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To Badge or Not? Towards an intersection of neoliberalism and information literacy instruction

E
Emily Ford

Presentation at WILU 2016 Conference in Vancouver, BC. As technology in higher education rapidly changes, new pedagogical tools are being tested, developed, and implemented. Digital badge systems are one such tool that can be used to certify student skills and competencies, including information literacy skills. But at what point do micro-credentialing systems and competency-based approaches intersect with neoliberalism? Neoliberalism, a disturbing trend in higher education, values competencies and skills to prepare “market and job-ready” students, whereas non market-based traditional approaches to higher education aim to create an informed and engaged citizenry for the public good. Can micro-credentialing systems co-exist with this ideological aim? Are badges and micro-credentialing systems a product of neoliberalism? Do they inherently further these neoliberal aims or can they further an ideological aim of education as a public good? On the one hand today’s college students face rising tuition and course materials costs. As a result students focus their learning on skills acquisition and job-market competitiveness after college. Students frequently learn information literacy and critical thinking skills throughout their course of study and outside of discrete class-based learning outcomes. Using badges to certify and clearly communicate these skills to students and future employers, then, assists students in their learning and post-educational goals. On the other hand, information literacy and critical thinking skills can be integrated into course instruction without the use of micro-credentialing systems like badges. This session will examine and compare two sections of a community health class utilizing an embedded information literacy and critical thinking curriculum. One section used badges to certify learning outcomes; the other did not. Drawing from their experiences and findings from pre- and post-course student surveys, presenters will discuss the intersection and balance of neoliberal approaches to information literacy with the value of education as a public good.

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To Badge or Not?
Towards an intersection of neoliberalism and information literacy
instruction
Emily Ford, Assistant Professor, Urban & Public Affairs Librarian
forder@pdx.edu
Jost Lottes, Research Associate, Institute on Aging
jost@pdx.edu
Portland State University
Workshop for Instruction in Library Use
2016
Agenda
• Badges Background
• Neoliberalism (in less than 5 minutes)
• Project Background
• Our Study
• To badge or not?
• Discussion
Jost Lottes
A badge is a visual
representation of a
skill, achievement,
disposition, or
knowledge gained.
2
1
3
Social Gerontology
Fall 2014
•In person
•45 students
•Information literacy
curriculum with badges
•In-person library
instruction, 3 sessions
Winter 2015
•Online
•53 students
•Information literacy
curriculum without badges
•Online activities, feedback
on all IL assignments from
librarian
nadinemuller.org.uk/academia-and-mental-health/neoliberalism-mental-health-in-academia
“I don't want to sell anything,
buy anything, or process
anything as a career. I don't
want to sell anything bought
or processed, or buy anything
sold or processed, or process
anything sold, bought, or
processed, or repair anything
sold, bought, or processed.”
-Lloyd Dobler, Say Anything

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To Badge or Not? Towards an intersection of neoliberalism and information literacy instruction

  • 1. To Badge or Not? Towards an intersection of neoliberalism and information literacy instruction Emily Ford, Assistant Professor, Urban & Public Affairs Librarian forder@pdx.edu Jost Lottes, Research Associate, Institute on Aging jost@pdx.edu Portland State University Workshop for Instruction in Library Use 2016
  • 2. Agenda • Badges Background • Neoliberalism (in less than 5 minutes) • Project Background • Our Study • To badge or not? • Discussion Jost Lottes
  • 3. A badge is a visual representation of a skill, achievement, disposition, or knowledge gained.
  • 5. Social Gerontology Fall 2014 •In person •45 students •Information literacy curriculum with badges •In-person library instruction, 3 sessions Winter 2015 •Online •53 students •Information literacy curriculum without badges •Online activities, feedback on all IL assignments from librarian
  • 6. nadinemuller.org.uk/academia-and-mental-health/neoliberalism-mental-health-in-academia “I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed.” -Lloyd Dobler, Say Anything
  • 8. PSU & Public Health Education
  • 9. Instruments • Pre- and post- surveys • Information literacy skills confidence/use/perceptions • Student approaches to learning •E.g. Knowing what I’m going to learn and how I will use it is essential, important, don’t care… • Badges post-survey inquired about badge utility and use
  • 11. General Findings • Student skills confidence higher after course • Increased use in library resources after course • Post-survey comparison shows higher student confidence in IL skills after the course with badges than the course without badges. • Students’ desire for transparent learning outcomes much higher in badges/in-person courses
  • 12. Frequency of Use – Without badges – Pre-survey
  • 13. Frequency of Use – Without Badges – Post-survey
  • 14. Please rate how confident you are with the following information/research skills. With Badges - Post Without Badges - Post Using Google or other search engines 4.80 4.53 Evaluating websites/ information sources 4.47 4.41 Choosing and defining my research topic 4.47 3.94 Distinguishing between different kinds of information (e.g. scholarly vs popular, etc) 4.80 4.29 Choosing quality information sources 4.73 4.35 Choosing library databases to search 4.60 3.88 Choosing keywords to use in a search 4.47 4.12 Creating effective searches (using AND and OR) 4.47 4.24 Modifying my search to retrieve more relevant search results 4.60 4.29 Choosing search results relevant to my research 4.80 4.47 Properly citing sources/ avoiding plagiarism 4.40 4.35 Understanding peer review 4.60 4.41
  • 15. With Badges - Pre-Survey Essential to my learning Useful… but not necessary Unnecessary
  • 16. Without Badges - Pre-Survey Essential to my learning Useful… but not necessary Unnecessary
  • 17. With Badges - post-survey Essential to my learning Useful… but not necessary Unnecessary
  • 18. Without Badges - Post-Survey Essential to my learning Useful… but not necessary Unnecessary
  • 19. Limitations Photo by Chris White https://flic.kr/p/6k5ir8
  • 21. So…to badge or not? commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AToutes_directions.JPG
  • 22. Readings Abramovich, S., Schunn, C., & Higashi, R. M. (2013). Are badges useful in education?: it depends upon the type of badge and expertise of learner. Educational Technology Research and Development, 61(2), 217–232. Albanese, M. a, Mejicano, G., Anderson, W. M., & Gruppen, L. (2010). Building a competency-based curriculum: the agony and the ecstasy. Advances in Health Sciences Education : Theory and Practice, 15(3), 439–54. Brasley, S. S. (2008). Effective Librarian and Discipline Faculty Collaboration Models for Integrating Information Literacy into the Fabric of an Academic Institution. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, (114), 71–88. Cary, K. (2012). A Future Full of Badges - Commentary. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Gordon, L., & Bartoli, E. (2012). Using Discipline-Based Professional Association Standards for Information Literacy Integration: A Review and Case Study. Behavioral & Social Sciences Librarian, 21(1), 23–38. Levidow, L. (2002). Marketizing higher education : neoliberal strategies and counter strategies. In K. Robins & F. Webster (Eds.), The Virtual University? Knowledge, Markets and Management (pp. 227–248). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Lozano, J. F., Boni, A., Peris, J., & Hueso, A. (2012). Competencies in Higher Education: A Critical Analysis from the Capabilities Approach. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 46(1), 132–147. Moser, F. Z. (2007). Strategic Management of Educational Technology--The Importance of Leadership and Management. Tertiary Education and Management, 13(2), 141–152. Meulemans, Y. N., & Carr, A. (2013). Not at your service: building genuine faculty-librarian partnerships. Reference Services Review, 41(1), 80–90. Pagowsky, N. (n.d.). Keeping Up With... Digital Badges for Instruction. ACRL Keeping Up With... Schneckenberg, D., Ehlers, U., & Adelsberger, H. (2011). Web 2.0 and Competence-Oriented Design of Learning--Potentials and Implications for Higher Education. British Journal of Educational Technology, 42(5), 747–762. Schulte, S. J. (2012). Embedded Academic Librarianship: A Review of the Literature. Evidence Based Library & Information Practice, 7(4), 122–138. Sleeter, C. (2008). Equity, democracy, and neoliberal assaults on teacher education. Teaching and Teacher Education, 24(8), 1947–1957. Smith, K. (2012). Lessons Learnt from Literature on the Diffusion of Innovative Learning and Teaching Practices in Higher Education. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 49(2), 173–182. Wheelahan, L. (2007). How competency‐based training locks the working class out of powerful knowledge: a modified Bernsteinian analysis. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 28(5), 637–651. Wheelahan, L. (2012). The appropriation of constructivism by instrumentalism: The case of competency-based training. In Why Knowledge Matters in Curriculum: A Social Realist Argument. New Studies in Critical Realism and Education (pp. 126–144). New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. Wheelahan, L. (2015). Not just skills: what a focus on knowledge means for vocational education. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 47(6), 750–762.

Editor's Notes

  1. Skill becomes a commodity on the job market. So what we’re teaching students is, effect, and in the words of Lloyd Dobler, The problem with this model– education for sale. Students and their skills are simply commodities in a capitalist market.
  2. talk about -provost challenge -- $20,000 for project. Goal: Improve critical thinking curriculum by assignment and syllabus redesign and certify IL skills with badges. Badges were the fundable part. - 3 classes with badges
  3. ASPPH, competency-based, accrediting and credentialing agencies PSU being told that grads need more competencies by employers around the city The kind of education provided at PSU and the kind of students at PSU in general
  4. Confidence is interesting, since we know that confidence ratings are skewed, and frequently the more you know the less confidence.
  5. Data from no-badges This was corroborated by the class with badges as well
  6. Data from no badges Corroborated with badges as well.
  7. The with badges post survey is filtered to just Jost’s class. There was little difference with online class and in-person because we had embedded feedback and interactions with students via D2L. This points either the a difference in in-person education, or perhaps to badges conversations that we had with students. We lean toward the difference between online and in-person Confidence in info lit skills is much higher in the in-person class. Could be result of badges or librarian in-person visits. (3x during the term). A good example of the improvement is in the choosing which database to search. 3.88 in the online class and 4.6 in the in-person class. Also to note that the data from the in-person class had a lower standard deviation (though both were decent) and so there is more agreement among students on this aspect. This particular point might be a good example and comparison of in-person vs. online instruction.
  8. Limited to Jost’s class
  9. Online vs. in person meant content delivery format was different, though we tried to have just as much The kind of learner who will self-select after a class to take a survey Confidence measures can be erroneous We’d like to survey these students not at the end of the term of the class, but a few terms later (e.g. database use)
  10. Wheelahan article. Keeping students in a box by re-enforcing learning outcomes. It’s hard to tell whether the difference in thinking outcomes are important is due to the in-person nature of the class, or the fact that badges reinforced some of those things. It’s hard to balance the two, the need to address the competency-based nature of PH curriculum and profession, with allowing for students to “These deficit approaches are reflected in discourses about social inclu-sion. If students are failing, then the policy response is to find a form of education that will include them, keep them at school and offer them a credential even if that credential does not necessarily have value in the labour market. Current social inclusion discourses dominant in policy emphazise the deficits of those who are excluded, rather than the social conditions that give rise to inequality (Reay, 2012; Wheelahan, 2009).” “Arguably, social inclusion approaches that are concerned with access, without questioning the nature of access and the type of knowledge that students have access to, help to perpetuate existing social inequalities.” “In contrast, CBT leads to behaviourist models of curriculum where the processes of learning are presumed to be identical with the outcomes of learning, where outcomes can be described in advance as observable behaviours that are aligned to a particular task, role or requirement. It ties knowledge to the present by reducing it to contextually specific applica- tions tied to current workplace tasks, requirements or roles and it empha- sizes procedural knowledge.” Wheelahan, L. (2015). Not just skills: what a focus on knowledge means for vocational education. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 47(6), 750–762. doi:10.1080/00220272.2015.1089942
  11. I’d rather keep the curriculum and ditch the badges, but I’d also rather teach it in person. I want to be able to teach students what they need to be successful critical thinkers, rather than to match some competency on a test or for accrediting agencies. How do we intersect with accrediting agencies and credentialing and info lit? Critical thinking. A stretch for them.