Things & Frames

Or, how I’ve been thinking about the revised framework all wrong!

I have had an epiphany. A shift in thinking. A realization. I may have even crossed a threshold!
I’ve been going about this new framework all wrong. I’ve been excited that we’re looking to educational theory. I’ve been wondering if I truly grasp what metaliteracy is. I’ve been giddy that the revised work is tilted in favor of a programmatic il approach. I’ve been seduced by threshold concepts.

I’ve been seduced by threshold concepts because I’ve spent the past few years thinking about them, and how they apply to the work I’ve already been doing in-class. I’ve been preoccupied, wondering, thinking, plotting how I assess them. I’ve let them become the entirety of the new framework.

When I think of the proposed revision, my thinking starts and ends with threshold concepts.

Except, that’s only a small part of the new framework. Call me slow on the uptake (after all, I’ve attended the webinars, open forums and in-person hearings), but at some stage over the past number of days, while sitting in an ALA convention center with the din of casino gambling and 114 degree heat not too far away, I discovered that the real gift of the new framework lies not in threshold concepts, but in the freedom that the new framework provides. In short: its totality. Let’s, for a second, suspend the elements of threshold concepts. Let’s forget about the bounded, integrative, transformative, irreversible elements of them. Let’s just call them “things”. When I envision threshold concepts as “things”, I’m left to focus on the framework itself. And to me, therein lies some more of the excitement. The new framework gives us the gift of flexibility. It’s not telling us that we need to assess x with y. It’s merely telling us the things that our students find bothersome. The new framework sets a new ideal – essentially, it’s challenging us to move away from one-shot, and into programmatic approaches to infolit. And it’s packaging that with a number of “things”. “Things” that equate to “conceptual bottlenecks” that students have when it comes to infolit. How we teach to these concepts, or assess these, is totally up to us. But the framework gives us a roadmap with flexibility. Maybe for the first time, I can make ACRLs new framework work for me, and my teaching librarians team, and our rather unique, innovative IL program. And I bet you might be able to do the same for your program (which might be entirely different from ours).
We’ve been focusing a lot on threshold concepts recently. And with good reason. We’ve been getting our heads around this, right? And it doesn’t help that threshold concepts are, in themselves, probably a threshold concept! But I wonder are we missing the bigger picture? I often teach to threshold concepts, but they are not the all of my classroom. Problem and inquiry-based learning, active, student-centered learning, library marketing, outreach, fun, democracy and social justice all influence my classroom teaching too. These are just some of the “things” that ultimately bring me into the classroom, guide me and get me talking with students. Threshold concepts are another of these things. But it’s the bigger picture that I should focus on. The sum of all the things.
And so if I’m really looking more broadly at the conceptual bottleneck “things”, what I need to focus more on is if the threshold concepts represent all the things that my students get “bottlenecked” within, and how my current program and assessment efforts align with the roadmap, and what areas or programs I need to develop further.
I’m reminding myself that the revised framework is more than threshold concepts. It’s about student reflection. It’s about programatic approaches to IL. It’s about us having the flexibility, but guidance, to grow information literacy beyond outcomes-based one-shot instruction. And like aspirations, this may take some of us some time. But we have a framework (and a mighty peer community) to guide us.