Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Framework for Information Literacy Taking Shape


I believe there is still room for improvement and greater refinement into a document of strength and clarity for and within the profession.

We're up to the second complete--and what the task force hopes is the near final--draft of the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, released for public comment one month ago. Today was the final day to submit formal feedback through the survey instrument provided by the task force, and in keeping with my past practice, I will share my responses to the survey questions at the end of this post.

Before I do, I want to point to recent posts by Jake Berg (here and here) and Lane Wilkinson (here), because they articulate a lot of things that have been on my mind these past months as I have wrestled with both threshold concept theory and its use within the Framework. Also, Lane's post contains a really useful list of links to many of the blog posts that critically engaged the Framework this past year, so his post is worth bookmarking for that purpose at the very least.

The main thing I disagree with both on is their continued concern about metaliteracy, since I believe integrating metaliteracy into the knowledge practices and dispositions throughout the frames was a strong move in this latest draft.*

I also remain unconvinced by arguments against information literacy (studies) as a sub-discipline of library and information science, though a recent Twitter conversation on this topic, and how this question relates to the Framework and the proposed threshold concepts within it, has gone a long way in helping me refine my understanding of the complexity of the question.

Otherwise, Lane's discussion of threshold concepts as simultaneously expert-defined and yet whose characterstics are "agent-relative properties," and Jake's unpacking of the new frame "Information has Value," are both working on my thought process in relation to the Framework in ways that are good and productive, if also at times frustrating and (dare I say it?) troublesome. I also share the concern about the opacity of the Delphi study methodology to initially identify candidates for information literacy threshold concepts that the task force considered for inclusion in the Framework. And similarly, I worry that the student-focused ("agent-relative") properties of threshold concepts beg the question: of what student are we speaking? Barbara Fister makes the point that "we need to bear in mind how these thresholds we define are cultural constructs and avoid assuming upper-middle-class white American experiences that might seem hostile or exclusionary to those who don't fit that assumed identity," to which I can only respond: Yes, we do.    

I'm sharing briefly about my response to these critical takes on the Framework because these concerns don't appear explicitly in my survey responses to the task force, though I do propose in the final bullet of the penultimate question of the survey a radical idea related to calling (or not) the main concept of each frame a "threshold concept" (read on to see what it is ;) ). The reason my broader concerns described above don't feature in my survey responses is mainly that I am still wrestling with my own understanding related to these concerns, such that I'm not ready to make a case in relation to them. I do believe they need to be stated though, and that we all need to engage them head-on and acknowledge the complexity of both the Framework and its varied reception among our colleagues in the profession.

And this is also why I am advocating for one more iteration of the Framework, including another draft released for public comment, before the task force submits the Framework to the ACRL Board of Directors for approval and adoption by our national professional organization. And I do make the case for this in my survey comments, which I will now copy below, bolding the parts I feel summarize my overarching concerns; I did offer quite a bit of feedback at the level of page and line number, which I don't expect you to wade through unless you choose to, so let the bolded text be your guide. Here they are:
How satisfied are you with the overall Framework? 
The Framework is a vast improvement over the linear, checklist approach to information literacy teaching and learning encouraged by the 2000 Standards document. The Framework is flexible, holistic, and adaptable, offering the “whys” of information literacy in order to contextualize the “whats” (skills, competencies, outcomes, etc.) we have been accustomed to working with these past 14 years. The Framework offers a much-needed wider perspective on the work we do as information literacy instructors, which is poised to enhance our pedagogy if we engage it and invite it to do so. 
That being said, I believe the Framework still has room to be refined as my comments below will communicate, such that my recommendation is that the Task Force make one more critical pass over/through it, and offer one more (hopefully final) draft for public comment, before submitting it to the ACRL Board for approval and adoption. I would like to see this final draft be as lean as possible, with all of the supplementary documents removed entirely, so we can read it as though it is in its final form. I do not think the length of time needed for one more iteration of the document will set the Task Force timeline back more than a few months, such that a final draft might be ready for the Board before ALA Midwinter.   
Momentum related to the Framework revisions should not halt; rather, I am advocating harnessing this momentum to make the document as strong as it can be, and one more draft for public comment I believe would accomplish this.  
If you have followed the development of the Framework through the previous draft, please tell us what changes you find most helpful. 
  • The new brief introduction is a vast improvement over the introduction to the last draft.
  • I’m glad the assignments and self-assessments have been removed from the frames.
  • I believe the deep integration of metaliteracy throughout the knowledge practices and dispositions offered in the frames, as well as in the revised definition of information literacy, is a strong improvement over the previous draft.
  • The adoption of the term “frame” to refer to each unit of the Framework is fantastic, and mitigates confusion surrounding the definition of “threshold concept” (more on this below).
  • “Searching as Exploration” is a good revision to the name of this frame, as is “Format as a Process,” though the latter frame could still stand to be critically examined and cleaned up some more in both meaning and the communication of that meaning. 
  • “Information has Value” as conceived is a worthy addition to the frames, though I feel the use of the word “value” in the concept’s name is at odds with the three dimensions of value described in the longer description of the concept (p.12). “Value” in the frame title invokes the idea of “values” (as in “our values as a profession”), and yet the three dimensions described are all inherently critical of the “value” being placed on information in each context (i.e., information as commodity, information production privileging some voices over others, and monetization of personal information/data online). To be clear, these dimensions *should* be critical in this regard--all of these dimensions of information are absolutely true, and need to be addressed in this Framework as you have done here--but the name of the concept communicates (to me) something much more positive than the longer description does. I’d be interested to see the Task Force think through the rhetoric of the name of this frame in relation to the whole, and determine if there is a better name for the concept that better captures the meaning communicated in the longer description. 
  • I am pleased with the glossary, and glad it is less than one page long while still covering the most important new terminology in the document. 
Does the “Suggestions on How to Use the Information Literacy Framework” section, in conjunction with the Frames, help you to engage other campus stakeholders in conversation? 
Yes, however, I believe this section does not belong in the final version of the Framework document, but rather in supplementary documents whose purpose is to assist the profession with implementing the Framework. The presence of “Suggestions on How to Use the Framework” will not be useful in four years’ time, when the document is in later stages of implementation at most schools. This section should not foreground the frames, which are the most important part of this document and thus should be presented to the reader with the leanest of context + the revised definition of information literacy offered beforehand, and as close to page 1 as you can manage. 
How might the Framework affect the way you work with students? 
The Framework will enable collaboration between me and students’ course instructors in a way that the Standards did not. This collaboration will result in deeper integration of information literacy into their courses and programs, such that students will be able to transfer information literacy knowledge, skills, and behaviors between contexts, because they will be instructed in them in a scaffolded manner throughout the curriculum. The Framework will give me the mindset, language, and rhetorical position from which to make the case to teaching faculty and administrators that this kind of integration benefits students, both in their learning and in their formation into critically informed citizens and persons in society.  
What one thing do you most want the Task Force members to know about the draft Framework? 
Apologies, but there is more than one thing, since this survey question is the “catch-all” for any other comments I have to offer. Here below are the considerations I’d like to offer the Task Force as my basis for recommending one more pass over/through the Framework, and releasing one more draft for public comment before submitting a final version to the Board. 
  • I think the Framework document would be stronger if the only sections included are: the brief introduction (including the revised definition of information literacy); the frames (don’t number them or title this section “The Six Frames” but rather “The Frames,” since it is possible new frames will be identified and developed by the profession over time); the glossary; and sources for further reading. *Everything else* is supplementary, and should be made available to all alongside the Framework--and in some cases (i.e., the introduction for faculty and administrators) cleaned up, focused, and revised significantly (this section needs input from faculty from many disciplines, and might perhaps become part of the work of the implementation task force your group is recommending that the Board appoint when your work is done)--but not as part of the Framework document itself. The leaner, and more nimble this document is, the easier it will be to implement. 
  • Along with the above, the non-frame sections need to be closely proofread by the Task Force (not a copy editor) so that the language, voice, and rhetoric of these sections is consistent with the backbone of the Framework--i.e., the frames. (For example, in the “Setting the Context” and introduction to faculty and administrators sections/appendices, there is reference to the sample assignments within each frame/threshold concept, when these have been removed.)
  • At the top of p.2 of the Introduction, the list of frames (lines 38-43) should be bulleted and not numbered, because the presence of numbers introduces to the reader a linear hierarchy into the frames which I do not think you intend.
  • Within the new definition of information literacy (p.2), a minor but important grammatical tweak I suggest is to change the first word of the second sentence (line 64) to “This” so it reads “This repertoire involves…” This edit will tie the second sentence of the definition more strongly back to the first, making it more cohesive overall. This definition is likely to be quoted and cited a *lot* after the Framework is adopted, so I’d like to see its formulation be as strong as it can be.
  • I’d like to see a clearer distinction made between the expression of knowledge practices and dispositions within each frame; more specifically, some blurring between the two is occurring because of the leading verb choices (i.e., at lines 167-168: “Recognize that they are often entering into the midst of a scholarly conversation…” “Recognize” is used elsewhere as a dispositional verb, but in this case it is categorized as a knowledge practice; another example at line 318: “Identify” is used as the lead verb of a dispositional statement when the act of identifying is more of a practice; and one more, though there are others, at line 362: “Are inclined to” is most certainly a dispositional verb construction, but here it is the lead verb of a knowledge practice). Part of the final pass over/through the document I’d like to see the Task Force do would include a very close look at the verb choices for knowledge practices and dispositions throughout, such that the final constructions of these statements are clearer in terms of their categorization as either a knowledge practice or a disposition.
  • Related to the last: I recommend cutting “(Abilities)” after every instance of “Knowledge Practices” as a heading. It is redundant and distracting, especially since the sentence that follows the heading includes the word “abilities” as well. 
  • I’d like to see included in the introduction even more explicit communication to the reader that the knowledge practices and dispositions included in the frames are *not* exhaustive nor comprehensive, that practitioners will likely identify additional knowledge practices and dispositions for each frame, and that this is not only okay but very much encouraged. 
  • The longer (non-bolded) descriptions for Scholarship is a Conversation and Research as Inquiry are the perfect length; as the reader continues through the frames, however, the longer descriptions (non-bolded prose for each frame) get longer and more unwieldy. These later passages (lines 229-250, lines 283-302, lines 329-352, lines 381-403) are in need of editing for clarity. As an experiment, I cut every sentence and parenthetical from these passages that either invoked a concrete, potentially dated example (the “for examples” and “such as’s”), or described the behaviors of the novice, and these sections became much tighter as a result. 
  • Re: describing novice behavior: since the frames are meant to describe the information literate learner, I do not think it is beneficial, and might even be a weakness, to spend so many words on novice behavior. I worry that by doing so, practitioners will become hyper aware of novice behavior in our students, which to me is a less than helpful awareness to have, as it tempts the practitioner (myself included) to draw attention to these behaviors *as* novice during instruction, to the students themselves, thus disempowering and alienating the very students we seek to instruct. 
  • In line 279, I suggest this edit: “Format refers to the manner in which tangible knowledge is disseminated.” This goes along with my recommendation that this entire frame be closely examined again for clarity of both meaning and communication of that meaning.
  • In line 324, I suggest this edit: “There is no one one size fits all way/path [you pick] to find the needed information.” The word “source” doesn’t encompass the act of search enough for this concept. Also, there is a typo in line 326: “pursuit” should be “pursue.” 
  • In line 369, I suggest the following edit: “Understand that first attempts at searching don’t always result in the information need being met.” I do not prefer the phrase “pay off” as it sounds transactionary. 
  • In line 378, I suggest that “In addition” be replaced with “Furthermore,” to once again tie the final sentence of this concept-definition more strongly to the previous sentence; “In addition” makes the last idea/sentence expressed feel like an afterthought, which it should not be.
  • In line 407, I suggest “in the United States” be replaced with “in their geographical context,” since we teach and support students studying in more contexts than just the United States.
  • In line 422, I suggest replacing the word “only” with “merely,” though I concede this suggestion is more stylistic than anything else.
  • Finally, though I am tentatively supportive of the formulation of the concepts in the frames having occurred through the theoretical lens of threshold concept theory--supportive mainly because this methodology has resulted in six frames that I do believe are key to what it means to be information literate--I am increasingly uncomfortable with threshold concept theory itself as a feature in this Framework. Threshold concepts (as theory) are simultaneously expert-defined yet characterized in relation to the learner, which makes them difficult to grasp, and will get very complicated to assess. I believe, though, that this is a weakness of threshold concept theory, not of the specific concepts developed for this Framework. As such, a radical move that would resolve this conflict might be to nod to threshold concept theory as influential to the development of the Framework in the introduction, and then *let the theory go* and just refer to the six frames as “information frames” or “information literacy frames,” since the goal of each frame is to *frame* (verb) the teacher’s and the learner’s approach to the research process. I am less and less convinced I will be referring to these frames as threshold concepts in my conversations with teaching faculty, which I know is my prerogative, but I thought I’d throw this idea out there, as a way to address the growing concerns I am observing in my colleagues about grasping what a threshold concept is.  
Please share any additional information that would help us in understanding your perspective on the proposed Framework. 
I am very excited about this new Framework, which should be evident by my participation in the revision process thus far as a member of the profession. And, you guys are doing amazing work. I hope you will consider my recommendations above, as one more pass over/through the document by your particular group (the Task Force) will refine the Framework in a way that no other group could, due to your history with the document.

*This seems like a good opportunity to plug the final publication version of my article, "Teaching metaliteracy: a new paradigm in action," co-authored with my research partner Teresa Grettano, and finally posted to the Reference Services Review website. An openly accessible post-print version is available as well.    

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Personal Encounters with Information Literacy

"Describing information literacy in terms of the varying ways in which it is experienced by people, that is their conceptions, is the alternative which I propose." --Christine Bruce, The Seven Faces of Information Literacy, 1997
Yesterday, the revised draft of the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education was released to the profession for public comment. This draft comes after several months of extensive revision to the first draft of the Framework, released in two phases in February and April. I spent the afternoon yesterday reading the revised draft, which overall I am very excited about. There is a new survey instrument provided by the task force responsible for the Framework through which to offer feedback on this new draft, and as I did with the previous survey I plan to publicly blog my responses once I compose them. It's worth noting for now, though, that overall I am very happy with the structure and content of the new Framework in its revised form. I do have some more constructive feedback to offer the task force, but my overall positive first impression of the new draft is important to what I want to write about today.

In sum: I like it, unabashedly and unapologetically, but I hope critically as well.

Last night, at the end of my work day, I participated in the biweekly #critlib Twitter chat, which is an online conversation between librarians and other information professionals about the intersections between critical pedagogy and our work as librarians. One of the most valuable things I get out of these chats is being pushed by my peers (in a good way) to examine critically my own inherent biases, privilege, processes, and dispositions in relation to my work as an information literacy instruction librarian. And, because the new Framework has direct bearing on the instructional work we do, inevitably there was a convergence of the Framework and #critlib during yesterday's chat.

This made perfect sense, but also provided an opportunity for me to observe how we as information literacy professionals encounter information literacy documents, definitions, frameworks, and conceptions, and just how personal these encounters are.

I first noticed it in myself, in how I participated in the conversation begun by Emily's tweet here (click on the tweet's timestamp to see the entire threaded conversation):

As critical pedagogy urges, I took this experience as an opportunity to critically question and explore my own position in relation to the new Framework and the revision process as a whole, in order to unearth any biases I may have. When I did, I realized how integral my personal encounter with information literacy, as articulated first by the original Information Literacy Standards, is to my position, stance, and valuing of the new Framework. And, I suspect the same is the case for my colleagues in the profession who are grappling with this new Framework right along with me.

So, in the spirit of full disclosure (to myself if to no one else), I want to share my personal experience of encountering first the Standards and then the Framework, to better contextualize why I feel the way I do about the new Framework.

I began my first professional library position in March 2008, in an academic library, and as an instruction librarian. Like many others, I took one instruction-oriented course in my MLIS program, which I completed in 2007. The course was geared largely toward the K-12 school media certification track, though my instructor did encourage me to use the class to explore information literacy instruction on the college level. But, it was just one course, and while I think I may have utilized the Standards in it, there was no real context for understanding them at that time.

Once I began in my professional role, I finally did encounter the Standards in a thorough, contextualized manner, with the hope that they would guide my instructional practices, particularly as a newbie librarian. They did...to a point, but as my work in the classroom developed, it gradually became clear the ways in which the Standards fell short for the work I was doing with students to develop their information literacy practices and behaviors.

This is where the full disclosure comes in, but it is central to my point: through my collaboration and partnership with my colleague and friend Teresa Grettano, who works in the field of rhetoric and composition, I found the most transformational way to introduce students to information literacy concepts and even behaviors was by situating these concepts and behaviors on social media, in participatory information environments like those in which they encounter the majority of their information on a day to day basis. In this context, the Standards can only take us so far, and they quickly felt "in need of an update" -- a claim I made at my first professional conference presentation in 2010 with Teresa.

To fast forward a bit, in every presentation I gave between 2010 and 2012 (when I learned that ACRL had finally begun the revision process for the Standards), I stated that the Standards needed to be revised to account for the new information environment our students have grown up with as their only version of what "information" looks, feels, and behaves like.

I was not the only one saying this of course, which was a relief. This is one of the reasons that metaliteracy makes sense to me -- both as an educator and as an information user/seeker/researcher/producer within these environments myself; I am, technically, a millennial, so for the most part the information environment my students grew up in is also the one I only ever really "knew" as well.

But, and this is the crux of my point today: this is why I feel as though I may be perceived by my colleagues as a "champion" for the revision process. You see, I've been waiting for this revision for six years--of course I'm excited about it.

Does that necessarily assume that every detail of the revision, including the process as well as the content of the new Framework, will "get it right" on the first (or second, or third) try? Of course not. This is why critical engagement with the Framework drafts by the professional community is so exciting to me. I love observing my peers poke at all the holes they see (which sometimes I can't see myself, given my own unique context in relation to the Framework), because I learn so much from their doing so. In fact, it's the only way I've been successful at seeing things from a perspective other than my own -- by taking the risk of publicly sharing my own unique but (hopefully critical!) perspective, in the hopes that others will engage it with their own, and we both learn and refine our perpectives in the process.

During the #critlib discussion last night, the importance of my personal encounters with these two information literacy documents (the Standards and the Framework) finally hit me, hard: these encounters are inherent to my reception, interpretation, and enthusiasm in relation to the new Framework. They (my personal encounters) help construct my response to the Framework, which is really important to know as I engage in discussion about it.

And further, this knowledge helps me understand why librarians who have worked in the profession a lot longer than me, and who have built entire instruction programs around the Standards, are naturally going to have a different response than I. And this is good. It speaks to the diversity of the profession.

But my goal with this post was both to challenge myself to "own up" to the strong influence my personal encounters with these documents are having on my reception of the new Framework, and to invite my colleagues and peers to do the same.

I think these kinds of personal stories of information literacy begin by having more power than we perhaps realize or intend; then, once we acknowledge and critically examine them, that initial unintentionally conferred power is lessened greatly; but finally, through being acknowledged, I think these stories can have a new kind of strength we should be encouraging, rooted in the diversity they represent. Acknowledging them is the key. This post was my attempt to do just that.

Saturday, May 31, 2014


Today I participated in the commencement exercises for my Master of Arts in Theology from The University of Scranton. It was a beautiful day!

My husband was there in his full adacemic dress. He is so distinguished, and has been such a support to me as I completed my degree. I was so grateful he was present in all of his own academic glory to cheer me on.


Also in attendance were my mom, my in-laws, my friend Teresa, and of course my Bookie. Twice during the ceremony speakers recognized the spouses, children, parents, and families of the graduates, as integral to our success in our graduate studies. The graduates were also given an opportunity to recognize our families through a round of applause. This meant a lot to me, that my new alma mater understands that our education is so dependent on the communities of which we find ourselves a part, including and especially our families.

From the program; image by @uofslibrary

The president of the university at one point declared us all "sons and daughters of the university forever." This, again, meant a lot to me, since I already serve this university as a member of the faculty, and now I can call it my forever-home as a student as well.

Paul, Bookie and I posed for a photo outside the Chapel of the Sacred Heart on our campus, which is the exact spot where Paul and I first met in person in December 2010. My, how far we've come in just three and a half years. God has blessed us immensely.

One speaker during the ceremony noted that "commencement" means beginning, and that this moment signifies the beginning of the part of our professional lives to be animated by our graduate study. I like this, as I am now a librarian who has the degree of Master of Arts in Theology, and this is a subtle but important difference from the librarian I was before I completed my course of study.

I guess it's time to commence this next phase of my professional life, with all of the responsibility it entails. May God bless it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Survey Responses re: ACRL IL Framework

Since my last blog post about the ACRL IL Framework, spring semester went and happened, and is still happening. Amidst one of the busiest semesters I've ever experienced, I have managed to write and submit responses to the survey the revision task force has asked members of the profession to fill out, offering feedback on parts 1 and 2 of the first draft of the Framework.

Many smart folks have decided to post their survey responses publicly -- a practice I fully support, and have already benefited from (see below for more on this), and so I will follow in kind.

I have a lot more to say about the threshold concepts released in part 2 of the first draft, but those thoughts will have to wait. I'm throwing this post together quickly because this weekend is Pascha (i.e., Easter), and after tonight I'll be gone from the office until next Tuesday, so if I don't post these now, I won't have a chance again until a week from now. Here they are:

*1. Is the feedback you are offering in response to:  

First portion of draft one (released February)
Second portion of draft one (released April)
Both portions of draft one

2. In what ways will the focus on threshold concepts help you to generate conversations with other campus stakeholders (such as disciplinary faculty partners, members of the general education curriculum committee, and academic support services staff)?

The articulation of threshold concepts for information literacy (IL) situates the work of IL programs and librarians to better communicate the cross-contextual value of what we do to stakeholders across campus. Each threshold concept is applicable and realizable within different disciplinary contexts, such that our colleagues within those disciplines will likely recognize these concepts as real and accurate portrayals of what it means to do research well. It is likely, though, that a certain amount of “translation” between how librarians describe these concepts, and how a disciplinary researcher would describe the same concept applied, will be necessary, but this is not a bad thing. Instead, this need for “translation” of these concepts in the abstract into “threshold-concepts-for-IL-as-practiced” characterizes the kinds of conversations librarians can and should be having with faculty across the disciplines. The Framework will provide the catalyst and occasion for these conversations to finally occur.

3. How do the sections for knowledge practices and assignments/assessments provide helpful guidance when considering implementing the new Framework? What else would you want to see in these sections?

The knowledge practices/abilities and dispositions lists are well-structured to provide IL practitioners a means by which to articulate the different aspects of what it means to have crossed the threshold for that concept. They are outcomes-like, without actually being outcomes, and this will be very helpful as IL programs and instructors begin to articulate local learning outcomes for their campuses and programs based on this Framework. Along these lines, I’d love to see the introduction make this connection between knowledge practices/abilities and dispositions, and their role as inspiration for the writing of local learning outcomes, more explicit. For instance, would it be appropriate to borrow language from these lists in the writing of our local learning outcomes? If so, please suggest this in the introduction as one way to utilize the Framework in the writing of local learning outcomes. The more suggestions to the profession for how to practically use this Framework in local practice, the better, I feel.

You have already implemented suggestions I have made on my blog related to more deeply integrating metaliteracy into the knowledge practices/abilities and dispositions lists, and I maintain that this was a strong revision between parts 1 and 2 of the first draft and look forward to seeing this work done on all six threshold concepts in the second draft.

In terms of the assignments/assessments sections, I have a progression of thoughts related to these to offer by way of feedback.

On my initial reading of part 1 of the draft, my first thought was to respond that the “assignments/assessments” lists are in fact just assignments; they are not assessments, and to assign that word to them misrepresents what assessment is within the Framework, which weakens the document as a whole. They are assignments which can be used as data for assessment, but assessment would be a separate step after students have produced work related to local learning outcomes. Along these lines, I suggest the introduction offer a stronger discussion about assessment, what it is, how it works in relation to student learning activities, and strategies for how the Framework might fit within a library’s IL assessment plan.  

When I read part two of the draft, I was very happy to see the coding of the suggested assignments along the lines of “appropriate for a one-shot” versus “better for an embedded IL project”. I believe these kinds of signposts should remain, and I thank you for including them.

However, I have just today experienced a third stage in my progression through thoughts on the assignments/assessments sections, which has come in response to reading other colleagues’ publicly posted responses to these survey questions. I am now becoming convinced that both the “self-assessments” and what I hope will be simply “suggested assignments” no longer belong in the primary document of the Framework, but instead should be moved to an appendix or some other supplementary location. They should still be released with the final version of the Framework, but not within the Framework itself. The reason for this suggestion is twofold: 1) they will quickly become outdated and are really very “local” in character, much like the learning outcomes we are all supposed to write using the Framework as a guide, and, 2) their real purpose is to help the IL practitioner envision what each threshold concept might look like in practice within the classroom – this is very valuable to include, but there is also no guarantee that the assignments you happen to suggest, developed from the task force’s experiences and background, are going to “actualize” that threshold concept within the mind of every practitioner who reads the Framework. By including them you are going to limit the creativity of practitioners reading the document, albeit unintentionally. They should be included somewhere, but my suggestion is to move them out of the main document and into a supplementary location.

4. We plan to include additional materials in a subsequent phase (described in the welcome message). What other elements would you find helpful that aren’t mentioned in our plans?

Please include more discussion of assessment (theory and practice, and how both relate to this new Framework) in the introduction.

The online sandbox is a must, but the technology behind it must be robust, collaborative, inclusionary, and flexible. It’s worth noting that sandbox-type conversations are already happening on blogs and Twitter; rather than create an empty content space for practitioners to visit and add to, figuring out a way to harvest and link together the conversation that has already started, and inviting others to join after the Framework is finalized and put into practice, would be ideal.

5. Is there anything else you would like for us to know?

Just my gratitude for the open, transparent, collaborative nature of this entire revision process. Thank you for this.

6. Please share any additional information about your work that would help us in understanding your perspective on the proposed Framework.

Please see www.donnawitek.com for information about my work.

7. We may want to ask you to clarify an answer. Please list your name and contact information (optional).

[I included my contact info here.]

*8. Does the feedback you are offering reflect your thoughts as an individual or the consensus of a group?

Me as an individual
A group from one library/institution
A group of many libraries (i.e., a consortia, an association, its sections or committees)


And here's a random cute picture of my toddler greeting spring last week:


Friday, February 21, 2014

Metaliteracy and the New Draft ACRL IL Framework

I want to start this post with the unabashed fact that I am a metaliteracy geek. Anyone who’s been reading this blog during the past year and a half should know this. But on the chance that this is one of the first posts you are reading here, it’s worth stating at the outset that I totally get metaliteracy, believe it is a thing, and an important one at that. So much so that my research partner, Teresa, and I chose to present our study findings related to the effects of social media on students’ information seeking attitudes and behaviors through the lens of the metaliteracy framework developed by Trudi Jacobson and Tom Mackey in C&RL in 2011. (Shameless plug: our article, “Teaching metaliteracy: a new paradigm in action,” is slated to appear in Reference Services Review 42.2 later this spring.)

Metaliteracy and me -- we're tight.

I wanted to say that at the outset, because what I’m about to say will seem directly at odds with the above sentiment. Which is…

I don’t think metaliteracy should be elevated by name to the extent that it is in the new draft ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.

This draft was made available yesterday to the profession at large, with an invitation to comment and provide feedback on the important work the task force, charged with developing this document, has completed thus far. Formal feedback should be offered through a SurveyMonkey instrument the task force has set up for this purpose, but informal discussion of the document has already begun on Twitter. See #ACRLILRevisions, #futureofIL, and #infolit tweets timestamped February 20th for some of this conversation, though many of the exchanges are occurring without hashtags, making tracing the conversation there a challenge.

Before I continue, I want to say that I am incredibly excited by the draft, and I believe the task force has done incredibly good, but challenging, work on a gargantuan task. I am grateful to them for developing the living, dynamic framework for IL that our profession and others who will use the document deserve, and also for their graciousness and wisdom in inviting librarians and other stakeholders to offer critical and (at times) uncomfortable feedback on their work, with the goal of making it better. For all of this, they have my sincere thanks.

Amid the vast Twitter conversation following the draft being made available to all, one member of the task force tweeted the following, in response to many of the initial reactions and responses to the document observed on Twitter:

In short, many folks are not sold on metaliteracy as a necessary “anchoring element” (draft, p. 6) for this new IL framework. Metaliteracy is presented alongside another new mode of understanding IL, through the use of threshold concepts, where “metaliteracy” and “threshold concepts” appear to be weighted equally as influential lenses and underpinnings of the structure and content of this new framework. Leading up to this draft, there has been anxiety surrounding both of these new-to-librarians terms, since the task force shared with the profession last fall that these two ideas would be very influential in the drafting of the document. Along these lines, click here for a snapshot of some of the Twitter conversation related to the problematic nature of naming metaliteracy and giving it such weight within the document. 

My proposed solution, both in that Twitter conversation and here, is to integrate metaliteracy into this new IL framework without naming it. After completing a thorough read-through of the draft, I now feel even more confident that this is the best way forward for the document, and the task force charged with developing it. Here below is my case for this recommendation. 

First, I should clarify: I don’t suggest removing the word metaliteracy from the document entirely. Trudi and Tom have done such extensive work on metaliteracy, and very good work that connects metaliteracy to information literacy, in case any of the naysayers have yet to actually engage the concept as articulated by them and others. And I’m not just saying this as a metaliteracy fangirl: I really mean it. They have described something that is so evident, to me at least, as someone who has used social media as a pedagogical tool in the classroom for five years now, that it just is: it is our reality today, both in terms of the information environment we all find ourselves in, and also in terms of the needed responses to this environment -- metacognitive reflection, and a critical awareness of why we do what we do with information, being the foremost of these. This is important work, and it should be recognized in the parts of this new IL framework that directly draw upon and are influenced by metaliteracy as it has been articulated by Trudi and Tom. 

That being said, as I read through the draft, I detected as I went the growing sense that, while threshold concepts are fully fleshed out in terms of their connection to and usefulness for the work of information literacy, to the extent that they are the organizing principle of the document (each section of the framework is identified by a threshold concept for IL)...while this was the case for threshold concepts, it did not feel the same for metaliteracy as a self-referential “thing” that needs its own categories, justifications, and objectives within this new IL framework. 

The first place I noticed this in the draft was in the extensive introduction to the framework. The section titled “A New Framework for Information Literacy: Using Threshold Concepts” (pp. 5-6) is very fleshed out, provides a clear and compelling rationale, connects the concept to other disciplines, and is 1.25 pages long. Immediately following this section is another section titled simply “Metaliteracy” (p. 6) which, based on the expectations set up by the section about threshold concepts, I was expecting to provide a similarly compelling and detailed rationale for this second “anchor” situated alongside threshold concepts. The “Metaliteracy” section of the introduction, however, doesn’t provide this; instead it provides 1/3rd of a page of text that articulates the important and useful elements of Trudi and Tom’s articulation of metaliteracy that we can expect to be incorporated into the framework that follows. 

The second place I noticed that metaliteracy feels a bit tacked on while yet articulating important things (more on this later), is in the structure of each Threshold Concept for IL -- three of which have been offered to us in this draft for comment, though my understanding is that the final framework will have upwards of ten threshold concepts for IL identified, defined, and fleshed out. Each Threshold Concept for IL includes the name of the concept, a definition (in bold), a more detailed description of the concept, Knowledge Practices (Abilities), Related Metaliteracy Learning Objectives, Dispositions, Self-Assessments, and Possible Assignments/Assessments. As a first-time reader of the document, reading through one sample Threshold Concept for IL, when I reached the “Related Metaliteracy Learning Objectives” they felt redundant in terms of the purpose of the separate sub-section/list -- these learning objectives can in every instance be integrated into either Knowledge Practices (Abilities) or Dispositions, either as discrete additions to those lists, or as added nuance to items already included on those lists. The only reason there would need to be a separate list of “Related Metaliteracy Learning Objectives” is if metaliteracy remains a “thing” unto itself in this framework -- the way threshold concepts are. I no longer believe it should be. 

 My marginalia on one set of
"Related Metaliteracy Learning Objectives"
But where does that leave us? Do we throw metaliteracy out the window, along with the baby (i.e., metacognitive reflection on one’s information attitudes and practices) and the bathwater (i.e., the complex information environment we find ourselves in, replete with participatory information environments wherein information seekers are now also content creators, curators, and sharers)? 

No, of course not! So what do we do? 

My suggestion, as someone who has heavily engaged and applied metaliteracy as articulated and developed by Trudi and Tom, is to articulate in the framework’s introduction the parts of metaliteracy that are absolutely vital to information literacy today, and then to integrate/incorporate/embed these elements heavily and explicitly throughout the Threshold Concepts for IL sections -- without feeling the need to identify these elements as “metaliteracy” every time we do

And what are these vital elements of metaliteracy we need to integrate thoroughly in this framework? They are: 
  • the “new roles and responsibilities brought about by emerging technologies and collaborative communities” (draft, p. 6) 
  •  which include learners as information producers/creators, curators, and sharers 
  • and which in turn require, now more than ever, the learner’s development of “metacognition, or consciously reflecting on one’s thinking” as well as “multiple domains” of learning, including “cognitive, metacognitive, affective, and behavioral” (draft, p. 6), in order to negotiate and thrive in these new roles -- in addition to the more traditional roles of one who identifies an information need, and then accesses, evaluates, and uses the needed information effectively and efficiently (ACRL 2000). 
In my understanding, the key thrust of metaliteracy as articulated by Trudi and Tom is: 
1) The environment and context in which learners engage with information has drastically changed, which means
2) learners are now information creators, curators, and sharers, in addition to the more traditional roles articulated in the old ACRL Standards (2000), which in turn now requires that
3) learners develop greater and deeper metacognition related to their own information attitudes, behaviors and practices, in order to constantly improve and strengthen their ability to thrive in this new environment.
By so doing, they develop into information literate learners.
It is a three-part argument, metaliteracy is, though of course there are many implications associated with each part of the argument, which Trudi and Tom have developed extensively in their 2011 C&RL piece, and which have been incorporated into the Metaliteracy Learning Objectives the task force has at present included in the draft as a set of lists separate and apart from the Knowledge Practices (Abilities) and Dispositions for each Threshold Concept for IL, as I described above. But to me at least, these three assertions I've just outlined as the "argument" of metaliteracy are the key contributions that Trudi and Tom's work on metaliteracy has to offer to this new IL framework. 

As such, my suggestion to the task force is to remove metaliteracy from its elevated position as an “anchoring element” in the framework, and instead incorporate it into the overall literature review, drawing on Trudi and Tom’s work to articulate the above aspects of metaliteracy that any new IL framework today needs to address. Leave it in the glossary, since it is a relatively new term to librarians and others who will be using the framework. But -- and this is key -- analyze all of the Related Metaliteracy Learning Objectives associated with each Threshold Concept for IL, and deeply embed them in either the Knowledge Practices (Abilities) or Dispositions for each threshold concept, doing away with the separate list of Related Metaliteracy Learning Objectives altogether

In several cases, this will require deconstructing the Related Metaliteracy Learning Objective in question, since many of these objectives intentionally include both abilities/practices and dispositional elements... And this is precisely what makes their presence as a separate list/entity so confusing to the reader of this new IL framework document: on the one hand, the document seems to want to distinguish abilities from dispositions (a useful distinction, in my opinion), but on the other, there is this list of “Related Metaliteracy Learning Objectives” that contains objectives that intentionally combine abilities and dispositions. This makes putting into practice these Threshold Concepts for IL difficult and more complicated than it needs to be. More fully integrating the elements of metaliteracy that are vital to information literacy, and doing away with the separate lists of Related Metaliteracy Learning Objectives, makes for a stronger framework overall, and as a bonus will serve to un-alienate those members of our profession whose “unnecessary jargon detectors” have been going off like mad ever since the task force articulated the direction the revised framework would take. It's a win-win.

I have already marked up the three Threshold Concepts for IL provided in this first draft, attempting to do this work of deconstructing the Related Metaliteracy Learning Objectives and integrating them into the lists of Knowledge Practices (Abilities) and Dispositions for each, so I know that it is possible to do this, if those doing the work see the value in doing so. (See image above for a snapshot of my marginalia along these lines.) 

I love this kind of work -- integrating one set of ideas deeply and tightly into another set, making the resulting set so much stronger than either set was on its own. And it is the work I challenge the task force -- co-chaired by Trudi, no less, which positions her to lead boldly in this work of integration -- to do, to make the final version of the framework as strong as it can be.

I am so excited for the #futureofIL. Let's do this.