ACRL Standards: Aligning the Current with the Proposed

Like many of you, I have been following the development of ACRL’s proposed Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. I think it is particularly important to listen to the voices of those who will actually have to apply these new standards when they are finally approved. There are a lot of concerns, especially because the new standards aren’t written like instructional objectives. They’re more principle than practical in terms of teaching.

Some may wonder how these new standards compare to the old, and whether they can be implemented in a similar fashion. So, I took a look at the new and the old, and created an alignment chart to show how they relate to each other. This should help clarify the commonalities between the two, and hopefully quell concerns that the new standards are a radical departure from the old (they’re not — in fact they share a lot of similarities).

ACRL Alignment Chart

PROPOSED STANDARDS CURRENT STANDARDS
Authority Is Constructed and Contextual

Authority Is Constructed and Contextual refers to the recognition that information resources are drawn from their creators’ expertise and credibility based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used. Experts view authority with an attitude of informed skepticism and an openness to new perspectives, additional voices, and changes in schools of thought.

Standard Three

The information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system.

2. The information literate student articulates and applies initial criteria for evaluating both the information and its sources.

Outcomes Include:

a. Examines and compares information from various sources in order to evaluate reliability, validity, accuracy, authority, timeliness, and point of view or bias

b. Analyzes the structure and logic of supporting arguments or methods

c. Recognizes prejudice, deception, or manipulation

d. Recognizes the cultural, physical, or other context within which the information was created and understands the impact of context on interpreting the information

4. The information literate student compares new knowledge with prior knowledge to determine the value added, contradictions, or other unique characteristics of the information.

Outcomes Include:

a. Determines whether information satisfies the research or other information need

b. Uses consciously selected criteria to determine whether the information contradicts or verifies information used from other sources

c. Draws conclusions based upon information gathered

d. Tests theories with discipline-appropriate techniques (e.g., simulators, experiments)

e. Determines probable accuracy by questioning the source of the data, the limitations of the information gathering tools or strategies, and the reasonableness of the conclusions

f. Integrates new information with previous information or knowledge

g. Selects information that provides evidence for the topic

Information Creation as a Process

Information Creation as a Process refers to the understanding that the purpose, message, and delivery of information are intentional acts of creation. Recognizing the nature of information creation, experts look to the underlying processes of creation as well as the final product to critically evaluate the usefulness of the information.

Standard Four

The information literate student, individually or as a member of a group, uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose.

1. The information literate student applies new and prior information to the planning and creation of a particular product or performance.

2. The information literate student revises the development process for the product or performance.

3. The information literate student communicates the product or performance effectively to others.

Information Has Value

The Information Has Value frame refers to the understanding that information possesses several dimensions of value, including as a commodity, as a means of education, as a means to influence, and as a means of negotiating and understanding the world. The flow of information through systems of production and dissemination is impacted by legal, sociopolitical, and economic interests.

Standard One

The information literate student determines the nature and extent of the information needed.

1. The information literate student defines and articulates the need for information.

2. The information literate student identifies a variety of types and formats of potential sources for information.

3. The information literate student considers the costs and benefits of acquiring the needed information.

4. The information literate student reevaluates the nature and extent of the information need.

Research as Inquiry

Research as Inquiry refers to an understanding that research is iterative and depends upon asking increasingly complex or new questions whose answers develop additional questions or lines of inquiry in any field.

Standard Two

The information literate student accesses needed information effectively and efficiently.

1. The information literate student selects the most appropriate investigative methods or information retrieval systems for accessing the needed information.

2. The information literate student constructs and implements effectively-designed search strategies.

3. The information literate student retrieves information online or in person using a variety of methods.

4. The information literate student refines the search strategy if necessary.

5. The information literate student extracts, records, and manages the information and its sources.

Standard Five

The information literate student understands many of the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information and accesses and uses information ethically and legally.

Scholarship Is a Conversation

Scholarship Is a Conversation refers to the idea of sustained discourse within a community of scholars, researchers, or professionals, with new insights and discoveries occurring over time as a result of competing perspectives and interpretations.

Standard Three

The information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system.

5. The information literate student determines whether the new knowledge has an impact on the individual’s value system and takes steps to reconcile differences.

Outcomes Include:

a. Investigates differing viewpoints encountered in the literature

b. Determines whether to incorporate or reject viewpoints encountered

6. The information literate student validates understanding and interpretation of the information through discourse with other individuals, subject-area experts, and/or practitioners.

Outcomes Include:

a. Participates in classroom and other discussions

b. Participates in class-sponsored electronic communication forums designed to encourage discourse on the topic (e.g., email, bulletin boards, chat rooms)

c. Seeks expert opinion through a variety of mechanisms (e.g., interviews, email, listservs)

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Information Literacy: Credit vs. One-Shot

How would you answer this question?

Which is better, one-shot sessions or credit courses in information literacy?

I think a good number of librarians would heartily agree that credit courses are the better approach to teaching information literacy skills. I say, not so fast. There are lessons we can learn from the literature on teaching critical thinking skills that are applicable to information literacy instruction. Like critical thinking, information literacy is a skill that can be thought of as having both general and specific applications. Information literacy is also a skill that requires critical thinking skills. That overlap makes it impossible to not pay attention to critical thinking instruction.

The literature on teaching critical thinking skills has debated the standalone vs. integrated approach for many years. At one time, standalone critical thinking courses were in vogue. Today, a growing body of research is leading to the consensus that an integrated approach to teaching critical thinking is more effective, both in general and discipline-specific courses (Hatcher, 2006). You can see the evidence of that in the learning outcomes statements of many undergraduate programs.

That research has implications for information literacy instruction. If you think about it, the average classroom instructor cannot discern between information literacy and critical thinking skills on many counts. For example, those who are more familiar (or comfortable) with the concept of critical thinking are likely to view research as a critical thinking skill rather than an information literacy skill. They’re right too. Research is in fact critical thinking — critical thinking about identifying, finding and evaluating information. This leads back to the question of credit vs. one-shot. If an institution takes an integrated approach to teaching critical thinking across the curriculum, it makes more sense for information literacy instruction to follow the same protocol.

As I see it, the real problem for information literacy instruction is the same as for critical thinking instruction. Both suffer from poor implementation. I think an integrated approach makes much more sense for both. For information literacy, a better approach to implementation would be to anchor the one-shot around embedded and collaborative approaches to teaching. The librarian would not necessarily play a bigger role in the classroom than in a typical one-shot, but the library would.

The downside to an integrated approach is that you need classroom instructors on board with it. They need to understand what it is, how it fits into their teaching, and how to assess the outcomes. Frustration with lack of cooperation makes standalone approaches tempting. However, if we are to look at learning from a student-centered perspective, we must make an effort to try the most effective approach.

I do think standalone information literacy has a place in education, but primarily in teacher training programs and graduate studies.