Focus on Purpose

I’m overdue for a blog post. I have had some personal challenges this month that have made it difficult to feel productive and/or creative, both of which are necessary for writing blog posts! My big news of the day is that I’m officially registered for ALA Annual in Las Vegas this June. The registration rates increase next week so I bit the bullet today. I’m looking forward to my second ALA Annual experience. I am moderating a panel discussion and have several committees that will be meeting during the conference. I quite enjoy connecting and working with librarians from around the country, and ALA is the culmination of the virtual work I’ve been doing all year.

One of the big topics in academic library land has been the partial draft of the new ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education that will supplant the 2000 Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. This is huge news for academic librarians as many of us plan our instruction and assessment around this document. I’m still digesting the new framework, but my initial impression is that it is an improvement to the former standards because it’s more encompassing of information use in the world as opposed to strictly within academic settings.

In my two and a half years in academia I’ve cemented an opinion that we should be preparing our students for their future work environments, and that only teaching them skills related to being an academic is doing them a disservice. I came across a great blog post last week titled “4 Ways To Keep Students From Giving Up Before They Even Begin”. It’s written in a tone that implies K-12 education, but I think the concepts apply to any situation where one person is teaching another.

I love the tips because they are both practical and grounded in theory. The first tip is to position each activity/lesson in the context of its purpose. I didn’t do this when I first started teaching library instruction. I had no coursework in instruction and mimicked what was being done at my first institution. I was so focused on teaching the mechanics of the varying databases that I (and my students) lost sight of the purpose beyond completing one assignment. I quickly realized that my students would exert more effort if they could connect what I was teaching with their real life needs and the meaning behind what they were being asked to do.

The other tips are great too, but this is the one that sticks out to me as the most important. The new IL framework is phenomenal in this regard because it addresses the knowledge, abilities, and dispositions necessary to successfully grasp each threshold concept. The framework provides sample assignments and assessments for each concept, and these seem to be focused on the information work students will do throughout their lives. My biggest criticism of the new framework is that it is dense and jargon heavy. It’s not as easy to pinpoint a logical progression through the concepts, but ultimately that’s fitting because that’s how the real world works.

For those looking to explore others’ reactions to the new framework I recommend Barbara Fister’s post “On the Draft Framework for Information Literacy” that also links to several other great posts on the topic.


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