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.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Achievement Unlocked: Promotion to Associate Professor

I found out this afternoon that I have been promoted to the rank of Associate Professor at my institution.

Just after hearing the news #campusselfie #blessed
This means a lot of things. It means I'm a huge step closer to being a permanent fixture here in my library.* It means my colleagues both in and out of the library want me to remain among them and respect the work I do here. It means my research projects now have a chance to breathe instead of being forced into an arbitrary timeline that must result in quantifiable research product and output. It means a pay raise that will improve the quality of life for me and my family in very important ways. And, it means I get to keep doing what I'm doing.

And since I love what I do, that makes this some of the best news I've received in a while.

*Next year I will go up for tenure, which is easier to achieve than promotion, but which also results in a pretty astonishing level of job security.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Status Updates on Various Fronts

It has been an eventful month! I want to share here some of the things going on, but due to the quantity I will need to do so in short bursts of photos and text.

Bookie looking contemplatively out of our living room
window. Yes she's wearing three headbands.

The Metaliteracy MOOC ended in December. Unfortunately, due to the rigorous nature of applying for promotion during the month of October, I fell behind in the MOOC talks and was unable to catch back up. I do have links to all the content, though, and in particular would like to engage with Sue ThomasTechnobiophilia material sometime in the future. Metaliteracy is definitely still my thing, and I learned most from the MOOC by getting to put it into practice and watch others do the same. And it still promises to be a big part of the revised ACRL Information Literacy Standards, due to be completed this summer. So, this MOOC was definitely time well spent.

And, it resulted in this gem appearing in the #metaliteracy Twitter stream a few weeks into the course:

Nothing quite like scanning and absorbing 140-character soundbytes on a complex educational framework like metaliteracy, only to stumble upon one instance of a lone user creating anew the hashtag #metaliteracy which, in context, refers to the music genre of heavy metal, and even includes the requisite sign of the horns emoticon to be legit. Loved this. Decentralized vocabularies ftw :)


In December, I officially graduted with my Master of Arts in Theology. In the first weeks of January, the degree was finally in my possession.

#fiveyearsofmylife #worthit
Very exciting, that.


Also in the first weeks of January I had my meeting before the Board on Rank and Tenure. This board consists of eleven of my senior colleagues here at my institution, who have been reviewing for the past 1.5 months my massive application for promotion to the rank of Associate Professor. Our Provost was also present at the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was for the board to ask me questions of clarification about my application, consisting of evidence related to my librarianship, scholarship, and service. At the end of the meeting, after I left, the board voted on whether or not to recommend to the university president that I be promoted -- after I left the room, of course. I find out the result of this vote, as well as the president's decision, later this spring.

Here is what I looked like a few minutes before driving to campus the day of my meeting.

All gussied up (to the extent that I gussy up)
#goodimpression #zen #calmcoolcollected 
The meeting went very well as far as I can tell! (Thank God!) I was certainly nervous, but not so to the point where I was spewing verbal red flags in my responses. The tone in the room was serious but collegial. I was asked questions by four of the board members, and I was in the room for around twelve minutes.

Anyone reading, who is of the praying kind, I'd be grateful for prayers that my application is a successful one...promotion would mean a lot of things for me, both personally and professionally. This was arguably one of the most important meetings of my career thus far. I will assuredly post here with the results of the process.


Bookie is very much the toddler these days! This week she began in the next room up at day care, which has more structure and opportunities to develop now that she is running all over the place and pre-talking up a storm. And she did great on her first day in the new room! I'm so proud of her. Here are a few Bookie photos of Bookie being her Bookie-self, with one of me and Paul at Christmastime thrown in for good measure.

Christmas at our parish
Christ is born! Touch ALL the ornaments!

#daddydaughter #myloves

Tea time, thanks to a beautiful gift from
her Aunt T (aka my research
partna' and friend, Teresa) :)

#choirloftpixie at church
on a Sunday morning

#choirloftZEBRApixie at the
sippy cup waterhole

Conducting AND singing along
with Maria Callas #operagirl

Me and my darling :) 


And finally, there's this...

#throughglass, but not, because I took this w/ my ol'
 fashioned smartphone -- BUT STILL.

...about which I have many words. I am going to tell the story of this crazy awesomeness in another post, though, as the number of words in this post has reached quota.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Yarning Along the Path from BI to IL

I look at the stitches and see my own thinking.

I'm back at work after two weeks of holiday. As festive and restful as the time off was, I am ready to return to my work. This week is quiet in the library, which means I continued the scholarly reading first mentioned in my last Yarn Along post.

"Changing Landscapes, Enduring Values:
Making the Transition from Bibliographic Instruction
to Information Literacy"
by Elizabeth O. Hutchins,
Barbara Fister, and Kris (Huber) MacPherson in
  Journal of Library Administration 36.1/2 (2002): 3-19,
and my continued chunky garter stitched cowl. 

I wasn't going to post this week since I'm flitting from article to article at this point. But once I started reading the article I'm sharing today, I realized it deserves a post so I could process it further. It is a piece that describes the positive transition from bibliographic instruction (BI) to information literacy (IL), where the latter builds upon the foundation set by the former, at two liberal arts schools in Minnesota. It is co-authored by Barbara Fister, a researcher and practitioner in my field whose ideas challenge and excite me, and whose Twitter feed is one of the most edifying of those I follow. She's been doing information literacy, and doing it well, since before the term rocked the library profession in 1989. She's awesome.

In my current project, I'm doing a sort of historical retrospective about information literacy in my field, as well as information literacy as discipline. There's more to the project than that, but I want to wait until a later post to share the gritty details. For now, suffice it to say I am immersed in the LIS literature that documents, reports, analyzes, and reflects on the shift that occurred in academic libraries between 1989 and 2000 (and beyond), from delivering "bibliographic instruction" to delivering "information literacy instruction". And this article, "Changing Landscapes, Enduring Values" (see image caption above for full citation) is fantastic for my project. I'm finding myself nodding along in excitement, cheering quietly at my desk, and reacting in all sorts of engaging ways with the piece -- much of which winds up in my marginalia. 

Excited marginalia is exciting :)

...which led me to tweet the following last night in my excitement:

I was sighing (or #sighing) wistfully because one of the schools the article offers as a case study has an active and engaged tradition of student scholarship, where student scholars annually attend conferences to present their work, often done in collaboration with the faculty who teach them. These are undergraduates, mind you. And the library at this school is involved in this tradition of research excellence. #sigh indeed. And awesome (or #awesome?). It's from reading case studies like these that I get reinvigorated to pursue the same kind of excellence in information literacy collaboration at my own institution. This reinvigoration is vital to my ability to do my job well.

Here is a representative nugget from the article:
Librarians work with academic colleagues as peers and fellow educators. This mutual respect contributes directly to collaboration and, in turn, to students becoming more engaged in their research. Librarians and classroom faculty share the goal of preparing students to participate in scholarly conversations, to evaluate resources critically through a particular disciplinary lens, and to be capable of contributing to the discipline's scholarly discourses. (p. 7)
This is exactly what I strive for in my work with my research partner and co-teacher, Teresa, on our campus. It's so exciting when it "works". But it's even more exciting when you can scale it as well as model it for wider adoption by your peers. This is something Teresa and I are working with an eye towards at our institution...though how it may happen here is yet to be seen.

It's getting there... (And it's even longer now!)
And I've added to the chunky scarf I started before the holiday break! More than ever, knitting is helping me process all I'm reading. I am loving doing these two things together. I also think this is going to be more of a cowl than a scarf: I'm envisioning the kind of thing where I add a few chunky buttons to one end, and create a button hole on the other end, and you wear it by crossing the ends just below your neck and buttoning it closed. It's very chunky. But it's also mesmerizing, for me at least, as the one who is making it.

That's what I have for today's Yarn Along. Thanks for reading!