By Sara D. Miller
I’ve just returned from the ACRL 2015 conference in Portland, where it was great to see so many infolit librarians energized and speaking up for critical pedagogy and thinking about new possibilities presented by the ACRL Framework and threshold concepts. Throughout the sessions, one theme in particular held my attention: the resounding death knell for the humble one-shot instruction session. Our old mainstay seemed to have its coffin nailed securely shut by claims of pedagogical disingenuity. While I was raising my idealistic inner fist in solidarity, that pesky pragmatic side held me back from getting completely carried away.
Some background: I am a huge fan of critical pedagogy, am completely intrigued by the threshold concept model, especially notions of the liminal space, and nearly leaped for joy - scaring my husband half to death - when I read the first draft of the Framework. In short, I’m all about #teamframework. Like Jessica Critten (in her excellent Friday presentation with Kevin Seeber)(1), I have also been known to drool over Friere and bell hooks on occasion. I’m also a firm believer that the form of instruction matters as much, if not more so, than the content and am really eager to see what groundbreaking new forms of information literacy instruction and integration develop as a result of our focus on frames over proficiencies.
However – I’m not ready to put the one-shot into the ground just yet.
While I agree that it’s probably not the most optimal form for information literacy learning, for some librarians it’s the only shot they’ve got. Much of the great work on pedagogy and instructional design that’s been done among librarians since the original Standards were published has come as a result of our work in one shot sessions. Setting the stage for the new Framework has taken place largely through librarians’ learned experience through teaching one-shots. Not to mention that I have seen some fabulously done one-shots in my day, designed from beginning to end with a critical pedagogical lens and targeted to threshold concepts before we all knew what those threshold concepts were.
I’d hate to see the one-shot share in the ignominy of its cousin, the dreaded lecture. Lecture as a form of teaching is often maligned (and at times rightly so) among active learning aficionados, however - it still has its usefulness, and there are a multitude of ways to make lectures better and more engaging as Ken Bain (2) and others have written. Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater in the case of one-shots, or worse, cause librarians who either have no other instruction options outside of the one-shot or else have an appropriate, effective use for it - to be perceived as inferior teachers. I have often advised librarians to take small steps to improve teaching by sharing tips on more effective lecturing, or by suggesting turning a database demo over to students in the form of a group activity. Sometimes these small steps are scary, and if I responded to requests for teaching advice with a megaphone and waving a “Ditch the Demo!” banner, all I’d encounter would be completely understandable resistance, not to mention missing the chance to help librarians to grow into their own teaching potential. (I’ll try not to go all Parker Palmer on you here).
Yes, the one-shot is overused, and we’re over-reliant on it. Yes, it’s come to be expected from us more than it should be. But let’s accept the challenge to its effectiveness and build upon it instead of discarding it altogether. Let’s mine the depths of our new Framework to develop a new, larger palette of options and forms for information literacy learning. And let’s not forget that we are all working together to help students learn, and to that end, becoming better teachers ourselves.
(1) Critten, J., & Seeber, K. (2015, March). Process, Not Product: Teaching and Assessing the Critical Process of Information Literacy. Presentation presented at the ACRL 2015, Portland, OR. http://s4.goeshow.com/acrl/national/2015/profile.cfm?profile_name=session&master_key=503E8291-AF47-AC55-1877-5698CCC55F29&page_key=87F60AB6-D7A0-C448-4F3F-CD77E0931899&xtemplate&userLGNKEY=0
(2) Bain, K. (2004). What the Best College Teachers Do. Harvard University Press.
I've been following with interest the research coming out of Project Information Literacy, so was happy to see a new report out last Wednesday, February 25th. I previously read their report on first year students making the transition from high school to college who are learning to find information for college-level assignments for the first time. The new document provides survey trends and some premilinary findings about what happens to those students once they leave college or university.
Read the Lifelong Learning Study - Trends from the Online Survey
I am looking forward to further developments once the group has analyzed the survey responses. We try to teach students how to find information effectively while in college, but what happens when they lose access to databases and vast library collections once they leave?
For those of you following the progress of ACRL's Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, you are aware its adoption has been somewhat controversial. This post from Jacob Berg on ACRL's blog summarizes some of the reactions and responses to the Framework from the last few months:
When the grand jury in Ferguson handed down the decision to not prosecute Darren Wilson, the policeman who shot and ultimately killed Michael Brown, it set off reactions across the country-from protests and marches spanning from New York City to Oakland. Many teachers, professors, librarians, and educators have been wrestling with how to address some of the issues that Ferguson, the deaths of Eric Garner and other black men, and race and racism in America have raised, in the classroom.
One of the most thought provoking blog posts I have read (at least for me) was a post on ACRLog, entitled "Using the New Framework to Teach Ferguson." ACRL is at the tail end of a multi-year process outlining new guidelines for information literacy in higher education. The blog post highlights some of the most relevant pieces of the new frameworks, and how we, as educators and librarians, can teach about what's going on in Ferguson (and across the country). Encouraging analyzing information for validity and bias, finding information whether across formal or informal channels, and understanding how information delivery has changed and evolves based on emerging technologies (twitter, etc.) are all just a few of the framework points that we can incorporate into our sessions-regardless of being one shot sessions or more involved research and projects we work on. The post also discussed the hashtag #fergusonsyllabus, which was started in August, and has gathered quite a bit of traction on twitter, encouraging and highlighting different pieces that professors, instructors, and teachers of all levels can use in classes to encourage discussion of Ferguson and issues of race nationwide.
Since I wrote last month about a failed experiment to bring iPads to the hands of all children in LA's public school district, I wanted to find a contrasting story that illustrated successful adoption. I stumbled across an article in the journal Interactive Technology and Smart Education that provides an interesting counterpoint. The article describes a program instituted in the United Arab Emerates which introduced iPads to the Higher Colleges of Technology in that country in 2012. As of the writing of the article in 2013, the authors declared the program a success.
One of the major features that sets this project apart from the one in LA was a well-funded support system which culminated in two conference-like gatherings, where educators could share ideas, recommendations and aspirations for using the technology in their classrooms.
The conference website has fairly minimal information, but provides a glimpse into the process of implementing technology at such a large scale:
A list of other articles written about the program is collected here:
There is also a blog for the project, which would allow educators to share and collaborate:
It was fascinating to explore the architecture around this large-scale project, but a little like wandering through a ghost town, since I wasn't able to find much information released by the program after 2013 (with the exception of a news article from last September). Do educators still use the structures put in place to help them collaboratively adopt the new technology? Did it contribute to student success? I would love to know more about how the program evolved after the initial excitement of the first year.
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