In spring 2015 the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education was filed and adopted as one of a constellation of documents informing our professional practice. The Framework has been widely debated and even now with the adoption complete, librarians seek to understand how the Framework impacts their instruction programs. Thus focusing on the Framework during our 2015 instruction camp seemed inevitable, but questions remained of what exactly to teach about the Framework. Before answering that question and planning the camp curriculum, I needed to articulate what role the Framework would have in our instruction program.
To take a step back, I was involved for one year with the task force as the VPO for communication. In this role I participated in many meetings of the task force. I was an early fan of their work. I felt that their vision and their approach resonated with my experiences as an instruction librarian. Instead of taking an assessment driven approach, they took a student-learning approach. Although assessment approaches purport to have student learning as the aim, they often get bogged down in discussions of measurements and limited to what’s possible in a one-shot. The Framework on the other hand omits student outcomes, thus encouraging librarians to wrestle with ideas not just skills, patterns of thinking not just rote learning.
The Framework gives us permission to think bigger than our catalog, bigger than subject databases, bigger than our library homepage when designing information literacy curriculum. It gives us language to converse with faculty on the goals of their instruction request. It gives us frames to see the assumptions behind the behavior; assumptions that students bring to an information need as well as assumptions that faculty make when designing a research activity.
My hope is that with this wider vision we can better scaffold our information literacy curriculum up through the majors; that we can move beyond annoyance at lack of skill and help students uncover their thinking patterns so that they can learn new ways of seeing information.
These are big ambitions, not to be addressed solely by a summer instruction camp. But they helped frame where we wanted to begin.
2015 camp consisted of three workshops:
Day 1: Understanding Threshold Concepts
Day 2: Teaching with Threshold Concepts
Day 3: Putting it all together: Lesson Plan Charrette
For Day 1 we brought in a staff member from our Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning to teach us about the value of threshold concepts to educators. Bringing in an expert from outside of the library was very helpful as threshold concepts is a new idea for librarians. Her presentation provided us with a useful matrix for visualizing the level of any given assignment.
Day 2 incorporated more hands-on activities as campers tried to redesign a typical information literacy instruction activity to move it from a low-level assignment informed more by the standards to a higher-level assignment informed by the Framework. This challenging worked encouraged campers to utilize all aspects of a frame: threshold concept, knowledge practices, and dispositions.
Day 3 was devoted entirely to improving a faculty research assignment. Working in teams, campers were given a poor assignment and asked to improve it. Many worksheets were provided to help teams analyze, deconstruct, and develop an improved research assignment that could help students learn about information literacy not just work through an information need checklist.
Feedback from campers revealed that they have a better understanding of the Framework and the value of threshold concepts as a teaching aid. Campers also shared some ways that they plan to utilize the Framework for future instruction opportunities: initiate dialogue with faculty,review learning activities to identify student dispositions, and redesign lessons with the backward design methodology.