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.

Notes:

(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.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tenure for Librarians on my Mind

...or, two big accomplishments at the end of 2014.

But first: Happy New Year!

I'm writing from the other side of a pretty lengthy holiday break from work. Christmas--the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord--is my favorite feast day. And Bookie, who is two and a half, is having a blast with her two favorite Christmas gifts: her new dolls, all of whom are named "Baby," and her new wooden blocks set.

Bookie, "Baby," and "Baby"
Wooden blocks FTW

Prior to the two and a half weeks I was away from the office for the holiday, I had reached the end of a very busy Fall semester. I experienced two accomplishments during that semester which I wanted to chronicle here, and which are in fact related.

First, at the end of October I submitted this for review.

What #libtenure looks like
That's a 20-page narrative documenting my accomplishments in librarianship, scholarship, and service since being appointed to the library faculty at my university in 2008, accompanied by a 3ish-inch binder of evidence of said accomplishments. As I write this, the Board on Rank and Tenure, a committee made up of eleven of my faculty colleagues across the university, are reading through my materials and determining if they meet the criteria for tenure laid out in our Faculty Handbook. Later this month, I meet with the Board and answer any questions they may have about my application...and immediately after that meeting, they vote on whether or not to grant me tenure.

Put another way, they vote on whether or not I get to keep my job.

No pressure or anything.

And though my case is solid, and I have the evaluative support of my department colleagues, chair, and dean (which is all included as evidence in the review process), and I was awarded promotion to the rank of Associate Professor last spring (which is a more rigorous application process than that for tenure)...this is most certainly a process fraught with anxiety because of what is at stake.

I will find out mid-spring the outcome of the vote, and the university president's final determination based on that vote, as to whether or not I will be granted tenure. Your thoughts/prayers/good vibes are welcome!

Second, and most certainly related to the above, in December I had an article published in the Journal of Creative Library Practice!

My article is titled "Academic Librarians as Knowledge Creators," and addresses the question of how both faculty status and tenure for librarians relate to the practice of creating new knowledge in the field of librarianship through doing and publishing scholarly research. It's what I've dubbed a "personal case study" because it not only situates that question within the literature, but measures it against my own experience as a librarian on the tenure-track who is required to be successful at doing and publishing scholarly research. In it, I share the narrative of my collaboration with my research partna', Teresa, through the lens of the question the article is addressing. I hope you'll click on over and give it a read if you haven't yet, and do let me know what you think if you do!

This article was originally written as a book chapter for an edited collection that never got off the ground--though it still may. I blogged almost two years ago while I was doing the research for the piece, which also gives insight as to how I decided on the title. I decided to pull it from the collection and offer it to the professional community sooner than I would have had I kept it in the traditional publishing cycle it was going through as a book chapter. Since a publisher hadn't been found at the time I pulled it to seek publication elsewhere, I knew there was no guarantee my piece would even remain in the final collection, whose final publication was still months-if-not-years away. The kind of researcher I am growing into just cannot deal with that kind of timeline, unless I am entering into it knowingly and intentionally with a specific aim in mind. Lesson learned for the future.

But JCLP has been just awesome to work with, and it meets all the criteria for openness and timeliness of publication that my experience with the traditionally edited collection did not. (I can't recommend highly enough this journal to other researchers in the field of librarianship as a possible space to publish your work.) I chose to request peer review for my article, and while it slowed down publication a tad (a whomping three months<sarcasm>--that's a blink compared to most publications), I am so glad I did. It was a case of peer review doing what it's supposed to--i.e., make the work better than it would have been otherwise. One of the reviewers responded positively with no substantive feedback, but the other reviewer engaged the piece thoroughly and offered criticism with an eye toward the article's potential. If I were to sum up the second reviewer's feedback in my own words, it would basically be:

"Make this article more #critlib*."

I was more than happy to oblige.

And so, I did my best to #critlib a piece I had first written over a year before ever encountering the critical library community. It was published at the beginning of December, and I'm so excited it is out there for folks to read and engage with.

So, those are my two big accomplishments from last semester, with some pictures of a very Bookie Christmas thrown in for good measure.

What did you find were your biggest accomplishments at the end of 2014?

***

*The reviewer did not use the #critlib hashtag in the feedback offered. I'm using it to encapsulate all of the reviewer's major points and suggested improvements.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

An Exercise in Transparency

Transparent
"Transparent" by Flickr user renemensen used under CC BY 2.0 license (human readable summary)
Fall semester is winding down at my university. It's been a busy one for me, hence the four-month radio silence here on the blog. I do have some exciting things to share here, which I'm hoping to do over the next few weeks leading into the holiday.

But first, I want to share my survey responses to the feedback form for the 3rd draft of the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. Released a month ago to the profession for comment and feedback, this draft is poised to be the near-final draft of this Framework, which I've been long anticipating. After the period of comment on the 2nd draft ended over the summer, the Task Force responsible for the development of this Framework worked through upwards of 1000 pages (!!) of comments and feedback, and revised the document into the 3rd draft. The period for offering feedback on the 3rd draft ends tomorrow, so please fill out the feedback survey to have your voice heard!

As I did during the past two periods of offering feedback on the Framework (here and here, with a bonus post for good measure here on metaliteracy in the earliest draft of Framework), I am going to share my responses to the feedback survey questions. Not gonna lie--much my of feedback is line-by-line, and readers may or may not be interested in the level of detail I am commenting on here. However, as an exercise in transparency, I'd like to go ahead and offer them here anyway, in case my responses are of use to anyone who may read this.

I also serve on the ACRL Information Literacy Standards Committee, who is charged with offering the penultimate review of the Framework document before it goes to the ACRL Board of Directors for approval. I have already offered my feedback within the work of that committee, and some (though not all) of what you'll read below was included in that collective committee response to the document. What follows are my responses to the survey questions as an individual member of the profession, with a few corrected typos from what I submitted yesterday evening through the survey instrument.

I'm hoping this draft is the last one the Task Force offers for public comment, since I believe it is very close to being ready for the Board's approval. As such, here is what I am hoping will be my final round of feedback on the 3rd draft of the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education:

UPDATE: I've decided to highlight in yellow the important parts of my feedback that don't require that you have the 3rd draft Framework document next to you (which is where the Line #s come from) as you read my responses.

***

How satisfied are you with the new definition of information literacy? <satisfied> [likert scale answers in < >]

I liked the definition in the previous draft, but I also like this one, *except* for the use of bolded text (more on this in my line-by-line commentary below)--I am strongly against the use of bolded text in this definition. I also think changing “spectrum” to the simpler term “set” could make the definition flow better and read clearer, but I also don’t mind spectrum, so I leave that decision to your collective expertise.

Line-by-line commentary:

--Lines 68-78: I strongly suggest removing the bolded text from the new definition of information literacy, and instead having the entire definition be un-bolded. The use of bold, to me, is forcing an interpretation of the definition upon the reader, and is distracting. It also feels a little demeaning as a reader, as though I am unable to pick out the key phrases myself.

--Line 68: Since I know there has been some pushback against the word “spectrum”, perhaps a simpler choice would be “set”?

In addition, this survey doesn’t provide a set aside space to provide feedback on the ancillary parts of the document that comprises the 3rd draft, so here is my line-by-line feedback on these:

Introduction:

--Lines 25-26 and Line 31: In Lines 25-26, the “Task Force” is referred to as though this group has been introduced already within this document, when it hasn’t yet. At Line 31, the “ACRL Task Force responsible for this Framework” is referred to, which is later than the first mention of the group. I suggest the way the group is named in these two locations be traded, so the earlier instance includes the contextual information about who the Task Force is.

--Lines 40-41 (and later at Line 49): Would you consider having this sentence read instead: “These are the six concepts that anchor the Frames, presented alphabetically:”? You have already called them threshold concepts earlier, though you also cite Wiggins and McTighe at Line 28 (which is a really strong addition). I think dropping the “threshold” descriptor here at Lines 40-41 opens interpretation of these concepts such that those practitioners less convinced of threshold concept theory can still find something in the presentation of the Frames that works for them. They are, at the end of the day, fundamental concepts in our field--some may identify with “threshold concepts”, others more so with “enduring understandings/big ideas”. I suggest rhetorically presenting the Framework in this document in such a way that both of these learning theory/instructional design schools are encouraged.

--Lines 42-47, and throughout document where repeated: The words “is” and “has” within the Frame titles do not need to be capitalized. To me, these capitalizations are distracting. “Authority is Constructed and Contextual”, “Information has Value”, “Scholarship is/as a Conversation” (more on this below), and “Searching is Strategic” all make more grammatical sense to me.

--Lines 81-82: Is there a missing word (“literacy”) in this clause? Shouldn’t it read: “to connect information literacy with student success initiatives;”?

Suggestions on How to Use the Information Literacy Framework:

--Line 86: To be consistent, this should read “Suggestions for How to Use the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education”.

--Entire section: I strongly suggest this section be shortened, and included in Appendix 1. The Introduction should be followed immediately by the Frames, in my opinion. This section is going to become outdated in its use/function as soon as the profession begins implementing the Framework (so, immediately). The document will be stronger if this is moved after the Frames.

--Line 95 and throughout: I am not sure why “information-literate” has a hyphen. In all of the literature since information literacy became a thing we teach, folks say a person is “information literate” (no hyphen), at least in all the literature I've encountered.

--Lines 144-145: Similarly, the last bullet in the text box is worded so that it will be outdated almost immediately: “Add to the online repository (sandbox) that will be developed…” Once the sandbox is developed, this sentence won’t make sense.

Please move this section into an Appendix.

---

Notes (Lines 738-767) and Bibliography (Lines 768-785):

These two sections need to follow immediately after the last Frame. It is very confusing to have them so many pages later. After these, it makes sense to have…

Sources for Further Reading (Lines 457-545)

...which looks good to me.

And then honestly? That should be the last part of the Framework document.

Appendix 1 -- which I believe should also include the “Suggestions [for librarians] on How to Use the Framework” (Lines 86-145) and then be condensed overall -- I believe should either be a true Appendix, that comes after all of the major components of the actual Framework, or should be a separate set of documents entirely that could be available linked from the final HTML version of the Framework, but shouldn’t weigh down the document the profession will be copying, printing, hacking, adapting, and implementing at our local institutions. The same goes for…

Appendix 2 -- again, this does not really need to be appended to the Framework itself, but instead can be a separate document made available to the profession on the same web page where the final Framework will be hosted and made available to all.

Appendix 3 -- That the draft recommendations to the board are also called an appendix, this gives me hope that maybe the Task Force isn’t actually intending Appendices 1 and 2 to be a part of the final Framework document, but instead ancillary to the document. My preference is for the latter -- the more nimble the final Framework document is, the more likely stakeholders outside of the library on our campuses will give it the time of day. Less is more! :)

--Line 801: The word “RECOMMENDATION” is missing an N.

--Lines 836-842: Recommendation #2: I suggest this recommendation for sunsetting the old Standards after one year be extended, or nuanced, so that instead the time frame allows for one full academic year in which the Standards and the Framework will overlap. Practically speaking, if the final Draft of the Framework goes to the board in January 2015, this would mean extending the recommendation to sunset the Standards after 1.5 years. This gives IL programs a full academic year of having both documents to work with, so that full transition from one to the other is timed over a summer (of 2016) rather than in the dead of winter between most schools’ fall and spring semesters. Just wanted to throw this out there, as I think it would make folks less anxious and stressed about the change--healthy as this change is going to be for all in the long run! :)

How satisfied are you with each of the six frames?

Authority is Constructed and Contextual: <satisfied>

This is in great shape, with just one exception (below). I am especially pleased with how concise as a whole this Frame is compared to previous drafts. Here is my line-by-line feedback:

--Lines 151-155: This bolded definition of the concept is incredibly confusing in this 3rd draft. In particular, the syntax of the first sentence (Lines 151-153) makes it hard to know what is being communicated. This bolded definition was much clearer and more useful in the 2nd draft of the Framework. I recommend this definition be reverted to the version in previous drafts.

Information Creation as a Process: <satisfied>

This is in great shape, with just a few exceptions (below). I am especially pleased with how clear as a whole this Frame is compared to previous drafts. Here is my line-by-line feedback:

--Line 225: I suggest cutting the word “effectively” from this knowledge practice; generally speaking, I don’t think adverbs in the knowledge practices or dispositions are needed, and distract from the clarity of each statement.

--Lines 225-238: Font size is smaller than the rest of the document.

--Lines 244 and 246: the phrases “creation of knowledge” and “knowledge creation” should really be “creation of information” and “information creation”, respectively. This Frame is about “Information Creation”, and while I’m not a huge fan of the word “Creation” for this Frame to begin with, I can’t think of a clear alternative to suggest. That being said, conflating information and knowledge in these two lines is confusing and not helpful, since this Frame is really focusing on the final forms information takes--knowledge is something much more abstract and complex, and outside the scope of this Frame. Both of these lines will still make sense if “information” is traded in where it currently says “knowledge”, which is what I suggest.

Information has Value: <very satisfied>

This Frame is in fantastic shape! :) It is clear, concise, and communicates effectively a complex concept. The only suggestion I have is to consider adding another disposition for this Frame, since this list is rather short in comparison to the lists of dispositions in the other Frames. Here is a disposition I suggest should be represented somewhere in this Frame (as of right now, it isn’t):

After Line 290, add: “...are inclined to examine their own information privilege as it relates to the value they are able to leverage through and with information.”

Research as Inquiry: <moderately satisfied>

I’m nervous this Frame is attempting to encompass all of information literacy, and is seeking to be exhaustive in its knowledge practices and dispositions. Practitioners may read this and feel less inclined to “hack” and adapt this Frame as they would the others, since the lists of knowledge practices and dispositions are way longer than for the other Frames. Here is my line-by-line feedback:

--Line 293: I suggest adding a small phrase (“in turn”) to make the sentence syntax a little clearer: “Research as Inquiry refers to an understanding that 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.”

--Knowledge Practices and Dispositions: For this Frame, these two lists feel a bit as though they are trying to make sure they don’t miss any aspect of information literacy--it’s almost as though they are attempting to be both exhaustive (which of course it doesn’t need to be), and also be student learning outcomes in a sense (because as currently written they seem pretty concrete and discrete, almost too much so). My feedback is to see where these can be condensed some, because these lists for this Frame are way longer than the same for the other Frames, making the Framework as a whole feel out of balance. What follows are a few examples of how these could be condensed some.

--Line 322 and Line 329 are saying almost the exact same thing; one can be eliminated.

--Lines 317-318 and Line 326 are also saying very similar things, and since I had no idea what a “heuristic” is until I looked it up, my vote would be to combine these two KPs favoring the first one (Lines 317-318).

--Lines 332-350: This is such a long list of dispositions, and not all actually are dispositional/affective; some are more concrete/cognitive/behaviorial. Also, while I know there will be redundancy between the Frames, many of these very solidly fall into other Frames and so could stand to be cut from the overlong list in *this* Frame. One example of this is Line 348--this one is first of all more of a knowledge practice than a disposition, and it also falls more clearly into Information has Value, OR it belongs in every Frame since you should be using information ethically during every aspect of the research process, and if it belongs in every Frame, maybe that means it should only be in the Frame it most aligns with (i.e., Information has Value), so the Framework as a whole is not longer/more cumbersome than it needs to be.

--Line 332: Cut the word “as” so it reads: “...consider research an open-ended exploration and engagement with information;”

--Lines 341-342 and Lines 344-345 are saying very similar things.

--All around, the Knowledge Practices and Dispositions for this Frame can stand to be condensed and collapsed some, so that the lists are not overlong in comparison to the other Frames. These aren’t student learning outcomes, and don’t need to be exhaustive, and this is the only Frame that reads as though it is trying to be exhaustive. (Just my opinion, of course; but if this is a Framework, it will benefit from the Frames being balanced in the amount of content offered to the practitioner, so the overall structure doesn’t risk collapsing, to extend the metaphor a bit.)

Scholarship is/as a Conversation: <moderately satisfied>

Right into line-by-line feedback:

--Line 351 and throughout: Following the rationale offered in the answer to FAQ #4 on the website for this revision process, I believe this Frame would be a lot stronger if it were revised into “Scholarship as a Conversation”. There has been a lot of pushback against the idea that the profession will be describing scholarship in this rather limiting metaphor equating it to a conversation. I believe scholarship is *like* a conversation, and shares many of the characteristics of a conversation; but, I also believe scholarship is like other things as well, and expert researchers are more apt to reach for more complex metaphors the farther along in their disciplinary training they go. “Scholarship as a Conversation” makes sense because, to quote the FAQ page, scholarship encompasses something larger than conversation, and so "as" is more appropriate than "is". This is a simple tweak that would make the Frame stronger because those who are less convinced of the concept behind this Frame will be more likely to embrace it if the connecting word is a bit more open, as “as” is in comparison to “is” (try saying that five times fast! :) ).

--Line 371: The word “obligation” here does not work for me, as it has a punitive element that has no place in the development of authentic research practices; I would prefer the word “responsibility”.

--Lines 377-379: The parenthetical list in this KP is missing an “e.g.,” before the list and an “etc.” at the end of the list. This will make it more consistent with other similar parentheticals in the Framework, and the inclusion of “etc.” will make it clear the list is not exhaustive of all ways one can contribute to the scholarly conversation.

--Lines 381-382 and Lines 398-399: This is one KP and one disposition, and they are still pretty redundant, i.e., both include the idea of evaluating the contributions of others in participatory information environments. Personally, I believe this act of evaluating is more of a KP, so I recommend the version that is in the dispositions list be looked at to really distinguish it from a practice and make it more clearly a habit of mind/attitude. I also think that the leading verbs of both KPs and dispositions are clearer when there is not an adverb before them; for Lines 381-382 this is easily fixed by reversing the first two words of the KP, so it would read: “evaluate critically…”

Searching is Strategic: <moderately satisfied>

Right into line-by-line feedback:

--Line 403: In general, I preferred “Searching as Exploration” to “Strategic”, but I also understand the need to distinguish this Frame’s meaning from that of “Research as Inquiry” (though these Frames are, in fact, quite related). I do not prefer “Strategic” because this word makes me think the expert researcher knows in advance what his/her end-goal is for the research, and executes a strategy (“strategic”) with this goal in mind. The longer description of this Frame, and the bolded definition as well, both make it clear this Frame is more about learning the search systems available to us in order to make the best decisions about which to choose and how to utilize them once they have been chosen, to meet a particular need. The expert researcher knows far less, in advance of starting, than the word “Strategic” suggests. My suggested revision that encompasses the spirit of search I am describing here, which also keeps this Frame distinct from “Research as Inquiry”, is to call this Frame “Searching is Investigative” [NB: This was the biggest typo in my submitted survey response--in my survey response, this read “Searching as Investigative” when I definitely meant “is”. #meaculpa]. “Investigating” makes me think of a detective (magnifying glass and all), gathering clues about the search systems available and how they relate to my specific topic, and then putting the clues together to execute a search that may or may not give me what I need; if it doesn’t, I analyze why it didn’t work, gather more clues, and try a different approach. So, that is my suggestion for an alternative to “Strategic”, since “Strategic” doesn’t really align with the Frame’s definition and longer description. Related to this, Lines 409-420--the longer description--are a fantastic revision from the last draft: these lines just don’t really describe an approach that is “strategic”! It describes something that is less rigid than a “strategic” approach would be, in my opinion at least.

--Lines 423-445: Similar feedback to what I gave for “Research as Inquiry”, which is, this is a very long list of KPs. It is way longer than the KP list for many of the other Frames, which again makes the Framework as a whole feel a bit imbalanced. My suggestion is to see what can be condensed/collapsed in this list so it is more balanced with the other Frames.

--Line 451: I suggest you cut the adverb “actively”--if one is seeking out guidance, it is implied that they are doing it actively. The adverb makes the statement as a whole more complex than it needs to be.

--Lines 455-456: Once again, this is a disposition that is important, but doesn’t feel particular to this Frame. This disposition, about respecting intellectual property, really has its home in “Information has Value”, and it makes the rest of the “Searching is Strategic/Investigative” dispositions muddier by including a disposition that doesn’t feel clearly tied to the searching process. This is just my opinion though--others’ mileage may vary on this.

How satisfied are you with the opportunities to provide feedback to the task force on drafts of the Framework? <very satisfied>

Very satisfied, as my active engagement in the entire revision process likely illustrates. :)

How satisfied are you that the task force has been responsive to feedback provided on previous drafts of the Framework? <very satisfied>

Very satisfied with this as well--the difference between the 2nd and 3rd drafts is huge, and all to the better (with a few minor exceptions, described above). In particular, I give the Task Force huge kudos for integrating and embedding metaliteracy so deeply and elegantly into/throughout the Frames that it has become “invisible” in the best possible way. It’s still very much there--I could deconstruct the Framework line by line and illustrate to my colleagues in my library where metaliteracy exists in the Framework if I wanted to--but I don’t need to do that, which is why this makes the Framework that much stronger.

OVERALL, how satisfied are you with the third draft of the proposed Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education? <I support it> 

Have you provided formal feedback on one or more of the earlier drafts? <Yes>

What one thing do you most want the Task Force members to know about the draft Framework?

That the Framework is making me more excited than ever about the future of information literacy instruction in our academic libraries, because pedagogically there are so many more options now than there were (or, than I perceived there were) when designing instruction using the Standards. So, thank you, from the bottom of my librarian-heart, for all of the hard work you have put into this document. <3

Friday, July 25, 2014

My First Keynote

“The library is a summons to scholarship.”
This Wednesday, I experienced a professional milestone: I co-presented a keynote presentation at the second annual PA Forward Information Literacy Summit, at Penn State, University Park, in State College, PA. 

My co-presenter was Ellysa Stern Cahoy, Education and Behavioral Sciences Librarian and Assistant Director Pennsylvania Center for the Book, at Penn State University Libraries. She and I both served on the planning committee for this one-day conference of about 100 attendees focusing on information literacy in Pennsylvania libraries and beyond. In fact, she was the one invited to deliver the keynote which would focus on the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. Ellysa then reached out and invited me to co-present this keynote with her. She said the breakout session I delivered at last year’s Summit had an impact on her thinking re: how we frame information literacy with teaching faculty, and invited me to collaborate on the keynote presentation the Summit planning committee hoped to offer on the ACRL Framework. Needless to say, I enthusiastically accepted Ellysa’s invitation, marking this the first time in my professional life I have delivered a presentation contextualized and offered as a “keynote.” 


I am very proud of what Ellysa and I presented, and I wanted to share some of it here. Our presentation was titled, ACRL’s Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: Implications for Practice, and the goal of the presentation was to interpret the latest draft of the Framework (June 2014) through the lens of our information literacy instructional practice. This meant of course providing an overview of the Framework: the process through which it is being developed as well as its structure and content. We then identified four implications for practice we identified in the Framework, where we each covered two. Finally, we offered brief remarks containing strategies for implementing the Framework in our libraries.


I want to share several things here from the presentation, both for posterity and because I like sharing my work so others may benefit (if any benefit is to be had). First, I’ll share a high and a low from my first experience of giving a keynote. Next, I’ll share some tweets from attendees who live tweeted the presentation. Then, I’ll embed the slide deck from the presentation. And finally, I will share the remarks I read for my portions of the presentation, which were to address two of the four implications for practice (“Collaboration with faculty across disciplines” and “Information literacy as a metaliteracy”) and the strategies for implementation we offered at the conclusion of the presentation. I was told the presentation was video recorded: if the video is posted and made publicly available, I will update this post to include it as well. 


UPDATE: Here is the link to the video of us delivering this keynote. The video contains both keynotes for the day, and ours was second, so skip to 1:11 for our presentation.

High: At one point while I was speaking, as I made a point related to collaboration with teaching faculty leading to a decreased reliance on the one-shot information literacy session, a librarian about my age near the front row of the auditorium broke into applause accompanied by an enthusiastic cheer. A few others caught her enthusiasm and applauded along for a brief moment. It was pretty rad, and definitely a first for me!


Low: Being asked for my business card during the break after the presentation, and having to respond that I didn’t have any (and in fact, have never carried business cards in my six years since beginning my professional career #professionalfail). I did, however, immediately email the librarian who asked, using my phone, from my work email address and containing my email signature, with an embarrassed apology for not carrying business cards, so I still made sure she got my contact information. This is something I’ll need to fix before my next major conference, which will hopefully be next spring (if one of my proposals is accepted for it…)


The presentation in tweets:


Conference hashtag: #PAFILS14




















Presentation slide deck:


ACRL's Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: Implications for Practice from Donna Witek


My remarks on “Collaboration with faculty across disciplines”:

The second implication for practice we’d like to explore with you today is how the Framework enables collaboration with faculty across disciplines.

As a flexible Framework for teaching and learning information literacy, this document invites collaboration between librarians and teaching faculty in ways that the Information Literacy Standards did not. The Framework emphasizes the “vital role of collaboration and its potential for increasing student understanding of the processes of knowledge creation and scholarship" (Draft 2, June 2014, p.30). In fact, in the June 2014 draft of the Framework, collaboration is mentioned twenty-nine times in around as many pages, illustrating the extent to which it is prioritized.

One way the Framework enables collaboration is through the use of a threshold concept approach to information literacy. This approach not only encourages, but demands conversations with faculty around threshold concepts in order for these concepts to be effectively taught.

Threshold concepts by their very nature must be developed and mastered over time, since a student can approach the threshold for an important IL concept without actually crossing over. This approach toward understanding will occur in many courses, through many learning activities, and in multiple learning contexts, both inside and outside the academic classroom.

In order to successfully facilitate students’ approach toward, arrival at, and crossing over the threshold toward understanding and mastery of these important IL concepts, we librarians must reach out to teaching faculty and begin a conversation about what these concepts are, how they work in practice, and ways both librarians and traditional course instructors can design instruction to develop in students an understanding of these concepts.

The Framework describes this need for conversations around threshold concepts in the following way:


A vital benefit in using threshold concepts as one of the underpinnings for the new Framework is the potential for collaboration among disciplinary faculty, librarians, teaching and learning center staff, and others. Creating a community of conversations about this enlarged understanding should create conditions for more collaboration, more innovative course designs, more action research focused on information literacy, and a more inclusive consideration of learning within and beyond the classroom. (Draft 2, June 2014, p.26)


Once we initiate these conversations, the next goal we should be aiming for is the integration of information literacy throughout the curriculum.

For students to successfully develop understandings of these ‘big picture’ concepts for IL,  they need to engage in learning activities designed to develop these understandings in multiple learning contexts, throughout the curriculum and even outside it. A threshold concept approach to IL challenges our professional reliance on the ‘one-shot’ model of information literacy instructional programming. The Framework creates a need for deeper integration of information literacy into students’ courses and programs, such that students will be able to transfer information literacy knowledge, skills, and behaviors between contexts. This transfer of knowledge, skills, and behaviors is more likely to occur when students are instructed in them in a scaffolded manner throughout the curriculum, and our role as librarians is to facilitate this scaffolding. 

Dr. Troy Swanson, Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College and member of the Revision Task Force, connects threshold concepts to the integration of IL into the curriculum in the following way:


. . . these concepts open a point of conversation between faculty members and librarians. Since the new framework does not outline skills to teach, but, instead, thresholds of understanding and dispositions for action, librarians and faculty can explore how students develop as information literate learners within the curriculum. This is a move past the one-shot session toward more meaningful pedagogical exchange. (tinyurl.com/ILswanson, 20 Feb 2014)


If threshold concepts for information literacy are so complex that they must be integrated into the curriculum in order to be taught, an important but controversial question arises: In what ways can we share responsibility for information literacy instruction with our colleagues in other disciplines?

I am an advocate for embedding information literacy so deeply within courses that it is possible the librarian will no longer need to offer targeted instruction to those courses. This can occur through collaborative assignment and even course design at the level of student learning outcomes. It can also occur through an embedded library instruction model designed to, over time, ‘teach the teacher’ in how to teach the things historically allotted to the librarian alone. This model is not a good fit for all courses, particularly those with complex material in the content area of the course, but inviting course instructors to participate in your information literacy instruction as co-teacher can go a long way in decreasing the reliance of that course on you, the librarian, so you can then target other courses in which to do the same.

When deep collaboration occurs between librarians and teaching faculty, information literacy will be present in the course even when the librarian is not. The Framework provides for us the mindset, language, and rhetorical position from which to make the case to both 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.

My remarks on “Information literacy as a metaliteracy”:

The final implication for practice we are offering today is the understanding within the Framework of information literacy as a metaliteracy.

The term metaliteracy was first introduced to the profession in 2011, when Tom Mackey and Trudi Jacobson published an article in College and Research Libraries called “Reframing Information Literacy as a Metaliteracy.” They have since expanded and developed further their definition of metaliteracy, and understand it as
a comprehensive framework for information literacy that unifies related literacies to advance critical thinking and metacognitive learning. . . . [that] expands the scope of traditional information literate skills . . . to include the collaborative production and sharing of information in participatory digital environments . . . (Mackey and Jacobson, 2014, p.1)
It is worth taking a moment to unpack this definition of metaliteracy and relate it to our IL instructional practice. For our purposes today, the vital elements of metaliteracy that have been integrated into the Framework can be summarized as follows:
The environment and context in which learners engage with information has drastically changed since the Information Literacy Standards were developed in the year 2000,
which means learners are now information creators, curators, and sharers, in addition to the more traditional roles the Standards articulated.
This in turn now requires that 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.


The most recent draft of the Framework ties these ideas together when it says metaliteracy


“offers a renewed vision of information literacy as an overarching set of abilities in which students are both consumers and creators of information in multiple formats,”
“demands behavioral, affective, cognitive, and metacognitive engagement with the information ecosystem,”
and requires “critical self-reflection, as crucial to becoming more self-directed in that rapidly changing ecosystem” (Draft 2, June 2014, p.2).


So if the Framework conceives of information literacy as a metaliteracy, the question for our IL instructional practice is, What are the pedagogical opportunities that arise as a result?

One opportunity comes from the fact that information literacy is now situated in participatory digital environments such as social media and networking sites. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are shaping the way students encounter, understand, interpret, and use information in their everyday lives. When they attempt to conduct research in traditionally academic environments like databases and OPACs, one way to help students successfully transfer between the two is to make connections between these academic information environments and the participatory ones they are accustomed to. In what ways are the environments similar? In what ways do they differ? Can you build learning activities through which students can experience these similarities and differences first-hand, and then discuss (metacognitively) what they experienced, in the community of your classroom? How else can we use participatory digital environments as a lens through which to illuminate and facilitate the research process for and with students?

Because of the proliferation of these participatory digital environments, students are now knowledge creators. This is of course in addition to the traditional roles they have always filled in relation to information. But the power to click “publish” across the web has eliminated the barriers to knowledge creation that existed before. How can we harness this power in our IL classrooms, perhaps by utilizing platforms like YouTube, Twitter, and blogs as tools for knowledge creation? Can we empower students to contribute their voices to the discourses and conversations that matter to them, while yet developing in them a disposition toward responsibility that comes with this power? Might we also help students make connections between the academic work they produce for their courses and their role as creators of knowledge?

Metacognitive reflection not only can, but should be featured as a learning activity. By learning activity I mean in-class activities and assignments: two things librarians can influence in relation to information literacy instruction. Metacognitive reflection as learning activity can take many forms: blogging, tweeting (yes, tweeting offers an opportunity to metacognitively reflect on one’s thoughts and ideas, and the thoughts and ideas of others), in-class discussion (which could be either synchronous in-person discussion or asynchronous discussion taking place in online learning environments), or good old fashioned pen and paper responses to reflective prompts developed by you, the librarian, and designed so students must reflect on their own learning and research processes in order to respond. Metacognitive reflections like these will go a long way toward assessing whether a student has achieved understanding of the threshold concepts for IL, making them a valuable tool in our collective toolkit as we embark on putting the Framework into practice at our institutions.

My remarks on “Strategies for implementation” of the Framework:

We’d like to conclude with brief remarks on strategies for implementing the Framework at your institutions and in your information literacy programs.

Throughout academic year 2013-2014, my library colleagues at The University of Scranton and I have been fortunate to attend professional development opportunities related to the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. At one such event -- the Connecticut Information Literacy Conference -- the theme for the day was “Our New Frontier: Metaliteracy, Threshold Concepts, New Standards, and Other Wild Ideas.” In the closing panel, librarians from Trinity College in Hartford, CT, each presented ways they have used the Framework in its draft form to identify intersections between the Framework and work they are already doing in their information literacy program. In this way, at Trinity College the Framework served as a lens through which to understand in a new way the things they are already offering by way of information literacy instruction. I was struck at how respectful and, frankly, intelligent this approach to implementing the Framework is, in the earliest stages of implementation. Rather than feel pressured to overhaul an entire instruction program overnight -- or at least, before the old Standards are sunsetted by ACRL -- I am inspired by Trinity College to instead use the Framework as a new way to understand the things I’m already doing on both the individual and programmatic level in my library, and I encourage you to do the same.

Related to this first strategy for implementation is the second I’d like to offer: approaching the Framework as providing new language and concepts to communicate what you do and how you do it. Listening to librarians at Trinity College present about their Spring 2014 information literacy projects in instruction, outreach, and assessment, using the language and vocabulary of the Framework, was very impressive as a conference attendee -- especially since the conference was in June of this year, mere months after the first draft of the Framework had been shared with the profession by the Revision Task Force. But as impressed as I was, I also observed that what they had done was not so difficult that I couldn’t do the same if I put in the work of mapping the student learning outcomes I’ve been teaching for years to the frames that form the backbone of the Framework. Once mapped, an entire new set of terms and concepts would be at my fingertips, with which I could then communicate my information literacy instructional outcomes in my annual reports, my assessment reporting, my personal narrative for the purposes of peer evaluation and performance review, and any number of other channels through which we share what we do with others.

And finally, once these first two strategies are applied, the third is likely to follow: understanding the Framework as a process through which to transform the goals you set for your information literacy instruction and programs. I truly believe this Framework’s greatest impact will be on our own professional thinking in relation to information literacy instruction, pedagogy, and design, collectively as a profession and individually as information literacy instruction practitioners. As our thinking shifts, so will our programs and instruction. And in this way the Framework is poised to transform both our thinking and practice of information literacy in our libraries and institutions.

Thank you.