article, “Reframing Information Literacy as a Metaliteracy.” 

Later they develop the idea further in their book Metaliteracy: Reinventing Information Literacy to Empower Learners (2014a) and more deeply incorporate metacognition as a key component to information literacy learning.

See also Metaliteracy Learning Objectives (2014b) at Metaliteracy.org (featured in the first public draft of the Framework before being fully integrated in later drafts).

Metaliteracy “expands the scope of traditional information skills (determine, access, locate, understand, produce, and use information) to include the collaborative production and sharing of information in participatory digital environments (collaborate, participate, produce, and share)” (Mackey & Jacobson, 2014a

Because of this expansion in scope, the metacognitive learning domain becomes essential to the development of information literacy that is transferable: metacognitive awareness of one’s own learning process enables the learner to learn more and better in each new context

ADAPTATION is essential because information systems are dynamic and ever-changing, and so should be learners’ processes within and across those systems.

Imagery and phrases often associated with metaliteracy: non-linear decentered matrix of behaviors, literacy about one’s own literacy, participatory environments including social media, “producers and creators not [just] consumers”

  • IL as metacognitive practice in networked environments
  • Implications for pedagogy: invitation to design learning experiences using participatory technologies (social media, etc.); metacognitive reflection as learning activity
  • Information literacy as the foundation for all other literacy types (digital, trans-, cyber, mobile, data, etc.)—thus, metaliteracy is not a NEW literacy but a reconceptualization of IL (but, your mileage may vary).
Examples of IL practitioners embracing metaliteracy in their approach to IL / using the Framework:
  • Donna Witek and Teresa Grettano (2014): Although example in article does not explicitly use the Framework (because it pre-dates it), it’s a useful, detailed example of what Mackey and Jacobson’s ideas look like in practice in the classroom.
  • Alison Thomas and Alex Hodges (2015): ACRL 2015 paper sharing metaliteracy modules in a FYW program, developed under the Standards because also predating the Framework; but, assessment and reflection on the modules are presented in the paper in light of the Framework.

James Elmborg introduces critical information literacy as an explicit approach/lens for library instructional practice in 2006 (Journal of Academic Librarianship). Maria Accardi, Emily Drabinski, and Alana Kumbier add to the growing crit IL literature through their 2010 edited collection Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods

Elmborg describes critical IL as “more than a set of acquired skills” but “comprehension of an entire system of thought and the ways that information flows in that system” as well as “the capacity to critically evaluate the system itself” (Elmborg, 2006).

Crit IL manifests in the Framework (2015) particularly in the frames: 
  • Authority is constructed and contextual: “novice learners come to respect the expertise that authority represents while remaining skeptical of both the systems that have elevated that authority and the information created by it”
  • Information has value: learners are “inclined to examine their own information privilege” 
  • Scholarship as conversation: “recognize that systems privilege authorities and that not having a fluency in the language and process of a discipline disempowers their ability to participate and engage” 
…but is detectable in the others as well.

Imagery and phrases often associated with critical information literacy: myth of neutrality; power structures underpinning information; information privilege
  • [also: feminist pedagogy, critical race theory, theories of gender and sexuality – critical theory and critical pedagogy – a long and vast scholarly conversation leads up to Elmborg introducing this critical approach to our field of information literacy: I’m still learning myself!]
  • IL to develop critical consciousness
  • Although crit IL is embedded throughout the content of the Framework concepts, it is perhaps the most challenging “outcome-type” to assess—doesn’t mean it isn’t a worthwhile pursuit, in tandem with the more concrete approaches already described. 
Examples of IL practitioners embracing crit IL in their approach to using the Framework:
  • Nicole Pagowsky (2014): same example as before, but the University of Arizona’s “Big Questions” are embedded with crit IL concerns.
  • Lauren Wallis (2015): blog post reflecting on one practitioner’s feelings of liberation as a result of the Framework; later posts on her blog dig into critical theory/pedagogy and library instruction (including the Framework) more deeply (see her posts tagged "information literacy" for other examples).

IL Instruction Supported by the Framework OVERVIEW:
  • Standards to Framework: the actual differences between the two approaches to IL
  • Excursus on learning outcomes: what they are including their scope, with a practical example from me from Spring 2015 (including how theory informed praxis for me in the example)
  • Implications for practice/praxis
Then the activity!!

Summarize slide.

Citation links: IL Standards (2000) and Framework for IL (2015)

Summarize slide.

Citation links: IL Standards (2000) and Framework for IL (2015)

Here I offer a conceptual framework (har har) for approaching and writing learning outcomes.

Summarize slide.

Domains: as you go down the list they get harder to assess, BUT, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t develop outcomes in the dispositional and metacognitive domains! Consider aiming for a variety—maybe have a concrete behavioral/skills-based outcome but also a dispositional outcome; assess the former concretely (quantitatively?), and the latter qualitatively or <gasp> not at all
  • Transformational learning means we plant seeds now, which may not take root and grow until YEARS later. (ala TCs – grasping of these complex concepts is near impossible to assess, so instead you assess measurable learning outcomes that lead the learner a bit closer to the threshold of understanding)
Same goes for levels/context: as you go down the list they are harder to assess because their scope broadens.
  • Some of us will have robust campus-wide assessment practices where course, program, and institution level learning outcomes make sense. 
  • Others of us may need to focus on classroom (e.g., one-shot) level learning outcomes, which is a fantastic place to start transforming our practice/praxis. (It’s certainly where I’ve begun, as you’ll see in a moment.)
Chris Sweet (2010) offers concrete “how to” strategies for actually constructing learning outcomes—see LOEX 2010 slidedeck at link.

Let’s see what this looks like in practice…

Summarize slide (left side) for context of example.


By the end of this information literacy instruction session, students will:
  • Brainstorm research questions, search terms, and information types/formats related to their research topics (behavioral/skills)
    • Mapped to Framework... 
    • FRAMES: 
      • Research as Inquiry 
      • Searching as Strategic Exploration
      • Information Creation as a Process
  • Identify search tools that match their information need(s) (behavioral/skills)
    • Mapped to Framework...
    • FRAMES: 
      • Searching as Strategic Exploration
  • Practice searching for and locating possible information sources for their research projects (behavioral/skills)
    • Mapped to Framework... 
    • FRAMES: 
      • Searching as Strategic Exploration
  • Use the search process as an opportunity to strategically explore their research topics and questions (dispositional/values/attitude)
    • Mapped to Framework...
    • FRAMES: 
      • Research as Inquiry
      • Searching as Strategic Exploration
      • Scholarship as Conversation
These can in turn be mapped to IL Program Learning Outcomes, and Institutional Learning Outcomes. 


Theory to Praxis:

TC Theory: This is a one-shot, so although I touch on one proposed TC for IL in the last learning outcome, at MOST I expect students to simply practice what this feels like, not yet grasp the concept in its totality. This will be a building block for later in their curricular work when hopefully this idea finally “clicks” and they “get it”.

UbD: One-shots are fertile ground for UbD. I developed these very skills-based, measurable outcomes, and designed an activity (Google spreadsheet activity, borrowed from Shannon Simpson’s 2012 C&RL News article) that would generate the evidence that most of these outcomes have been met. 

Metaliteracy: The pedagogical choice to do the Google spreadsheet activity is influenced by metaliteracy (toggling between dynamic, collaborative online spaces and search systems). Metaliteracy not always about explicit learning outcomes, can also be about pedagogy (how you accomplish those outcomes with students).

Critical Information Literacy: One-shots are a difficult context in which to incorporate elements of this approach, but, this too can be more easily woven in via pedagogy versus explicit “content” or outcomes: dynamic, live spreadsheet activity allows students to have a voice during the session without necessarily having to raise their hands to speak. By having a voice in the conversation of the IL session, they become aware of their own agency = not a stated outcome of the session, but an outcome nonetheless!


By the end of this unit, students will:
  • Generate appropriate writing topics and research questions
  • Develop effective search strategies for gathering information
  • Gather and evaluate information in terms of both relevance and reliability
These SLOs are both course-level (WRTG 107) and program-level (FYW Program) and map back to my classroom-level SLOs.

CURRICULAR INTEGRATION (explain collaboration that went into developing these FYW SLOs: two librarians – I'm one of them – were invited to be on the FYW Committee that developed these program-level SLOs for our FYW Program, to make sure IL was embedded in these outcomes fully and appropriately; also, the outcomes included here are only three of twelve total SLOs for our FYW Program)

These can in turn be mapped to IL Program Learning Outcomes, and Institutional Learning Outcomes. 

And more importantly, can also be mapped to the Framework for IL!!


Implications for Practice/Praxis:

We are now writing our own outcomes.
  • No more copying and pasting from the Standards – this work of developing IL learning outcomes will transform our teaching and our students’ learning. It will make us more intentional instructors
Collaboration with faculty across disciplines is essential.
  • The curricular integration I mentioned a moment ago is not possible without collaborating with faculty across disciplines. 
  • First-Year Writing/Composition a fantastic place to start because we share goals and language.
Invitation to embrace “slow learning” (Mader, 2015), in ourselves and our students.
  • The first step is to READ the Framework, thoughtfully and intentionally, either alone or with a community of IL instructors at your institution or in your region.
  • Use the Framework to:
    • REINTERPRET the IL work you are already doing (your “old” outcomes are likely mappable to the Framework without changing a thing, and doing so will cause you to understand those outcomes in a new light)
    • TRANSFORM your IL work moving forward (through reading the Framework, you will be inspired to consider “new” outcomes you have never taught to, especially in the dispositional and metacognitive domains—GO FOR IT!)

The Frames (if needed), from the Framework for IL (2015):

Authority is Constructed and Contextual
  • Information resources reflect their creators’ expertise and credibility, and are evaluated based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used. Authority is constructed in that various communities may recognize different types of authority. It is contextual in that the information need may help to determine the level of authority required.
Information Creation as a Process
  • Information in any format is produced to convey a message and is shared via a selected delivery method. The iterative processes of researching, creating, revising, and disseminating information vary, and the resulting product reflects these differences.
Information Has Value
  • Information possesses several dimensions of value, including as a commodity, as a means of education, as a means to influence, and as a means of negotiating and understanding the world. Legal and socioeconomic interests influence information production and dissemination.
Research as Inquiry
  • Research is iterative and depends upon asking increasingly complex or new questions whose answers in turn develop additional questions or lines of inquiry in any field.
Scholarship as Conversation
  • Communities of scholars, researchers, or professionals engage in sustained discourse with new insights and discoveries occurring over time as a result of varied perspectives and interpretations.
Searching as Strategic Exploration
  • Searching for information is often nonlinear and iterative, requiring the evaluation of a range of information sources and the mental flexibility to pursue alternate avenues as new understanding develops.

References (clickable):
Accardi, Maria T., Emily Drabinski, and Alana Kumbier, eds. (2010). Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods. Duluth, MN: Library Juice Press.
Brunetti, Korey, Amy R. Hofer, and Lori Townsend. (2015). Threshold Concepts & Information Literacy.
Elmborg, James. (2006). “Critical Information Literacy: Implications for Instructional Practice.” Journal of Academic Librarianship 32.2: 192-199.
Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. (2015). Association of College and Research Libraries.
Goodman, Xan, Samantha Godbey, and Sue Wainscott. (2015). Crossing the Threshold with Threshold Concepts: Redesigning a Library Instruction Plan. ACRL 2015.
Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. (2000). Association of College & Research Libraries. 
Mackey, Thomas P., and Trudi E. Jacobson. (2014a). Metaliteracy: Reinventing Information Literacy to Empower Learners. Chicago: ALA Neal-Schuman.
---. (2014b). “Learning Objectives.” Metaliteracy. Metaliteracy.org.
---. (2011). “Reframing Information Literacy as a Metaliteracy.” College & Research Libraries 72.1: 62-78.
Mader, Sharon. (2015). Putting the Framework for Information Literacy into Action: Next Steps. [webinar recording] ACRL Presents.
Meyer, Jan, and Ray Land. (2003). Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge: Linkages to Ways of Thinking and Practising within the Disciplines. Occasional Report 4. ETL Project, Universities of Edinburgh, Coventry and Durham.
Miller, Sara. (2015). Information Literacy in the Disciplines: Rethinking Approaches to Student Engagement with Information Sources. Office of Faculty and Organizational Development, Michigan State University.
Pagowsky, Nicole. (2014). “#acrlilrevisions Next Steps.” Nicole Pagowsky.
Thomas, Alison B., and Alex R. Hodges. (2015). “Build Sustainable Collaboration: Developing and Assessing Metaliteracy Across Information Ecosystems.” ACRL 2015 contributed paper.
Townsend, Lori, Korey Brunetti, and Amy R. Hofer. (2011). “Threshold Concepts and Information Literacy.” portal: Libraries and the Academy 11.3: 853-869.
Wallis, Lauren. (2015). “A Dear John Letter to the Standards.” Do-It-Yourself Library Instruction.
Wiggins, Grant, and Jay McTighe. (2005). Understanding by Design. 2nd Ed. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Witek, Donna, and Teresa Grettano. (2014). “Teaching metaliteracy: a new paradigm in action.” Reference Services Review 42.2: 188-208.   


At the end of the presentation, this happened:

Thank you, again, to the LVPaLA 2015 Spring Conference Committee for inviting me to give this talk!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Love Amid Ideas

Dammit. This was not the post I planned to write today.

Yesterday evening, Fr. Matthew Baker, an Orthodox Christian scholar, priest, husband and father, died tragically in a car accident on his way home from one of the vespers services that happens each Sunday of Great Lent in our tradition.

I knew him: not well on a personal level, though I count as friends many, many who did.

I am grieving, for many reasons, one of which has compelled me to reflect with public words.

Fr. Matthew represented something rare in the academy. He was first and foremost a person of faith, yet with an intellect that was incredibly vast and complex. During his studies, he attended and/or lived at four Orthodox seminaries in our country, one of which is my husband's alma mater and present employer.

Fr. Matthew was also very close to completing his PhD in theology at Fordham University. A look at his Academia.edu profile will illustrate how prolific Fr. Matthew's scholarship is. He was becoming--or perhaps already had become--the foremost scholar on the subject of Fr. Georges Florovsky's life, work, and theology. I used a small, yet significant essay of Florovsky's as source material in my Master's thesis on the relationship between knowledge and Christian worship. Though I have not delved deeply into the greater works of Florovsky, I am acutely aware of the contribution Fr. Matthew's work has made, is making, and will continue to make in the academic discourse on contemporary Orthodox Christian theology. The American Church, as well as the academy, has lost a light in Fr. Matthew.

There are many reasons I am grieving right now at his death, even though I did not know him well personally; I am grateful, however, for the small handful of multi-person conversations I shared with him on a few occasions.

The reason I wanted to touch briefly on here, because it is absolutely relevant to the project of this blog, is the loss in Fr. Matthew of a scholar who was capable of rigorous engagement in the public fora of ideas, while yet remaining authentic to the person he was, made in the image and likeness of God...and even further, that in and through his engagement with the diversity of ideas one encounters in any area of the academy--perhaps even especially one that sounds (though is not) as homogeneous as contemporary Orthodox Christian theology--he always, always, maintained his ability and desire to understand the ideas he encountered as coming from persons also made in the image and likeness of God and worthy of love--so even when he disagreed with the ideas themselves, he loved and respected the persons from which they came, which was made clear in his words, attitude, and actions toward them even amid the rigorous engagement that was his hallmark.

This is something I aspire to in my work with both colleagues and students, and in my life as a whole. And I grieve the loss of a role model in this very complicated, often challenging endeavor.


My work is in many ways different from the scholarly work Fr. Matthew was doing leading up to his untimely death. My terminal degrees are at the Master's level; he was very close to completing his PhD. My primary discipline is library and information science; his was theology.

Interestingly, I just realized we do share something significant that I had not thought of until now: both of our institutional affiliations are Jesuit universities. This may only seem significant to those readers who have either studied or worked at a Jesuit institution, but it is indeed significant. That link leads to a piece in the alumni journal at my institution, where I both work as a faculty librarian and completed my MA in Theology not two years ago. I am quoted in that piece, which was published today, as saying the following:
Jesuit higher education is an incredibly special thing, because it synthesizes exciting and rigorous intellectual endeavor with the better version of ourselves, formed to love and serve God and others.
Though the Orthodox Christian faith is distinct from the Roman Catholic faith that is part of the institutional mission and identity at both Scranton and Fordham, the Jesuit focus on intellectual engagement whose goal is to transform participants into men and women for others to the Glory of God means that Orthodox Christian scholarly folk like Fr. Matthew and myself (and a significant number of other scholars in our shared circle of colleague-friends) are invited to bring our whole, Orthodox Christian selves to the intellectual table in these communities. Even when what we have to say is very different from what has been said until now.

Fr. Matthew understood both the value of this welcome, and the responsibility it entails. I already recognize the value, and can only hope I grow into the responsibility through my work moving forward.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8, RSV)
(c) Princeton Theological Seminary (source

Memory Eternal, Fr. Matthew.

Fr. Matthew leaves behind his widow, Katherine, and six children. His children were in the car with him when the accident occurred, and witnessed their father's violent death, though they were not seriously physically injured themselves. A fundraising campaign has been set up to help support the Baker family at this unimaginably heartbreaking time in their life. Please consider giving if you can.

Another picture of Fr. Matthew, teaching his seminar course at Hellenic College:

Source (Update #11)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Making the Framework Accessible

Update #2: Happy day! ACRL has just announced that a final, copyedited version of the Framework will be made available on the ACRL website soon! Very grateful to have this communicated clearly to the membership. In the meantime, I plan to keep my website-version of the Framework live and available as a resource to anyone who wishes to use it (myself included). I will likely change the welcome message after the official ACRL version becomes available. But in the meantime, I hope it is helpful!

Update #1: I have made some minor edits to this reflection, with special attention to the footnotes at the end, in order to clarify some aspects of my position.

This week, the ACRL Board of Directors moved to 'file' the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education as a guiding document for information literacy practitioners. This action follows an almost two-year process in which the Framework was developed by a task force charged with revising the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. This revision process, which resulted in the Framework, invited members of the profession to publicly comment on the Framework drafts; the task force painstakingly incorporated this public feedback into each iteration of the document, resulting in the version that was 'filed' by the Board on February 2, 2015.

Anyone following this blog in the past two years is aware of my ongoing interest in the development of the Framework--I've spilled a lot of ink (or, computer text) on this blog and elsewhere in hopes that it would help make the Framework into a guiding document for information literacy instruction I could use and be inspired by. The final version offered by the task force, which was submitted for review to two more ACRL committees prior to reaching the Board, is a document I am excited about, and which I fully support. I even had the opportunity to vote to approve this document, as a member of one of the two aforementioned ACRL committees--the Information Literacy Standards Committee. I was very excited going into January, knowing that the Board would receive the Framework for consideration at ALA Midwinter at the end of that month.

January turned into a very complicated month for the Framework, with a public debate in the profession that pit the Framework against the Standards--a confusing (and exhausting) debate to follow considering the documents' premises and presuppositions about student learning are so different. I'd prefer not to recount the play-by-play of this debate here, but a look at the guest posts on ACRLog throughout the month of January will provide a cross-section of many of the perspectives that were voiced throughout. I even authored one of them, which was also cross-posted here on my own blog. To say I care about the Framework's outcome would be an understatement.

Amid all of this, I still felt fairly confident in the likely outcome for the Framework after Midwinter, when the Board considered the document and deliberated in public meetings, including an open mic session for members of the profession to offer comment. I was less certain of the fate of the Standards, even though I advocated for the announcement of a sunset date for them in a letter to the Board the week leading into Midwinter.

As the official announcement from the Board indicates, my two instincts were basically on point. The Board has expressed support for the Framework and chosen to 'file' it in order to allow it to be dynamically built upon by the profession. It has also decided to defer the question of sunsetting the Standards until a later date, as a result of the lively debate surrounding the question of the value of standards juxtaposed with the value of a framework.

All of this is well and good, and appears to be a "win" for all practitioners. The Board is encouraging us to use the Framework in practice, and to share out our findings and practices as we do so.

But my question is this: How are we to use the Framework when the (apparent) final form in which it has been 'filed' and thus made available to us is a complex pdf file (pdf), replete with extraneous documents having to do with the review process?* 

The most important outcome to me was for ACRL to give us the Framework (standards be damned #keepinitreal), so I can both use it and refer to it in local practice. The Board's announcement seems to say that this is what they have done.

But, it's unclear if the act of 'filing' the document is going to result in the document being accessible enough to use--though I welcome finding out in the future I was wrong on this.** I need a version I can see clearly, one which has been copyedited so I can proudly share it with those outside of my field, and which I can easily refer to in the professional development I will be participating in as we implement the Framework both locally and as a profession.

For an example of what I mean: I'm giving three conference presentations in the next three months about the Framework, and a fourth in which I plan to refer to the Framework to those outside of our field in the neighboring discipline of rhetoric and composition--and I'm not the only one. The form in which the final Framework has been given to us at this time will not meet my needs in order to implement it and share out the results, as the Board wishes us to do.

And so, I built a version that does:

Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education #acrlframework***

From my Welcome message (links omitted):

The purpose of this website is to facilitate access to the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, which was 'filed' by the ACRL Board of Directors on February 2, 2015 as one of ACRL's guiding documents for information literacy practitioners. 

As editor of this website, the tasks I performed in order to make this document accessible to librarians who wish to use it include: extracting the text of the Framework from the final version 'filed' by the Board (pdf); reformatting the text to make it as simply laid out as possible while retaining the integrity of its original form; copyediting the text; and, building this website with the goal of connecting the various elements of the document (i.e., introduction, frames, and appendices) in a dynamic way representative of the Framework's structure and form. I have not changed any of the Framework's content in migrating it to this website.

In addition, I offer the copyedited text as one continuous document, for those who would prefer to have a version of the text they can download, manipulate, and build upon for local purposes.

The ACRL Board has given information literacy practitioners the Framework to use in practice, in hopes that we will share with our colleagues across the profession its impact on student learning. In order to do this, we need an accessible version of the Framework to engage with and refer to in our work. My hope is that this site will enable that engagement. 

I welcome suggestions, corrections, and feedback for the work offered here. I hope it is helpful.

--Donna Witek, Associate Professor & Public Services Librarian, The University of Scranton (donna dot witek at scranton dot edu)

I'm excited to have the Framework, and so grateful to work for a library dean who is 100% supportive of our using the Framework in our institutional context to guide and support information literacy instructional practice.

But I needed a version I could actually use, which I in turn offer to my colleagues in the profession who are interested in: 1) implementing the Framework, 2) sharing the Framework, or 3) simply reading the Framework through a reading process that makes sense to you, in order to better understand it.

It's time to make the Framework accessible. I'm game if you are.


*I hold out hope that my inference here turns out to be incorrect, and that ACRL does in fact plan to give the final version of the Framework the TLC it deserves--copyediting; creating both an HTML web-hosted version and a well-designed pdf pamphlet for the purposes of reading, processing, and sharing; and offering it a home on the ACRL website alongside the other standards and guidelines for the profession.

[Edited to add: And just to clarify: The revision task force's role was to develop the Framework's substance, not to copyedit it and make it logistically/physically accessible, so this critique has nothing to do with them. My understanding is that this work would typically fall to ACRL's staff after a document has been adopted. The move by the Board to 'file' the Framework as it was delivered to them through the review process makes it unclear if this work will be done for the Framework, especially considering it is meant to be a 'living document'. My sincere hope is that it will be, though, as it will be much more convenient and appropriate to cite the the Framework if it is housed on the ACRL website, than it will be to cite the version that was 'filed', or even the version made available on the website I created.]

But even if this does happen sometime in the future, I felt a gut need to create a version I could start using today, now that the revision task force's work is complete. It is very hard to hack and build upon a document which is hard to access.

**This sentence was heavily edited to better communicate my concerns.

***This website represents my first foray into Google sites. Be kind!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

“Sunrise, Sunset”: A Reflection on Assessment and the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education

This piece is cross-posted at ACRLog.

Photo by Moyan Brenn on Flickr

When I first learned about assessment at the very beginning of my professional work as a librarian, there was one aspect of the process that made complete sense to me. I was instructed that an assessment plan is just that--a plan--and that it is not only OK but expected for the plan to change at some point, either during or after it’s been put into action.

Now, the specifics on how these changes happen, what are best practices in altering an assessment plan, and the relationship between the integrity of the assessment data gathered and any changes made, are all complex questions. I am in my seventh year working as an instruction librarian in an academic library, and I consider myself at best an engaged learner-practitioner when it comes to assessment--I am by no means an expert, and I offer this as a disclaimer as I share some thoughts on assessment and the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education [pdf].

In the years since I was first trained in basic assessment practices, I still find the recursive, cyclical nature of assessment to be the aspect of the process that legitimizes the rest. Learning is a messy process, and as instructors we understand that there are multiple ways to reach the same goal--or learning outcome--and that different learners learn differently. It could mean our approach to teaching (i.e., our pedagogy) needs to be adapted--sometimes on the fly!--to meet the needs of the students in front of us. Or, maybe the way I articulated one of the learning outcomes for an instruction session turns out to be way too ambitious for the scope of the instruction, and ten minutes in I realize I need to change the formulation of the outcome in my mind in order for my teaching and the students’ learning to harmonize.

What I love about the principle that an assessment plan is meant to be changed (at some point) is that it means the above scenarios are not failures, but part of an authentic teaching and learning process. This is empowering for teachers and students alike.

Now, it is my understanding that all assessment plans change eventually. In the case of an assessment plan that from the outset is harmonized perfectly to the learning context to which it is applied, it isn’t changed until the end of the assessment cycle, but it still changes and develops in response to the information (call it data if you’d like) gathered throughout the process.

At the end of this week and after almost two years of development and review by the profession, the Framework will be considered for adoption by the ACRL Board of Directors during ALA Midwinter. The Framework is not conceived as an assessment document, as it “is based on a cluster of interconnected core concepts, with flexible options for implementation, rather than on a set of standards or learning outcomes or any prescriptive enumeration of skills” (Framework [pdf], p.2).

This begs the questions: What is the relationship between the Framework and assessment? And how does this in turn relate to the revision task force’s recommendation that the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education be sunsetted in July 2016 (Board of Directors Action Form [pdf], p.3)?

Before I share some ideas in response to these questions, Megan Oakleaf offers to the profession “A Roadmap for Assessing Student Learning Using the New Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education” [pdf] (JAL 40.5 2014). I highly recommend reading Oakleaf’s roadmap, as my own ideas touch on many of the same points found in her “Ok, So Now What?” section, though I want to fold into the discussion the relationship between this process and the proposed sunsetting of the Standards.

Here I offer just one of many possible paths toward incorporating the Framework into your local information literacy instructional practice. It is a theoretical model, because it has to be at this point: the Framework is not yet adopted. As will hopefully be made clear, not enough time has passed for this model to have been fully implemented, though some libraries have begun the process. (1)

The first step I would recommend, based on evidence from libraries that have taken this approach and found it fruitful and impactful on both student learning and programmatic practices, is to read the Framework, both individually and as a group with colleagues in your instruction program, and through reflection and discussion identify intersections between the Framework and the information literacy instruction work you are already doing. (2) Rather than feel pressured to overhaul an entire instruction program overnight, instead use the Framework as a new way to understand and build upon the things you’re already doing on both the individual and programmatic levels.

If your current practices are heavily situated within the Standards, I think this exercise will surprise by unearthing the connections that do in fact exist between the Standards and the Framework, even as the latter represents a significant shift in our collective approach to teaching and learning. (3)

The next step would be to review your learning outcomes for individual instruction sessions in light of the Framework, to be inspired by the connections, and to be challenged by the gaps--and to rewrite these outcomes based on both your engagement with the Framework and your recent assessment of your own students’ learning using these outcomes. The cycle of assessment for learning outcomes tied to individual instruction is short--these outcomes can and should be reviewed and revised in the period of reflection that immediately follows each instruction session.

In many ways, this makes individual instruction the most immediately fertile context in which to use the Framework to be inspired and to transform your instructional practice, keeping in mind the complex concepts that anchor the frames require learners to engage them in multiple learning contexts throughout the curriculum in order to be fully grasped. Still, even a one-shot can incorporate learning outcomes that will help learners progress toward understanding of these concepts in a manner appropriate to the learner's current level of training in a discipline or disciplines.

But what of your programmatic information literacy learning outcomes? What about the places where information literacy has been integrated into curricular programs within or across the disciplines? And what about those (fortunate!) institutional contexts in which information literacy is integrated explicitly into the learning outcomes for the institution as a whole?

The beauty of assessment, as I suggest above, is that it is cyclical. Just as all ACRL guidelines and standards undergo cyclical review, so too do our local assessment and curriculum plans--or at least, they should. As each assessment plan comes up for review, librarians who have been engaging the Framework in their individual instructional practice can share “upwards” their experiences and the impact on student learning they observed through that engagement, and so fold the concepts underpinning the Framework into each broader level of assessment.

In this way, the Framework’s influence will cascade upwards within a local institutional context according to a timeline that is determined by the review cycles of that institution. While the revision task force’s recommendation to the ACRL Board is for the Standards to be sunsetted a year and a half after the Framework’s recommended adoption, I would argue that it is in the spirit of the Framework for local timelines to necessarily trump ACRL’s: as long as librarians are engaging the Framework, both individually (in instruction) and collaboratively (as local assessment plans and curricular documents come up for review), and doing so in light of the information literacy instruction work your library has been doing since (or even prior to) the adoption of the Standards fifteen years ago, (4) then the worry associated with sunsetting the Standards on the national level will be eclipsed by the particular, robust influence the Framework is having on your own campus, with your own students.

And anyway, we do our best work when we're focusing on the students in front of us. So, let's get to work.


(1) Nicole Pagowsky shares the first steps of a similar process underway at the University of Arizona.

(2) The first example of this I've encountered is at Trinity College; librarians leading in different areas of Trinity's information literacy instruction program presented at the 2014 Connecticut Information Literacy Conference their success with this initial approach to implementing the Framework (video and prezi).

(3) Amanda Hovious has created a helpful series of Alignment Charts for ACRL Standards and Proposed Framework, which represent one practitioner’s approach to connecting these two documents. I would argue that there are as many potential charts/models for connecting the Standards to the Framework as there are practitioners interpreting the meaning and content of each. It is for this reason I believe it was prudent for the revision task force to abstain from developing a model for alignment themselves, as such a model would run the danger of being wrongly interpreted as “canonical” because of its association with the task force that developed the Framework. That being said, Hovious’ charts are informed by her training as an instructional designer, and coupled with her notes for interpretation at the beginning of the document, represent a valuable perspective on how these two approaches to information literacy instruction relate. Another example that is equally compelling, in this case because the alignment is anchored to locally developed core competencies, is offered by Emily Krug, King University. It is compelling because it models (literally) the notion that information literacy is locally situated, by using King University's core competencies in the alignment of Standards and Framework. [NB: This last sentence is slightly different from the one included in my ACRLog guest post; the change was made in order to better reflect the contents of Krug's map.]

(4) Barbara Fister offers an historical perspective in which she recalls the anticipated reception of the Standards when they were first adopted in 2000, and the remarkably similar conversations we are having now in relation to the Framework.