Are you teaching information literacy? Quite likely. Do you ask students to work independently and look up information on a topic? Do you ask them to discuss contrasting viewpoints? Do you assign readings from trusted sources of information and discuss why these sources are trustworthy? And there are so many other examples…
Some Hostos faculty may be aware that information literacy is one of the themes tied to Intellectual Growth/Lifelong Learning among the College’s new Institutional Learning Outcomes, but you may be unsure of its definition and its relevance to your own teaching.
One useful definition of information literacy comes from the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL): “Information literacy is the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning” (ACRL, 2015).
ACRL’s 2015 Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/ilframework) was developed in response to the fluidity of the 21st-century information landscape. It is built on the assumption that, as is the case in other domains, there are certain information literacy threshold concepts, which are key to students’ development of expertise. Once a learner passes over a certain threshold and grasps that particular concept, their perspective shifts to enable a new level of understanding (Meyer, Land & Billie, 2010).
The Framework consists of six frames or foundational concepts, and each frame has an associated set of knowledge practices (abilities) and dispositions (ways of acting or thinking). The Framework does not provide standards, or specific learning outcomes, or rubrics, but its creators intend these sets of practices and dispositions as fodder for instructional design and assessment tailored to the institutional context.
The six frames are:
• Authority Is Constructed and Contextual
• Information Creation as a Process
• Information Has Value
• Research as Inquiry
• Scholarship as Conversation
• Searching as Strategic Exploration
As an example, the frame Authority is Constructed and Contextual implies that “information resources reflect their creators’ expertise and credibility and are evaluated based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used. Authority is constructed in that various communities may recognize different types of authority. It is contextual in that a reader’s information need may help to determine the level of authority required for a given situation” (Yamauchi 2021). The following is just a sampling of the knowledge practices and dispositions for learners who are developing their information literate abilities related to the frame, Authority is Constructed and Contextual:
What this can mean for Hostos students Following through with our example frame, Authority is Constructed and Contextual, we can think about our students at Hostos, and about how this foundational concept may matter to them. Below are a few examples based on the observations of my colleague, Professor Haruko Yamauchi (2021), who is our teaching coordinator in the Hostos Library. Based on your own experience in the Hostos classroom, you might be able to add to this list:
• The criteria for determining an “authoritative source” for students’ research will depend largely on the kind of question they’re seeking to answer.
• When we help students consider why some information creators have more authority than others and consider how context affects that evaluation, we strengthen their ability to read critically.
• We can also help students to recognize that as researchers and writers, they are developing their own authority on a particular topic, and to realize that certain responsibilities come with that authority, such as seeking out accurate and reliable information and respecting others’ intellectual property. Professor Yamauchi has provided similar observations for the remaining five frames in the Library’s online Faculty Toolkit.
Am I teaching information literacy?
As we, as a college, begin to think about how to engage with information literacy instruction and how to assess our students’ learning, an initial step might be to consider whether we are already addressing these threshold concepts in our current class discussions and assignments. Note that, as faculty members across various disciplines, we help advance our students’ information literacy by engaging them with these concepts— it’s not only the one who ushers them across the threshold who makes a difference. And it’s not only the ones who give major research assignments, either.
The knowledge practices and dispositions of the ACRL Framework are excellent tools for this kind of reflection. Try it on for size. Take a quick look at the six frames (http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/ilframework), select one, and consider the associated practices and dispositions (realizing that these lists are not exhaustive). With these elements in mind, review your course and ask yourself: do you ask your students to take on any activities related to these practices or dispositions? Does your class discussion touch on any related concepts?
If the answer is yes, the tools afforded by the ACRL Framework may help you think concretely about how your teaching already contributes to the college’s efforts to meet the Intellectual Growth/Lifelong Learning ILO. You may be inspired to revise or clarify your approach to this material. The creators of the Framework also emphasize the importance of bringing information literacy-related learning to students’ attention through metacognition, or critical self-reflection, including an enhanced awareness of their own actions as information users, producers, and disseminators.
If you’d like to learn more about what information literacy means, specifically as it relates to Hostos Community College students, don’t forget to check out the information in the Hostos Library’s Faculty Toolkit (https://guides.hostos.cuny.edu/facultytoolkit/il). You can also contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Association of College & Research Libraries. (2015). Framework for information literacy for higher education. American Library Association. http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/ilframework
Meyer, J. H. F., Land, R., & Baillie, C. (2010). Threshold Concepts and Transformational Learning. Sense Publishers.
Yamauchi, H. (2021). Research skills that transcend disciplines. Faculty Toolkit, Hostos Community College Library. https://guides.hostos.cuny.edu/facultytoolkit/il
Linda Miles is Assistant Professor, OER Librarian, and Liaison Librarian to the faculty of Early Childhood Ed ucation and the Visual and Performing Arts. Before coming to Hostos, she served for four years as Public Services and User Experience Librarian at Yeshiva University, and began her career in the library of the Lincoln Center Institute, an arts education organization. She has co-authored a book, How to Thrive as a Library Professional: Achieving Success and Satisfaction, for Libraries Unlimited (2020). Other recent publications include “But What Do the Students Think: Results of the CUNY Cross-Campus Zero-Textbook Cost Student Survey” (Open Praxis, 11(1), 2019) and “Full Impact: Designing research with student collaborators” (Recast ing the narrative: ACRL Conference proceedings, 2019). Linda received an Early-career Librarian Scholarship from ACRL (2017) and an IMLS Laura Bush 21st-Century Librarian Scholarship (2009-11). She holds an MLS from St. John’s University and a PhD in theatre history and criticism from the University of Texas at Austin. Linda’s current research interests include students reading and college-readiness, and the research and publication practices of community college librarians.