LOEX 2015 & the Framework

In the past year, I’ve interacted with the new Framework for Information Literacy, going so far as to assign the frames as required reading in my classes last fall. However, most of my conversations about it have been with other librarians in my department and #critlib participants. At LOEX, I tweeted:

Someone asked what I meant by that, and I realized I couldn’t respond in a tweet.

I’ve been interacting with the Framework as an overarching set of concepts that I want students to master, and developing my own more granular learning outcomes that build up to those concepts. At ACRL Immersion in 2012, we practiced writing progressively larger and smaller learning outcomes. For example, if I want to include a module in which students learn to avoid plagiarism, they need to know what plagiarism is, the rules of when to provide a citation (you’d be amazed at how many students tell me you don’t have to cite a source if you summarize the article in your own words…), how to do a citation… And learning how to do a citation means recognizing which type of source you have, understanding which information goes where (every semester, at least one student tries to put the chapter title where the edited book title goes and vice versa), and learning how to read the formatting rules. And so on. I have applied that practice in teaching my credit bearing information literacy course. We have a set of overarching learning outcomes for the course, but they are too big to be addressed in one lesson or to assess without breaking them down.

In addition, this past year I participated in a Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (SoTL) learning group coordinated by our Center for Teaching & Learning. My group has focused on threshold concepts and signature pedagogies. My group included faculty from math, early childhood education, art, business, film studies, and more. So reading texts like Exploring signature pedagogies: Approaches to teaching disciplinary habits of mind in conjunction with the literature on threshold concepts may have influenced the way I read the Framework.

For me, though, the Framework speaks to the content I consider important in my course. At times, that is because I’m thinking in terms of layers of learning outcomes that build upon one another to eventually lead up to getting students across the threshold of those major concepts. At other times, it just does a better job of articulating what I teach than the Standards ever did.

In one of the sessions that directly addressed the Framework, Lane Wilkinson criticized the use of threshold concept theory as the foundation for our guiding document. He argued that threshold concepts are the points at which students have difficulty, not the core concepts of the discipline.

OK, so what core concepts do we teach that do not contribute to students getting closer to crossing the 6 thresholds? I still teach the same core content. I teach students to evaluate their sources, how to differentiate between types of sources (book vs journal vs magazine, etc), how to avoid plagiarism, how to find credible sources, etc. That core content hasn’t changed… Well, it has a bit, but that’s a matter of refining my teaching each semester, not due to the Framework! What has changed is that the Framework helps me tie together my smaller daily learning outcomes into an overarching narrative. I’ve used it to help communicate to students how all of these smaller lessons, which on their own may feel like busywork, actually contribute to a larger goal. Of course, I don’t ask students to read any of the Frames for a one-shot, but even then, it helps me think through how I want to approach the material for that one shot.

In his presentation, Lane also critiqued the Framework as difficult to assess. Again, of course you’ll have difficulty assessing whether students understand that authority is constructed and contextual – you have to break that down to more granular, assessable learning outcomes. Just like I can’t easily assess the approved learning outcomes for my course. One example: “Effectively and efficiently access, evaluate, select and use needed information” – I have to break that down to more granular components that I can assess.

I think it is a feature, not a bug, that the Framework has not been mapped to the Standards. We each teach in very different contexts, so it makes sense for the guiding document for our field to provide flexibility for each of us to determine which learning outcomes will most effectively get our students across these thresholds.

Another significant difference that I noticed was that some were interpreting the Framework much more strictly than I have been. For example, one person said they thought that the “authority is constructed and contextual” frame is too passive, focusing on evaluating information that will be consumed instead of how students are moving into positions of authority themselves. And that many are still upholding the same ideas of authority, while just shifting to talk about how they got that authority without interrogating the deeper structures upholding the hegemony.

That interpretation is very different from the way I’ve taught lessons related to that frame. Yeah, I talk about authority. Yeah, you have to be a researcher and some degree of an expert in that field to be published in a scholarly journal. I then take it further to ask who gets to be a researcher? How many of their profs are white, and how does that ratio compare to the student population? Why is that? Can they afford to just be full time students and do undergraduate research, or do they need to work to support themselves (and often their families)?

After breaking that down, I ask what they are experts in. If authority is constructed & contextual, do you always need that expert research? When? One student in my class in the spring 2015 semester claimed expertise in doing eyebrows. Great! That is definitely a time when a person can be the “authority” without having done scholarly research. How do you become an expert in that?

To further complicate authority, I brought up some issues from the media coverage of Ferguson. In one incident back in August 2014, several tweets critiqued the way the local news was reporting on the protests. On one of the early days, before the national media arrived, twitter claimed that the local news crew was not filming while protesters were calm. They also turned their cameras toward the ground when a car full of white boys drove through the parking lot shouting racial slurs at the crowd. But when the crowd gets angry and starts shouting back, those cameras pop up to film the rowdy angry crowd. So who is the authority there? The broadcast news reporters are generally held to be more credible than some random person on the street. So what if that random person on the street is reporting on problems with the way the local news is reporting on a story? What if that random person has video of this behavior?

I don’t feel like the Standards had room for these sorts of questions. My reading of the Framework does leave plenty of room for these sorts of questions and more. But I got the sense at LOEX that I was reading the Framework much more loosely than many of those I spoke with.

This came up in my discussion with a friend over dinner on Saturday evening, including why I may be reacting differently than others to the Framework. She noted that a lot of people are scared of abandoning the Standards, and may not be comfortable developing their own learning outcomes. Giving up the Standards is not scary to me because I never really worked with them. I started my first real grown up librarian job in Sept 2011, after people had started suggesting renewing or moving away from the Standards. In January 2012, I started teaching my credit bearing class. And then in summer 2012, I attended Immersion, where we talked about developing learning outcomes instead of memorizing the standards. So most of my instruction has been tied to course-level learning outcomes broken down to smaller lesson-sized learning outcomes, without any direct reference to the Standards.

She also noted that a lot of people are scared of giving up the one-shot in favor of scaffolded integration into the curriculum. The frames are too big to fit into one or even three 50-minute sessions, so we need to integrate IL into program curricula. If we’re not teaching one shots, what will we do? That also just seems to me like what we should be doing, in part because of hearing Char Booth talk about curriculum mapping at Immersion in 2012. Why do isolated one shots when we could integrate this throughout the curriculum?

I don’t have a pat conclusion to make here. I’m not sure whether identifying my biases in this helps, and maybe all of this ground has already been covered elsewhere. I really like the Framework and find it useful.

One thought on “LOEX 2015 & the Framework

  1. Thanks for the feedback! I think a lot of us have been ignoring the Standards in favor of course-level outcomes. And I think you hit the nail on the head about strict vs. loose interpretations of the Framework. Librarians who attempt to take the Framework seriously and teach in accordance with threshold concept theory are going to find it difficult, if not impossible. But those who treat the Framework as open to interpretation should be more or less okay. Of course, subjective interpretations of the Framework include the interpretation that the Framework isn’t helpful at all! So, at least for me, whether taken strictly or loosely, I’m not on Team Framework but I’m totally in support of anyone who can use it to improve their instruction programs.

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