Friday, May 29, 2015

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

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

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

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



Point out Twitter handle.

Point out hashtag.

Ask how many people have read the Framework.

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

[Explain rationale for content of presentation today.]

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

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

Engagement with theory leads to praxis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summarize slide.

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

Summarize slide.

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

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

Summarize slide.

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

Let’s see what this looks like in practice…

Summarize slide (left side) for context of example.


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


Theory to Praxis:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Implications for Practice/Praxis:

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

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

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

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


At the end of the presentation, this happened:

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