Thursday, December 11, 2014

An Exercise in Transparency

"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:


--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