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Pegasus Librarian - Iris Jastram
Learning in Libraries and Loving It
Updated: 2 hours 17 min ago
In case you haven’t heard (as I hadn’t) the deadline for submitting feedback on the ACRL Draft Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education (part 1 and part 2) has been extended. Submit feedback (via SurveyMonkey) by Monday, April 21st at 5pm Central Time.
If you would like to crib from (or disagree with) the feedback Carleton and St. Olaf have sent, feel free to do so.
This document will set the tone for our work for the next several years, so it behooves us to make sure it accurately reflects our work and our learning goals for our students. (In other words: GIVE THEM FEEDBACK because we care about this stuff.)
As you are no doubt aware, ACRL is drafting a replacement for the Information Literacy Standards. They’re hoping for feedback on their draft of the Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education (Part 1 and Part 2) by 5pm Central today5pm Central on Monday, April 21, 2014.
The Reference & Instruction Librarians of Carleton and St. Olaf got together and, over the course of 3 meetings, synthesized our comments into a unified response. Here is what we have now submitted to ACRL as answers to their questions.In what ways will the focus on threshold concepts help you to generate conversations with other campus stakeholders (such as disciplinary faculty partners, members of the general education curriculum committee, and academic support services staff)?
The term “threshold concept” has not yet come into widespread use here on our campus, but the concepts themselves will provide valuable support and backing for conversations we have with our campus stakeholders. They resonate strongly with our work on our campus. In particular, the messages of the framework that will most strongly support our work include: a) that this is firmly rooted in critical thinking, but still defined in a very information-based way, b) that this is about building “credibility within [an] ecosystem” and performing “expert moves” within a context (from lines 170 and 173), c) that we focus on student learning strategies rather than a simple ladder of skills, and d) that context can’t be separated from information literacy, but that information literacy is all about ethical and effective participation in a community’s discourse. The context-based language will help us communicate with faculty, giving us official vocabulary to talk about the ways in which information literacy is both a discipline unto itself and also integrated into other disciplines.How do the sections for knowledge practices and assignments/assessments provide helpful guidance when considering implementing the new Framework? What else would you want to see in these sections?
The “Knowledge Practices” sections do a good job of taking the threshold concept and delineating representative “expert moves” that help increase credibility within a community. Since the concepts are, by definition, difficult to grasp, these sections provide instructors and students alike with a handhold while grappling with the larger concept.
The “Metaliteracy” sections have such potential, but currently fall short. They are far too focused on social media and the producer/consumer metaphor. There is such a wealth of information on metacognition in the scholarship of teaching and learning, and we suggest that this would be a richer, more framework-like direction to take these sections – not removing the social media aspect, but adding crucial focus on self-knowledge, reflection, and putting that self-knowledge to use to participate effectively in the community (whatever platform that participation uses). Emphasis on reflective practice is crucial.
The assignments and assessments sections will be helpful during the transition to and adoption of the new Framework, but they will quickly become dated. We suggest that these be housed in a supplementary document aimed at helping librarians make the transition to thinking and teaching based on the Framework for two reasons. First, they would not bog down the central document of our profession with suggestions that will never be generalizable in the way that the rest of the document is. Second, they could be updated on a regular basis without necessitating full-scale revision of the Framework.We plan to include additional materials in a subsequent phase (described in the welcome message). What other elements would you find helpful that aren’t mentioned in our plans?
“Ethical Participation” is listed in the definition of information literacy (line 162), but hasn’t yet made much of an appearance in the framework itself. It should either be woven into the current threshold concepts or be given its own concept. And of course, it is far more complex than simple citation practices or copyright adherence. It also involves knowing what kinds of evidence can support what kinds of claims, etc.
Metacognition is a vital component of critical thinking and learning. You gesture toward it both with the new focus on affect and also in the metaliteracy sections, and you have a section mentioning it on line 246, but calling it out specifically and integrating the richness of the scholarship on the topic would greatly enhance the Framework.
A third suggestion is to include, either woven into the others or as a stand-alone concept, some discussion of the importance of managing one’s research materials (bibliographic management, appropriate back-ups and security, file management, data management, research notes, etc). This has implications not just for grants and general effectiveness, but also for increased creativity. Well organized files and notes help researchers see patterns and connections that may not be apparent otherwise. Well documented decisions about research, research materials, and products of research aid in sharing and reuse (or better decisions about keeping some information private).Is there anything else you would like for us to know?
Definition of Information Literacy:
Line 161: Change the order of the list to “finding, using and analyzing scholarship, data, and other information”
Structure and Terminology:
The “experienced researcher” formulation can be problematic. We see what you are trying to achieve with that formulation, but in practice it can often make it seem like only experienced researchers are actually creating anything. Take Line 425 for example: “with the experienced researcher adding his or her voice….” That makes it sound as if less experienced researchers are not adding their voices – like they have to wait to get some sort of certification before they can create meaning.
The term “Learners” is used throughout the document. We feel that this is jargon that may become dated. Since ACRL explicitly serves college and research libraries, and since the audience here is for less experienced researchers, we feel that “students” more accurate and simply describes the audience here. We understand that “Learners” also comes from the language of K-12 education, and that continuity is useful between standards, but “students” resonates with faculty far more strongly and will help us get faculty on board with this document.
And finally, the first concept is named using a very short sentence: “Scholarship is a conversation.” We feel that the other concepts would be better served by this construction than by being forced into the “noun as noun” construction (which muddies the waters at best and causes outright confusion at worst).
Notes on the “Scholarship is a conversation” section:
“Negotiate meaning” (line 425) does not work well for all disciplines, but “negotiate understanding” works well. We recommend “negotiate understanding.”
This section would be greatly enhanced by including some discussion of ethical participation. Conversations die quickly if people don’t think you’re participating ethically.
It might also be worth emphasizing that engaging with sources in a conversation does not mean parroting back what other people have said. So conversations involve adding to the body of knowledge rather than summarizing. The act of synthesis is vitally important, but simple summary is insufficient.
Notes on the “Research as Inquiry” section:
Inquiry can mean an iterative process or a single question. Perhaps it would be clearer to formulate this as a very short sentence (like “scholarship is a conversation” already is). We suggest “Research is iterative inquiry.”
Line 487: “open or unresolved” is limiting and actually untrue for some methodologies. In many disciplines people go back over the same ground. You could probably just cut this portion of the sentence and be fine.
Notes on the “Format as Process” section:
This section was nearly impossible to understand as it is written. We feel it needs quite a bit of work. The concept as it is currently named makes almost no sense to any of the people we have asked. For one thing, “Format” in library jargon most often describes print/digital/microform/etc. Perhaps what you mean here is “genre” or even “product.” Please consider removing the term “format” entirely. The title would probably be best served by a short sentence rather than a “noun as noun” construction — we suggest something like “Product informs process.”
The scope and focus of the concept is also murky. It seems to be trying to teach two things at once: 1) the process and method matter and help predict what you can get as an end result, and 2) some genres of end product impose methodological constraints. In addition, while the section acknowledges some emerging forms, as a whole it is highly book- and article-focused. This focus leads to a sense that this is primarily about understanding a static set of things. In reality new forms emerge, and it is important for students to be able to recognize the non-static “alive-ness” of the universe of output types.
Finally, we would also love to see in this section a good way to talk about the different artifacts of a publication you find online: pre-prints, working papers, etc.
Notes on the “Authority is constructed and contextual” section:
This is a hugely important concept that could be strengthened by adding some language about the economics of information (how does research get funded? What gets distributed? Who gets access and through what funds?). This is also tied to the problems of “filter bubbles” where Google and others rank results based on what they know about you already, and your friends feed you information that they like or know you will like, and it becomes harder and harder to stumble on information from other perspectives.
This section could also be strengthened by adding some mention of the importance of knowing both how to navigate information power structures and also influence those structures (via scholarly conversation).
We suggest cutting the example of the Weather forecasts and sticking with a stronger version of what appears on line 21 of part 2: “Scholars within a discipline DO value specific publications or publishers over others.” We also note that previous threshold concepts in this Framework have not relied on examples as much, so it would both strengthen this section and even out the writing style of the document to leave the examples out of this portion.
Notes on the “Search is Strategic” section:
This section could perhaps be subsumed into the section on Research as Inquiry.
If it is not merged with the Research as Inquiry section, we offer several suggestions for improvement. First, under “Dispositions,” add a bullet saying that expert researchers are flexible and patient (or tenacious) – they’re willing to keep digging, to take what they’ve learned and apply it to new searches, etc. Also add the importance of creativity in search. That combination of creativity and iterative work are crucial to strategic searching, and it is also necessary when students are trying to decide whether results are relevant to them or not. Lack of creativity or tenacity lead to two common problems: Results are “not on my topic” (don’t name my full topic in its title or abstract), or the first 5 results are sufficient regardless of whether they adequately fill the information need.
This section could also be strengthened by mentioning the importance of reading (result lists, abstracts, articles) in order to learn the vocabulary of the scholarly conversation you’re delving into. Since search systems rarely go beyond matching the exact character string of each word you type, if you’re typing the wrong words you will get disappointing results. (This also ties back to the concept of engaging in a scholarly conversation – interlocutors have to understand each others’ language.)
This section focuses rather narrowly on search systems and doesn’t leave much room for exploration, either guided or free-flowing.
Finally, on line 175 of part two: “I-Search papers” is jargon with a pretty narrow audience. We recommend aiming for more generalizability
A scholar I know in another field (Hi Dad) recently asked his publisher for an author agreement that would let him retain his copyright while the publisher retained non-exclusive rights to do whatever the publisher needed to do, now and forever. The response was interesting to me because one of the biggest questions was “Why would you want these rights, anyway? We don’t understand.”
This was actually the first time I’ve thought about that question in that way. Of course nobody’s planning to take the same volume to another publisher, and realistically a whole huge volume isn’t something normally republished in PDF online, either. So realistically, what might a scholar reply to this question?
Here’s what I came up with this morning, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.
You are not being paid, so it makes sense to retain ownership of the thing you produce. Further, if you repurpose your material in the future, it will save you the time and expense of seeking copyright permissions to use your own work. You give many presentations that might benefit from the inclusion of the material you produce, you teach courses where you might want to reproduce or display portions of your work. You may want to distribute a “good parts version” at a conference (which would further your goal to share knowledge widely and would also be a good teaser for people who might have been on the fence about buying the full work). In addition, once the publication goes “out of print” you’ll have recourse to find a new avenue for distribution. You are certainly not trying to limit the publisher’s work in any way, but you would prefer not to have them limit your work.
I can imagine a clause in the contract (though I’ve never seen an example) where you also agree not to produce a directly competing product. You’d want to word that carefully so that they couldn’t claim breech of contract with other, similar scholarship that you would produce with or without owning the copyright to this particular work. Realistically, you’re not going to take this work and re-publish it on your own to compete with their version of the volume, but they may want that in writing.
I also shared my ACRL author agreement with him (still my gold standard for author agreements).
I’ve only ever published with library types, so I don’t have to articulate all this stuff when I ask for a non-exclusive agreement — it’s kind of built into our profession. Have you had similar conversations? What resonated well?
Two weeks ago, I was able to attend DASHcamp at the University of Minnesota. It was such a rich and useful day, both in terms of what I learned and also in terms of the people I met. None of us wants me to write down all the things I learned and thought about that day, so here are the highlights.Data Management and Curation Profiles for the rest of us
Data management is an increasingly important (and often required) step in research. The idea is to describe your data, any decisions you made while collecting and using your data, and any tools needed if others are going to use your data. Two tools are:
- DMP Tool
A tool provided by the California Digital Library that helps researchers develop a data management plan.
- The DCP Toolkit — Summary of Interview Elements
Summary by Kristin Partlo of the “DCP Interviewer’s Manual” of the Data Curation Profiles Toolkit, developed by Scott Brandt and Jake Carlson of Purdue University Libraries, the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Distributed Data Curation Center. http://datacurationprofiles.org/
We started trying to think through the elements in these tools from the perspective of humanities data. The group I was in discussed textual data (other groups discussed video, images, sound, etc). It turns out, this is a complicated discussion! We decided that we would need some description of the level at which the primary source material is encoded (did you code down to the paragraph level? the word level? the chapter level?). We got so stuck on describing our data that we didn’t get much beyond that in my group, but the discussion was fascinating nevertheless.
One important point that came out of this conversation was that we don’t have to start from scratch as we think about data management for humanities. We can draw from at least two bodies of knowledge: scientists and social scientists who have thought through so many aspects of data management already, and archivists who are trained in managing and describing the “data” of humanities.
One real Ah-Hah moment for me was when we talked about how to start the culture shift that would result in people documenting their processes and decisions as they do their research in the humanities. Someone mentioned that teaching bibliographic and file management is an important step in the process. I do that already! I talk with students about how to make their raw material (PDFs, citations, research note) retrievable and sortable, and all I have to do is mention casually that this is a humanist’s data management.Conversation about the term “Digital Humanities.”
One interesting conversation during the day involved when it is and isn’t important to claim the term “digital humanities” for your work or outreach. One person remembered back when there was e-Science and wondered when Digital Humanities would just be “humanities” again. Most of us were only interested in using the term when it’s needed to claim resources. You’ll need it for many of today’s grants, for example, or to get some kinds of support from a campus.Tools:
The University of Minnesota developed this simple video annotating tool, and it’s free and open for all to use. It was originally used to help professors respond to video assignments, but now it’s also used for collaborative work or whenever people want to have text associated with specific points in a video.
- Git and GitHub
I’d heard a few people talk about using one or the other of these tools as document drafting tools, so I was interested to see how to use them and what the appeal might be. The room was full of academic technologists, instructional designers, and librarians, and it was interesting to hear the various ways they knew to use the tools. Some create HTML-based tutorials and use this as their editing and publishing platform. People who work with data librarianship can apparently search for shared and useable data there. For me, I think it looks pretty overpowered for most document drafting, and it’s full of unfamiliar terminology for most humanists (pull requests, branches, forks, etc). I think the version controls in something like Google Docs is more accessible to most of the folks I work with, but it was great to get an inside view into a new-to-me tool.
I really hope they hold this camp again next year. And if they do I’ll make sure to register before I share the information, because I want a spot!
For the past 5 years my department in the library at Carleton College have developed and engaged in an ongoing assessment project, the Information Literacy in Student Writing (ILSW) project. We published a piece in In The Library With The Lead Pipe in 2011, and this month Portal published our second article on the topic, “Situating Information Literacy Within the Curriculum: Using a Rubric to Shape a Program.”
Danya, Heather, and I asked for and signed a license with Portal that allowed us to keep ownership of our copyrights, so I’m able to provide the full text of that article, but you should definitely take a look at the rest of the issue. I happen to know that Catherine Pellegrino also has an interesting article in this issue, for example.
Jastram, Iris, Danya Leebaw, and Heather Tompkins. “Situating Information Literacy Within the Curriculum: Using a Rubric to Shape a Program.” Portal Libraries and the Academy 14, no. 2 (2014): 165–86.
Abstract: This article reports on a pilot study to examine undergraduate students’ help-seeking behavior when undertaking library research in online courses. A novel methodology incorporating elements of ethnographic research resulted in a small, but rich and detailed, collection of qualitative data. The data suggest that the methodology has promise for future, larger studies on students in online learning environments. The article includes a detailed discussion of the methodology’s strengths and weaknesses, and offers recommendations for modifications that will improve the research design.
I should note that I’m the first author only by virtue of the alphabet. This was truly a group effort.Please note: all figures are out of place by one position.
Yesterday I was honored to be invited to join the opening plenary panel at the Minnesota Writers and English conference. The panel was on the theme of Locations of Literacy, and the other panelists discussed Cultural Literacy, Civic Literacy, and Environmental Literacy. I, of course, talked about Information Literacy. Here is a close approximation of the talk I gave.
Before I get started, I just have to say that back when I was a writing center tutor myself, I never anticipated a time when I would address a room full of Writing and English folks, let alone speak on a topic as seemingly dry and boring as information literacy. And if you’d told me then that my favorite classes to teach would be on the epistemological and rhetorical underpinnings of citation styles… well, let’s just say that would have seemed too ridiculous to even warrant a laugh. But here I am; life is weird.
Anyway, do you remember that meme that was going around a couple of years ago? “What my mom thinks I do… what my kids think I do… what I think I do… I what I really do?” Here is one that resonated for me. Who hasn’t wanted to be that teacher from Good Will Hunting? And of course we all spend a lot of time looking like the poor teacher in that last panel.
As an instruction librarian, here’s what lots of people think I do, even other librarians: walk students through the Manual of Research Procedures. “Could you work this phrase or that module into all your instruction sessions?” Or “What do you tell all your students about how this or that back-end system works?” In this manual, if you turn to page 43 you’ll find Boolean operators, page 65 is Interlibrary Loan Policies and Procedures, and page 682 is on JSTOR options and techniques. If this really were my job I would be so bored, and a bored teacher is a bad teacher, so I’m really glad that this is not my job.
Another thing I get a lot is this is people thinking that we’re in the business of handing out answers. We’re all about teaching students to fish — helping them come up with strategies to use and resources to explore.
So what I think I do? I have this rather grand vision of myself as Morpheus from the Matrix. “Here, students, are two pills. Take the Red Pill and your life will never be the same again, the world of information will look fundamentally different, and there will be no turning back. Take the Blue Pill and you’ll probably pass your term paper.”
So what do I really do? What I really do is teach principles and skills associated with information literacy, and I create and advocate for experiences in which my students can strengthen their information literacy habits of mind. (I couldn’t figure out how to draw that.)
So what is this “information literacy” thing that I’m teaching and advocating for? Well, first, it’s something that we’re all in the business of teaching – it’s just that I make it my focus. And it is located in the spaces between information.
But what does this mean?
Think of a neural network.
The neuron itself is fascinating, and I’m sure there’s someone somewhere out there who is making a single neuron his life’s work. But this wonderful neuron is nothing without its connections to other neurons in the context of a nervous system. It can fire and fire to its heart’s content, but if it’s the only neuron firing in this system, or if none of the other neurons are cooperating with each other, you’ve still got a dead body. No, it’s the cooperative, dynamic negotiation of signal and noise, impulse and understanding that animates the body. Just so, it is the discursive interplay between the information itself, the community’s values and practices, and effective participation in context-appropriate conversation — THAT is where information literacy sparks to life.
Here’s another way to think of it. Too often we concentrate on the books, articles, images, and other items — the stuff of research. Gather that stuff, cite it properly, don’t plagiarize, and you’ve got a research project! We have all seen those papers. “Here’s everything I know about x.” Or “here are a bunch of good sounding quotes that I like in this particular order.” But seeing research that way is not information literacy. The student may have arrived at these communicational non-entities using perfectly constructed, Boolean-laced search strings in exactly the right databases. The student may have evaluated that information beautifully and chosen exactly the right articles and books to cite perfectly in these papers. But this is not information literacy — neither you nor I am happy with this outcome (a point that Barbara Fister, whom many of you may know, made decades before I thought I arrived at it on my own, by the way, in her article “Teaching the Rhetorical Dimensions of Research.”) These techniques for finding and evaluating are the grammar, spelling, and punctuation of my profession: very important, for sure, but not sufficient.
No, information literacy is about negotiating understanding within a context. It means being able to map out the community of inquiry and the various conversations that community is having. And then, it means being able to show that community where new knowledge fits. Parroting back other people’s conversations is not an effective conversation tactic in real life, right, so why should it work here? This is where you get to expand the conversation in very real terms.
But even this mapping is not yet enough. It helps us see the social and relational aspect of information literacy, but it doesn’t highlight the very real importance of the local culture of these conversations.
Here is a small section of the Continent Of Hamlet Studies.
Each city-state within this content has its own laws, customs, and even language. So an effective participant in the city-state of Hamelt’s Sanity has to know things like what counts as evidence here? What are the rhetorical moves that matter here? Who are the important interlocutors? What is the vocabulary here? (And yes, the vocabulary matters to information literacy on many levels, not least because when you’re searching, computers can’t read. Computers only match letters in a row, and if you don’t use the letters-in-a-row that the rest of your community is using, you won’t be able to find what they’ve said.)
As Annemarie Lloyd says in her wonderful book, Information Literacy Landscapes, that information literacy is “the product of negotiated construction between individuals” (12). She says these individuals are “interacting with the artifacts, texts, symbols, actions and in consort with the other people in [given] context” (12). She calls this a “socially discursive practice” (15). You see why I think writing and information literacy go so well together?
So where is this literacy located? It is inextricably intertwined with communication. It is, as Rolf Norgaard says in his article “Writing Information Literacy,” “an inventional resource for the writing student, not merely a resources for supporting what has already been invented” (129). And it exists in the vital and dynamic connections between information and people.
So let’s all encourage our students to take the Red Pill. It’s a whole lot more fun.
Angala, Maria. “What others think we do #teachers #edchat [image].” Teacher Sol (blog). 19 February 2012. http://teachersol.blogspot.com/2012/02/what-others-think-we-do.html
Fister, Barbara. “Teaching the Rhetorical Dimensions of Research.” Research Strategies 11, no. 4 (1993): 211–19.
Lloyd, Annemaree. Information Literacy Landscapes: Information Literacy in Education, Workplace, and Everyday Contexts. Oxford: Chandos Publishing, 2010.
Norgaard, Rolf. “Writing Information Literacy: Contributions to a Concept.” Reference and User Services Quarterly 43, no. 2 (2003): 124–30.