Equity and the new ACRL Framework for Information Literacy

I’ve been involved with my college’s student success and equity efforts over the past few years. Our focus on these isn’t new, but a couple of years ago we joined the Achieving the Dream (ATD) network and committed resources more intentionally to student success and student equity initiatives. Our involvement with ATD (specifically looking at success and completion data disaggregated by ethnicity, age, gender, etc.) primed us for completing our first Student Equity Plan—required via the Board of Governor’s Student Equity Policy.

I’m grateful that our administrators thought to include me in this work, as I’ve been able to advocate for the Learning Resource Center in the planning documents and to explore the role of the library in equity efforts. The most concrete way that our students will benefit from the library’s inclusion in the Equity Plan is through expanded collections and resources. Additional funding has been secured for the purchase of textbooks for our ever-popular RESERVE collection, which improves access for students, many of whom are from lower income brackets. Other collections will be expanded as well, including materials for Basic Skills, ESL, college success, professional development titles, and materials that reflect the diverse backgrounds of our students.

So, this issue of equity has been shaping my work these days. It was no surprise, then, that when I read through the new ACRL Framework, I noticed how central the concept of equity is to Information Literacy. Frame 1 (Authority is Constructed and Contextual) expands what it means to evaluate information sources. Learners are encouraged to develop dispositions that recognize and value the plurality of voices in the information landscape. Some examples of these dispositions:

  • Question traditional notions of granting authority and recognize the value of diverse ideas and worldviews;
  • Develop and maintain an open mind when encountering varied and sometimes conflicting perspectives.

Frame 3 (Information has Value) touches on a concept I learned about reading Char Booth’s informative blog—that of Information Privilege. Two key dispositions listed under this frame are:

  • Recognize issues of access or lack of access to information sources;
  • Understand how and why some individuals or groups of individuals may be underrepresented or systematically marginalized within the systems that produce and disseminate information.

Frame 5 (Scholarship is a Conversation) also has the thread of equity running through it. One of the knowledge practices in this frame states that information literate learners are able to:

  • Recognize that systems privilege authorities and that not having a fluency in the language and process of a discipline disempowers their ability to participate and engage.

Our library department will be revising our student learning and program learning outcomes this year to align our instruction with the Framework. We want to encourage students to view themselves as producers as well as consumers of information and to reflect on their role in the construction of authority. We want them to develop open minds when locating and using information sources.

Is adapting our library instruction to the new framework enough to adequately tackle this issue of equity in a meaningful way for our students? How are other librarians involving their campus communities in adapting the framework? What are other librarians doing to address equity planning at their institutions?

Re-Writing the Research Process

Happy New Year, dear readers!

In the month I’ve had off between semesters, I’ve reflected on “The Research Process”—the foundational process that informs most of what we teach our students. Here and here are sample versions. For several years now, I’ve made minor tweaks to the “Seven Steps in the Research Process” lecture I inherited from my mentor because I feel it is outdated and missing something integral. Why must students wait to look for web sources only after they’ve located books and database articles (especially when preliminary research on the Internet can be so useful for topic development and more)? Shouldn’t evaluation of sources happen at all steps of source location? Shouldn’t it be stressed that the process is iterative? Also, and this is what has been keeping me up at night over break: Where does writing come in? Doesn’t it have a central place within the research process?

When working with students writing research papers, I’ve noticed that they typically approach research and writing completely separately. The daunting task of research comes first and, only after locating all the sources (that they think they need) does the actual paper writing begin. I tell students that it takes some research to begin writing and it takes writing to discover what (else) to research—that the two go hand in hand. I tell them that they likely will continue their research well into the writing of their paper.

My latest version of “The Research Process” lecture includes some pre-writing strategies, specifically outlining. I’m not sure where creating an outline would fit most perfectly into the process but it occurs to me that it should happen early on, near the first step of topic development. Having students create a short outline of what they think their paper is going to cover would greatly assist them in knowing what direction to research and what areas of their outline need additional sources.

Do any of you intertwine writing into teaching the process of research? What writing or pre-writing strategies do you include? Have any of you encountered cool “Research Process” lectures, guides or infographics that you use? Please enlighten me!

As the End of the Semester Draws Near

The last few weeks of the semester usually allow me time to tie up loose ends on larger projects, and this semester is no different. Here are four random things I’m tackling in my roles as Librarian and Department Chair:

Welcome to the Library Video. This has been on the back burner for some time now. Our college finally filled a long-vacant Educational Media Specialist position, and his first task was to help us bring our video to life. We’re in the final stages of production on our very basic video introducing students to the brick and mortar facility as well as to our electronic collections. I somehow ended up being the narrator and starring in the video. I originally wanted to go for edgy (having bleeped-out curse words or something) but settled for a more modest, plain tone and appearance. At least my hair wasn’t up in a bun.

Information Literacy Curriculum Map. Through participation in the Curriculum and Instruction Council, I worked on a visual document that mapped all college courses along a spectrum of Information Literacy—placing courses with little or no Information Literacy outcomes on the left side of the spectrum and courses with high/intense Information Literacy outcomes on the right. This will give more intentionality to our library instruction programming and allow the library department to scaffold instruction within certain programs and pathways. We also hope it spurs department-wide discussion about which Information Literacy skills our students need at certain points in their college career.

Professional Development Collection. As our college investigates ways to increase student success, retention, and persistence, conversations around campus are popping up about teaching and learning approaches and activities that foster student engagement, connections, community, and active learning. The librarians are busy networking with faculty to beef up our collections on pedagogy, teaching practices, motivation, online teaching and learning, assessment, and technology (to name a few). With summer break approaching, there’s no better time than now to promote such a collection!

Library Data/Outputs for College Master Planning Document. I’m pleased that, as the college administrators improve their Master Planning Documents, the library will be included under the umbrella of Student Engagement. Outputs like usage data, library attendance, library orientations, and online embedded librarian sessions will be used as data linking library use to student engagement with the college. This has always been reflected in Library planning documents, but now these inputs will be included in the Master Plan.

It feels good to be making progress on these larger tasks. When the bell rings on the last day of school, I’ll have cleared my plate for dessert: reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt!

Dreams and Innovations: Student Success and Service Learning

I just returned from two weeks of back-to-back conferences. West coast to east coast and back. I’m frazzled but ignited. That was a lot of travel and airports and sessions and workshops to take in. Ideas were swirling. My hope is that writing will help me process it all and clear my mind.

 Achieving the Dream: Orlando

Our college signed up last year for this national initiative aimed at improving equity and student success. Colleges learn how to identify gaps in achievement and tailor interventions that can impact the most students. The big push in the early stages is looking at disaggregated data (race, class, gender, for example), collecting new data, and engaging faculty.

What was I doing there? Well, I’m part of the college’s “Data Team.” Though we’re looking at the college as a whole (success rates in classes, persistence rates from term to term, etc.), I’m interested in the library’s role in success and retention. It is obvious to me what the library’s role is in student engagement and in connection to the college as a whole. I hear about all the innovative things librarians are doing in the areas of orientation and first week/first year experience programs to get students engaged and connected early on. It seems less clear and obvious (to me) how to concretely link the library to college success overall—how to correlate library use (book checkouts & database sessions, studying in the library, reference transactions) concretely to increased success numbers. One place to start (and we are just starting to do this) would be to compare student grades in classes where there was intense library support to student grades in classes where there wasn’t.

 Innovations: Anaheim

I flew back to California to attend Innovations 2014. The League for Innovation in the Community College puts on this conference annually and there were many inspiring forums and round table discussions. By day two I reached an oversaturation point, unable to focus on all the concepts swirling in my head. One idea took root, though: Service learning. I’ve heard of this concept before but it really clicked for me at the conference. What a wonderful way to empower students and encourage community and civic engagement! For those new to the concept, it was explained to me as a pedagogy where opportunities for community service are built into classes and programs. I’m excited to try this out in the Info Competency course I teach—perhaps having the class create a resource list for a local business.

I’d love to hear about other ways Service learning is being built into your classes!