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?

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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!

“Don’t just present it…Ceph it!”

To piggy back on my previous post, after analyzing the data from our LEAP value rubric assessment project we have decided to not only change the way we do our instruction but to also incorporate new methods of learning for the students. A few weeks back  I had a class lined up for a mini session on database searching with a follow up on citation. So I decided  to try  the Cephalonian Method I read about on the ALA Thinktank Facebook group. A colleague of mine who also teaches at University of Rhode Island LIS program told me they use this style of instruction with some really good results. This method was developed by Cardiff Univeristy (who coined the phrase “Don’t just present it…Ceph it!) and works great with not only specific sessions (database searching, web site evaluation) but working with our CSS students, aka College Success seminar. (The College Success seminar is a one credit course geared towards incoming freshman to teach them basic study skills.)  I find this is a fantastic way to introduce new students to what the library has to offer and what our roles are as librarians — No, really, we don’t just shush you!

I decided not to use the “color coded” system  Cardiff uses as this class was just looking at databases. I created eight questions and numbered them so as the class moves forward I can keep the questions in a progressive order.

They are:

What is the difference between a database and searching Google?

There are way too many databases out there and they all look the same to me. How do I know which one to use?

Can I access this from home?

What is the difference between scholarly and  popular?

What is peer reviewed?

What is an abstract?

What is a citation?

How can I work with a librarian? (This one is to promote our Book-A- Librarian initiative — I’ll write more about this later.)

Feel free to use these questions if you feel inspired . . . No copyright here!

I  found a cool template from PowerPoint and then laminated them for reuse. The feedback was very positive. It helped to break up the monotony of me blabbing for 20 minutes (remember this was a mini session) and it ensured I wouldn’t forget to mention key information. I plan on using this again during our new student orientation next week to highlight our services.

We think you need a chaser after that one shot

What started out as a play on words has actually turned into one of the most popular instruction sessions at my community college.

In the spring semester, a colleague and I participated in a norming session using the LEAP value rubrics to assess how effective our instruction classes were using the one shot method. We sat down with several faculty members (we bribed them with stipends) and evaluated over 22 artifacts from three different disciplines: English, Early Childhood Education and Clinical Lab Science.  What we found was citation for students was falling by the wayside. For examples: Using the book Shawshank Redemption in an assignment but not citing the actual book, or not giving credit for direct quotes and images.  This made us reevaluate how we give our instruction classes.  We decided we would redefine how we approached information literacy.  This is what we came up with:

  One-Shot Library Instruction Session with a Chaser

o   Librarians will teach information literacy concepts to students over one class period

o   Librarians will return to the class at a later date to check on the progress of the research and offer any additional assistance

Multiple Sessions

o   Librarians will provide short information literacy sessions (20 minutes on average) several times over the semester, as determined by faculty needs.

Embedded Librarians

o   Embed a librarian in your online or hybrid classes, involving them in your assignment

At an Allied health conference hosted by Cape Cod Community College, my colleague and I mentioned  what we were doing and there seemed  to be a lot of interest in this methodology.  So much in fact we were asked to present  a poster session on  our paper about Library Instruction redesign for MCCLPHEI Conference.  You can find our final report here: Final Assessment Report.

What was interesting at our poster session is that there was much “buzz” about it.  Several community colleges have already approached my director to work with us as a state-wide initiative.  So this could be an interesting journey.  I’ll keep you posted.

Susan Souza-Mort

Reference and Instruction Librarian

Bristol Community College, Massachusetts