Vol 34 | No 2 | Spring 16
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What is the Framework for Information Literacy?

ImageA Q&A with Catherine Palmer, Head, Education and Outreach

What is the Framework for Information Literacy?
The Framework for Information Literacy attempts to update the previous Information Literacy Standards for Higher Education, while also expanding the intellectual underpinnings of information literacy so that it can become part of a broader conversation about the social, political, and economic dimensions of information production and access. The Association for College and Research Libraries (ACRL) led the process to develop the Framework and to promulgate its value to higher education.

One of the most interesting things about the Framework is that it's based on the theory of threshold concepts which are ideas that are essential to understanding of a discipline, but often so ingrained that practitioners don't realize they are part of their discipline. Furthermore, it identifies six frames that are threshold concepts to information literacy.

The previous competency standards and definition of literacy were, I would say, focused on undergraduates and a set of behaviors that could be observed. The new Framework, on the other hand, recognizes that information literacy develops along a continuum from novice to expert. It's more expansive and focused on the fundamental core concepts on how information is created and valued within the academy, but also more broadly.

Why is it important to UCI?
I think it's important because it updates our previous understandings of information literaracy, which is articulated as one of the student learning outcomes for UCI's general education writing requirement. I believe that information literacy is not just for writing instructors and librarians to teach. It's actually core to an understanding of all disciplines, so it expands the ways in which librarians can work with faculty to help promote information literacy with their students. It also promotes and supports the kinds of scholarly practices that faculty and graduate students engage in as they create, evaluate and share knowledge.

What impact will this have on UCI Faculty and instruction?
I think it allows for a broader conversation between librarians and faculty about how librarians can support faculty in their own research. Secondly, it will also help faculty work with librarians to convey to students what they do in particular disciplines and what it takes for them to share this knowledge.

What impact will it have on students' learning?
It seems reasonable to assume that if students have a better understanding of what faculty mean when they give an assignment that calls for three scholarly articles, for example, the students will have a better chance of completing that assignment successfully. A student may have no idea where journal articles come from and why they are important. Students might also think that they can just find an article for a research paper on Google.

The framework thus helps students understand why faculty privilege some types of information over others and also helps them understand where that information came from and how to find it for themselves.

If faculty have students that are beginners on the spectrum and some that are advanced, with regards to the Information Literacy spectrum, how should they approach the Libraries to assist?
It's a challenge with many underlying skills that faculty face with students. One approach is to just acknowledge that students might be at different levels. Another is to articulate the expectations in terms of rubrics and specific reasons why they should use scholarly journal articles and where to find them. Faculty can also work with librarians to come up with a range of interventions for students who are at different levels.

For example, a faculty member or instructor who urges his or her students to consult with librarians as they embark on a research project is doing her students a huge favor. The faculty member or instructor is also not taking up too much of his or her class time. And subsequently, the librarian can then work with students individually one-on-one at a different level. Librarians also often have good ideas about how information is created, vetted and preserved within different disciplines.

Any final thoughts?
I love the new Framework! It's intellectually robust and it allows us to think about information not just as series of steps that one takes to meet a predetermined end, but focuses also on the intellectual and creative underpinnings and excitement we feel as members of an academic community.