I attended the 14th Annual Information Literacy Summit this past week and heard an excellent keynote from Amy R. Hofer, Silvia Lu, and Lori Townsend. (A link to the keynote will be posted here when available).
Some of the key ideas from the presentation were:
Some lingering questions:
The presentation helped clarify some of my own thinking about threshold concepts and how to engage with them in my day to day job. I'm already doing some of the things they suggested, but looking forward to revising even more over the summer.
One of the most thought-provoking sessions I attended at the recent ACRL conference was one of the last; contributed paper on teacher bias in the classroom from Kathleen Lagan of Western Michigan University. I’ve heard of teacher bias/teacher expectancy in the context of the “preschool to prison pipeline” (such as in this recent article from the Washington Post), but never connected the phenomenon to the information literacy classroom. How do the attitudes and expectations we bring to the classroom change the way students behave and learn? Lagan cited some evidence that students live up to expectations and learn more in classrooms where the teacher has higher expectations (see conference paper for discussion of this theory).
Lagan’s session helped me articulate better to myself why comments disparaging students (which I’ve heard all too often at conferences, from teaching librarians no less), can actually be harmful to student performance. If we expect that students are disengaged and uninterested in learning, and take that attitude with us into the classroom, how will students react? What if we assume that they want to learn from us, but maybe are unsure about their own research skills, overwhelmed by the library, or poorly prepared in their high school English classes?
Some of the specific biased behaviors Lagan mentioned to avoid:
• Dogmatic or authoritarian attitude
• Overemphasis of mistakes
• Covering too much material
• Absence of consequences or appropriate feedback
During her presentation, Lagan also talked about the important role of critical thinking in IL instruction, something that I am grappling with in my own practice. This plays into expectancy – we expect that students won’t be able to use databases, professors expect us to show students how to use the catalog, and somewhere along the line, some of the important critical thinking skills get pushed aside. While I don’t have an answer, Lagan’s presentation has given me a useful starting point to examine my own demeanor in the classroom.
If you are interested in exploring the role of teacher expectancies or bias in the classroom, I recommend Lagan’s extensive bibliography on the subject (included in the conference paper). I know I’m going to be delving into it for some time.
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:
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