Analyzing the Knowledge Practices of the ACRL Framework (Part I)

Part I. Authority is Constructed and Contextual

Okay, I have completed the analysis of the set of knowledge practices for the “Authority is Constructed and Contextual” frame.

My first thought was that most of the knowledge practices in this frame read more like knowledge competencies. A knowledge practice represents “knowing in action,” so should describe a behavior or action that is observable, whether formally or informally. In this frame, most of the knowledge practices are written more in terms of cognitive processes. I don’t particularly like that because I think there is a big difference between someone who can intellectually describe what they SHOULD do, and actually practice what they preach (I think a lot of students fit this description).

So, the “knowing in action” column in the table below remedies that by describing actual practices or behaviors that an information literate student should participate in. And they are broadly written to be applicable across most disciplines.

My other thought — the problem solving facet of IL didn’t really fit any of these knowledge practices. I’m not sure if that’s problematic. I’m reserving judgment for when the full analysis has been completed.

I have also included some straightforward strategies for fostering these knowledge practices (hopefully, you will find them useful).

Authority is Constructed and Contextual

Knowledge Practice
IL Facet
Knowing in Action
Instructional Strategies
Define different types of authority such as subject expertise (e.g., scholarship), societal position (e.g., public office or title), or special experience (e.g., participating in a historic event); Ways of thinking Select information sources that provide the greatest authority for the situation and need. Whether in the library or classroom, strategies such as the Think Aloud model make expert (librarian) thinking visible. Students need to know the “why” behind the selection of information sources for various situations. This requires A LOT of exposure and practice across multiple courses. Embedding the library in all core courses can go a long way here.
Use research tools and indicators of authority to determine the credibility of sources Information Technology Fluency, Ways of Thinking This knowledge practice describes “knowing in action” Inquiry-based learning strategies such as WebQuests can be used to practice this skill.  Within disciplinary areas, literature reviews further hone it. Most importantly, assessment and feedback of the quality of cited sources in research assignments across courses is necessary to motivate students toward this knowledge practice.
Understand that many disciplines have acknowledged authorities…

some scholars would challenge the authority of those sources


Ways of Thinking; Communication Participate in the debate and discussion of scholarly topics with divergent research perspectives. Debating controversial topics in the classroom or in online course discussions exposes students to the divergent perspectives that often occur in various disciplines. This also helps familiarize them with the primary authorities in the field. Note: Debate is much more effective at developing this knowledge practice than the more commonplace research papers on hot topics. Why? Because when students know they have to perform in front of their peers, they are more motivated to take it seriously (you can’t copy and paste a debate!).
Recognize that authoritative content may be packaged formally or informally and may include sources of all media types


Ways of Thinking Select information sources that provide the greatest authority for the situation and need. Think Aloud strategies work well for this knowledge practice too.
Acknowledge they are developing their own authoritative voices in a particular area and recognize

the responsibilities this entails, including seeking accuracy and reliability, respecting intellectual

property, and participating in communities of practice;


Ways of Thinking; Communication Maintain a wiki, blog, or other platform to share reflections, thoughts, and analyses of scholarly work in a given discipline, field, or research area. Ultimately, writing about one’s research interests is the best strategy for developing an authoritative voice, as well as a better understanding of the discipline or field. Even more so, sharing one’s ideas with other scholars or practitioners in the field does wonders in fostering this knowledge practice. I know this from personal experience;)
Understand the increasingly social nature of the information ecosystem


Communication Follow the social media platforms (e.g., blogs, Twitter, Facebook) of scholarly authorities to keep abreast of research in progress. Getting students to follow their instructors’ blogs and other informal scholarly writings on the web is a great introduction to this knowledge practice. In doing so, students will become natural participants in the ever-evolving social, scholarly ecosystem as they enter their chosen fields of study.

How Reading Apprenticeships Improve Information Literacy

Reference Desk
In reading apprenticeships, teachers model the way they think about and interpret academic texts in a way that is transparent to students (e.g. think aloud). This helps students transform their understanding of what it means to read within each subject, course or discipline. Students become experts in historical reading or scientific reading or philosophical reading or literary reading, etc…

If librarians apply similar strategies during reference transactions or instructional sessions, students can get an inside look on what it really means to be information literate. In other words, if librarians visibly model the way they think about the research process, students become apprentices to an information literacy way of thinking. Over time, students will adopt those strategies as they come to understand the processes of finding, evaluating and synthesizing information.

However, because information literacy can also be subject or discipline-specific, librarians have the added task of understanding the way information is valued and interpreted within each area. A lack of subject expertise (on the part of the librarian) can be replaced with a strong collaborative relationship between the librarian and classroom instructor.

Here are some reading apprenticeship strategies that can be used in information literacy instruction:

  • Use the Think Aloud protocol to model your thought processes.
  • Draw on students’ background knowledge to help them make connections to the concepts (e.g. using Google to teach database concepts).
  • Use concept mapping to help students plan out the research process.
  • Use graphic organizers to scaffold learning.
  • Create a worked example of the research process for a particular subject area (this is also a scaffolding tool).
  • Use the Think-Pair-Share technique.
    • For example, 1) have students evaluate a source independently, 2) then, pair them up to discuss it, and then 3) have them share their thoughts.
    • Think-Pair-Share works particularly well with clickers (have students vote on the best answer).
    • Think-Pair-Share should be used in conjunction with the Think Aloud protocol.
  • Use the Reciprocal Teaching method. Start by modeling your thinking processes, and then have students do the teaching for the whole class or in small groups.

When teachers use reading apprenticeship strategies, students develop critical literacy skills. When librarians use similar strategies in conjunction with teachers, students develop critical information literacy skills.