ACRL Framework and the Pedagogy of Information Instruction
Before starting my LIS program, I had little exposure to academic libraries outside of my own experiences as a student during my undergraduate degree. I learned to use my first database in a one-shot instruction class my freshman year of college. I was amazed at the sheer amount of seemingly relevant resources which before seemed so hard to find. When I look back now that I have immersed myself in the pedagogy of information literacy, I understand how much deep-level thinking and analysis was left out of this first one-shot instruction session. My instructional librarian taught me the skill of using the database but we did not discuss plagiarism or academic integrity. We did not discuss bias or authority. We did not discuss why the articles were written in the first place and that they were part of a larger discourse on the subject. Of course, these conversations were more than what our hour-long class period could handle and I assume she was not asked to make these comments. Thus, I believed that this was what academic instructional librarianship entailed: expose students to the resources and make sure they leave with some practice at using those resources. The Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education from the Association of College and Research Libraries (2015) opened my eyes to the potential power of information literacy instruction and corroborated those beliefs I already held on teaching and learning.
After six years in the high school classroom teaching research strategies and writing, I can attest that the understanding of how people learn is paramount to effective instruction and true learning. Students, no matter their age, are more likely to have a deeper learning experience when they are asked to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information. Bloom’s Taxonomy, which is a widely adopted format for considering what students are asked to do in the classroom, recognizes those activities which ask students to simply listen so they can remember terms or recite back information is of the lowest levels of learning. And yet, many instructional sessions in academic libraries do not break this low-level barrier. Sometimes students are not even provided with computers or active learning structures to describe and explain ideas on their own. These types of instruction are in direct opposition of the types which foster learning and growth. Understanding the basics of pedagogy is at the core of robust information literacy instruction and must be introduced to library professionals. I see the the Framework as an attempt at solving the problem of low-level learning in information literacy instruction.
While the Framework has seen resistance from some library professionals, others understand the necessity of the conversation. The concerns expressed by some library professionals are legitimate as Beilin (2015) shared in his collection of anecdotal thoughts right after the first release of the Framework. I was able to understand the fear of change and the feeling that resources, time, and support needed to put such frameworks into place are seemingly missing from university administrators, as Beilin described. While some believed that the 2000 Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, which was replaced by the Framework was too prescriptive, others like Emily Drabinski and Meghan Sitar (2016) believe that the document does not go far enough in enabling critical information literacy instruction. They argue that “In claiming for itself no role in standardizing information literacy learning outcomes - while simultaneously fixing in place “big ideas” - the Framework gives up the platform on which librarians stand when making claims for resources at the institutional level” (pg. 58). Essentially, the Framework gives librarians the autonomy to encourage critical analysis of information but does not provide the footing needed to argue for the funding, resources, and time to support the need, as there are no learning outcomes for benchmark. The popularity of the one-shot session complicates things further. How is a person supposed to get to higher-level thinking and learning in an hour? And how are librarians supposed to argue that this kind of thinking needs to occur with no standards for comparison?
Reading these sorts of concerns revealed to me the importance of librarians, especially those in the academic setting, viewing themselves as teachers. Instead of thinking of instruction as something that the librarian must get done, the librarian must consider what she truly wants students to learn. When interacting with students, whether in class settings or one-on-one, librarians have the ability to suggest and integrate higher-level thinking into any interaction. Luckily, there are some librarians spearheading this idea and attempting to share their strategies with others. For example, Rachel Scott of the University of Memphis shares how she remains steadfast in her philosophy of teaching in the essay “Accommodating Faculty Requests and Staying True to Your Pedagogical Ideals in the One-Shot Information Literacy Session” (2016). Scott’s essay helped me to see that it is possible to introduce deep conversations into short instructional session and leave students with understanding beyond the actionable skills. As librarians share their experiences, lessons, and ideas for supporting the Framework, best practices for library instruction will become more readily available. My own goals include adding to this conversation and being a part of the creation of teaching resources for library professionals.
Despite the flaws of the Framework, I feel that it is large step in the right direction as far as critical pedagogy is concerned. The essay “This Is Really Happening” by Kevin Seeber of the University of Denver (2015) helped me to fully understand the importance of such a framework in today’s society. He explains: “I would like to reiterate my view that the Framework is an important document not just for information literacy, but for higher education. It represents a professional sentiment that instruction cannot be separated from the world in which it is taking place. It also challenges practitioners to interrogate many issues, including privilege and oppression, which have historically been ignored in the academy” (pg. 162). I cannot help but agree with Seeber in that information literacy instruction provides an opportunity for library professionals. The Framework and the proper pedagogy which supports it allows librarians to break down barriers, facilitate equality, and bolster democracy. These ideals are the ones that I want to be a part of and are why the ACRL Framework is so important to me as an informational professional and teacher.
ACRL Board. (2015). Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. Association of College and Research Libraries. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/issues/infolit/Framework_ILHE.pdf
Armstrong, Patricia. Bloom's Taxonomy. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Retreived from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/
Beilin, I. (2015). Beyond the threshold: Conformity, resistance, and the ACRL Information Literacy Framework for Higher Education. In The Library With The Lead Pipe, 1-9.
Drabinski, E. & Sitar, M. (2016). What standards do and what they don’t. In Pagowski, N. & McElroy, K (eds) Critical Library Pedagogy Handbook: Volume 1: Essays and Workbook Activities (53-64). Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries.
Scott, R. E. (2016). Accommodating faculty requests and staying true to your pedagogical ideals in the one-shot information literacy session. Communications In Information Literacy, 10(2), 132-142.
Seeber, K. P. (2015). This is really happening: Criticality and discussions of context in ACRL's "Framework for Information Literacy". Communications In Information Literacy, 9(2), 157-163.
This essay was originally written as part of the portfolio requirements of my MLIS discussing additional standards and competencies. It has been edited and updated to reflect new information and perspectives.