A Framework for Information Literacy

I recently wrote about how information fluency is hoped to bolster our ability to recognize and defuse the phenomena known as fake news. It’s supposed to do so by providing the information fluent with the means to “respect the expertise that authority represents while remaining skeptical of the systems that have elevated that authority and the information created by it.” That quote is taken from the “Authority is Constructed and Contextual” Frame of the Association of College and Research Libraries’ Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, which is two years old at this point and which, bizarrely and/or frighteningly, I hadn’t heard of until just a couple weeks ago.

The meeting point for both articles linked above is education and its obligation to the development of information literacy skills. It’s obviously an ongoing issue that smart educators continue to wrestle with. Especially in regards to education’s shift toward more measurable student outcomes, the question of how to distill, and teach, the skills that allow a person to be information literate is a complicated one. When you think about it, that isn’t at all surprising. The ability to discern the relative quality, reliability and relevance of information is borderline epistemological – as in, how do we know what we know? As the Framework itself describes the issue and how it has chosen to address it:

“[This] Framework draws significantly upon the concept of metaliteracy, which offers a renewed vision of information literacy as an overarching set of abilities in which students are consumers and creators of information who can participate successfully in collaborative spaces. Metaliteracy demands behavioral, affective, cognitive, and metacognitive engagement with the information ecosystem. This Framework depends on these core ideas of metaliteracy, with special focus on metacognition, or critical self-reflection, as crucial to becoming more self-directed in that rapidly changing ecosystem.” – Introduction to Framework for Information Literacy

Or, how I interpret the problem and their reason for providing a solution in this form: Partitioning information literacy into concrete skills may run counter to the very goals of teaching it in the first place – akin to showing students how to fish by taking them to the grocery store.

In that light, the dynamic promise of their Framework is especially compelling. Its introduction describes it as a “cluster of interconnected core concepts, with flexible options for implementation, rather than on a set of standards or learning outcomes, or any prescriptive enumeration of skills,” which they’ve intentionally left open-ended so that individual institutions and programs can fold the values represented by the Framework into their own curriculum. They’ve organized the core concepts into six “Frames”:

  • Authority Is Constructed and Contextual
  • Information Creation as a Process
  • Information Has Value
  • Research as Inquiry
  • Scholarship as Conversation
  • Searching as Strategic Exploration

If we were to compare the framework to a program curriculum, these frames take the place of the program’s outcomes. Each frame is further broken down into lists of “Knowledge Practices” and “Dispositions”, the former being example activities by which students can practice their abilities within that frame, the latter being ways to “address the affective, attitudinal, or valuing dimension” of information fluency. That latter dimension I find especially interesting.

I suggest strongly, for anyone who is in the midst of revising curriculum at the course, programmatic, or even institutional level, to read the Framework for themselves. There are many ways in which it could prove itself useful. After you’ve done so – or while you’re doing so – please comment below with your thoughts on this problem: How do we teach students to be become agents, and proponents, of expertise and vetted authority in an “information” age that seems increasingly…noisy. Is it through the wide adoption and application of something like the Framework described above?

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One response to “A Framework for Information Literacy”

  1. Thank you, Chris, for spreading the word!!!
    The ACRL Framemwork is very important for critical thinking and life long learning. UNE Library Services also has this posted on the webpage: Information Literacy Standards and Outcomes for Students http://www.une.edu/library/about/policies/infolit
    Reference Librarian
    UNE Library Services

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