DeLorean

"Back in Time" by JD Hancock via Flickr

Forgive me, I think I have a bit of an information hangover after yesterday’s fabulous quasi-con. While my mind buzzes about libraries-as-space and libraries in space and “sexy technology” and all the other goodness from the con, I’ll try to get up to speed on my thoughts for this week’s readings.

In fact, after a day of predicting and prognosticating at our “Future of Libraries”-themed event, the Johnston article in particular felt a little retro in its rhetorical stance toward information literacy as “one component of a set of generic skills that students need to acquire throughout their degree” (p. 2).

I may be missing a nuance here, but I disagree that information literacy can be removed from disciplinary and situational contexts. While we could list the “generic” skills associated with information literacy — that ever-niggling phrase “use information” in the ACRL standards comes to mind — the larger challenge facing learners is developing the metacognitive skills and the habits to know when and how to employ them, and when and how to move past stumbling blocks when they (inevitably) emerge in real-world contexts.

When I review the quantitative and qualitative methods employed in the Johnston study, I’m struck by the thorough effort to capture students’ needs and attitudes. Their methods reflect the cyclical process as codified in the ADDIE model discussed in Veldoff, though I would be keen on seeing how they would plan to revise their module based on the received feedback.

At the same time, I find student responses like the following evocative of larger questions:


“I think it will help me achieve a higher grade because I will be able to search in the correct databases from now on” (p. 8).

I read this response as reflective of continuing (and age-old) challenges facing information literacy instruction and assessment. I love the honesty of this response too: I need to get a good grade, and thank goodness you librarians finally told me the right places to look.

The sticking points are these, though: I want to help students see how information literacy is intrinsically connected to their lives, their non-school lives, and that information literacy is not just about getting a good grade on a paper because that’s what’s expected. The process of becoming information literate is also one of entering a larger and frequently unfamiliar discourse of academic thought — and of realizing that yes, you, too, can contribute to this conversation because you have something to say. Not (just) because you must finish an assignment.

Additionally, I’m struck by the phrase “correct databases” — while I want students to have a strong grasp on discipline- and context-specific resources, I also want information literacy instruction to provide the tools necessary for students to develop their own critical evaluation skills in order to choose the right resources for the job at hand. These are the kinds of transferrable dispositions that will inform learning outside and beyond the classroom.

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