ACRL IL revisions feedback: “How satisfied are you with the overall Framework?”

Well, I’ve run out of time to address all my nitpicky issues with the revisions, but I thought I’d tackle the big issue of how (I think) the framework as a whole works.

I needed a definition of a conceptual framework for my In the Library with the Lead Pipe article, and I’m going to start by quoting it here to use as a jumping off point:

A conceptual framework is simply a structure or model that helps us make meaning of issues or phenomena in ways that lead to greater clarity and coherence. A framework can be thought of variously as a lens through which to view the issues; a map of the territory under consideration; or a working tool (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2012). Conceptual frameworks can allow us to step back from the day-to-day to frame issues in a larger context. Alternatively particular frameworks may guide our day-to-day actions and practice.

New IL framework as a lens: there’s a lot to like in the way the revisions get us to take a new look at IL – I wasn’t a fan of the old Standards. I like the new definition; the focus on teaching concepts (not totally convinced by the threshold part); the inclusion of new (media) literacies; the emphasis on metacognition and reflection. I think the frames that are identified are important and I can see ideas here enriching my teaching or in some cases validating things I’m already doing.

I don’t see this framework as the only lens I want to apply to IL, so I have some trouble with the idea that this will be the officially sanctioned ACRL lens for IL.

New IL framework as a map of the territory: I think this is where the revisions fall down.

  • First of all, what territory are we mapping? All of IL? Or IL in higher ed? I wouldn’t mind focusing only on the latter (with a recognition that some things transfer to other contexts) if we would acknowledge that what we’re mapping and teaching is IL as an academic literacy in particular contexts, and that there are other ways of “doing” IL.
  • There’s one map of the territory — metaliteracy — inside another map of the territory.
  • There are things left out of the map. Is “skills” suddenly a bad word? Learning outcomes are left to individual libraries to fill in. And what about the purpose of IL (learning? helping students enter their discipline? supporting writing? creating informed citizens?), that is, its place in the broader landscape?
  • Most of all, it’s a librarian-centric map. I see this in some of the jargon. I see this in the way metaliteracy puts IL at the centre of its diagram. I see it in the way IL is characterized as an education reform movement (really? as a grad student in education as well as instruction librarian, I’ve observed first hand how indifferent to IL most educators are). I see it in the sample assignments which don’t really take into account the way students approach information through their class assignments (okay, I get that these aren’t so far in authentic contexts). I see the framework focussing on how librarians teach and how we position ourselves and IL more than on how students learn.

For the sake of comparison, see ANCIL for an alternative map of the territory that puts the student at the centre.  The authors also have a slide showing a kind of IL hierarchy of needs, with access and awareness at the bottom (access is assumed in the ACRL framework); then functional skills; then situated practices; then finally attributes and identities. This makes a lot of sense to me – could it also work with the ACRL framework?

New IL framework as a working tool: Not sure yet exactly how’ll I’ll use the framework in my teaching. At this point I don’t see myself structuring my teaching around the six frames, but rather pulling in pieces where helpful. I’m interested to see how others approach this.

Does the framework lead to greater clarity and coherence? Not yet! But I’ve gotten used to feeling muddled in the process of learning.


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