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.

Flipping the Library Classroom

There has been quite a bit of online chatter recently, (and increasingly so in the LIS field) about the concept


of flipping the classroom. A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education really outlines the premise of the idea.

Students cannot passively receive material in class… Instead they gather the information largely outside of class… [W]hen they are in class, students do what is typically thought to be homework, solving problems with their professors or peers, and applying what they learn to new contexts.
(Berrett, Feb 19th 2012, CHE).

According to the article, one of the most important features of the flipped classroom is that the teacher can correct any student misconceptions at a crucial point in the learning process (and not while students are participating in graded summative assessment).


The infographic on the right by Knewton illustrates the concept very well. (Click to go to source)

Some articles and posts on flipped classrooms have emphasised the importance of, and opportunity for, online videos and other multimedia learning objects. Here’s one such post.

And inevitably, we find ourselves asking if we can flip our library classroom. I especially like some of the questions that Donna Watt asks in her post, Flipped classrooms as an activator for library thinking. Essentially, she talks about the librarian breaking beyond the library walls, and sees the potential for greater outreach. The most recent post in the Association of College and Research Libraries Blog, ACRLog asks specifically if we can flip our IL sessions, particularly, as they point out, when a lot of them are one-shot: Can we Flip the Library Classroom?

For me, the part that most appeals about flipping the classroom is as Berrett suggests; being able to identify and correct students misconceptions. We know that students (particularly higher level students) assume they have little to learn from IL library sessions. We also know that these very same students actually need much more help and direction than they realise. I think flipping the classroom can help bridge this gap.

Sure, we can design and develop a host of reusable online learning objects that the students may or may not refer to before they head into a flipped library classroom. But by far they best thing that students can bring into the flipped classroom is their IL experience. Their bad habits. Their coping mechanisms. I think students build information literacy coping mechanisms, particularly as their undergraduate (and maybe postgraduate) careers progress. By flipping the classroom and asking students to solve IL problems, we engage them in the process of their information literacy habits. When we’re there with them as the facilitator, we can expose them to their shortfalls, and guide them to overcoming these. In the flipped classroom, the process of information literacy is so much more important than the product of information literacy. (I’ve said this before, and will again).

Flipping the library classroom? I think I’m already doing it, in many ways.