On Becoming Legitimately Information Literate (Conclusion for Analyzing the ACRL Framework)

The last six posts explored the knowledge practices of the ACRL Framework through the lens of Legitimation Code Theory (LCT), a framework that describes the relationships between knowledge and knowers. LCT identifies four distinct specialization codes that define knowledge-knower relationships as illustrated in the figure below. Each quadrant in the figure represents a different way in which legitimacy might be defined within a social field of practice (i.e., discipline or profession).

Disciplines that define knowledge as the primary basis of legitimacy (see upper left quadrant) include science and math. In those disciplines, the possession of specialized knowledge reigns supreme, and the dispositions of knowers are far less important.

On the other hand, disciplines that emphasize “the right kind of knower” include art, literature, and the humanities, where specialized knowledge is defined by the dispositions of an exemplary knower (e.g., artist, writer). To become a legitimate knower means to cultivate one’s knowledge or skills through communities of practices, with the goal of reaching an apex of exemplary practice.

In the relativist range, anything goes, so I suppose that anything is legitimate.

The fourth specialization code is the elite code (upper right hand quadrant). This is where BOTH specialized knowledge AND the dispositions of knowers define legitimate practice. And this is where I see the ACRL Framework fitting. Why? Because the ACRL Framework defines both specific knowledge practices AND the dispositions of information literate students (the implications of that continue below).

Source: Slideshare presentation on the work of Karl Maton, epistemological access and social justice by Ria Vosloo (http://www.slideshare.net/brendauj/presentation-on-the-work-of-karl-maton-ep)

What are the implications of this analysis?

First of all, it revealed to me that the ACRL Framework needs additional work to fully define a legitimately information literate student. Many of the knowledge practices in the ACRL Framework really describe the knowledge itself rather than what can be done with that knowledge (knowing in action). While this indicates to me the importance of specialized knowledge in academic information literacy, it does not reconcile the knower with the knowledge needed. Perhaps we need to rename what is currently “knowledge practices” to “knowledge processes,” and then list a set of exemplary knowledge practices that better define the process and frames. That would certainly make the ACRL Framework a much more useful tool for practitioners (including classroom instructors).

Secondly, it is important to recognize that the addition of “dispositions” to the ACRL Framework is really what sets it apart from the old standards. That addition brings in the constructivist philosophy. However, to really emphasize the importance of knowers in the framework, I think it would help to make the dispositions and knowledge processes included in the framework more integrative. It would create that reconciliation I alluded to above.

Finally, by viewing the ACRL Framework as an elite specialization code (a combination of dispositions and knowledge), we must radically change the way information literacy is taught. It is no longer just the knowledge aspects that need to be addressed. It is also the dispositions. The question is, how do we foster these dispositions? This is where the library becomes a constructivist learning environment, where librarians aim toward developing communities of practice both informally (e.g., clubs, study groups, mentoring, peer tutoring) and formally (e.g., embedded libraries, integrated information literacy instruction) and where we begin helping students make connections between what they need to know and how they need to act to become legitimately information literate.



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