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Information Literacy, Threshold Concepts and Disciplinarity


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Presented by Sheila Webber and Bill Johnston at the European Conference on Information Literacy, held in Prague, 11 October 2016

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Information Literacy, Threshold Concepts and Disciplinarity

  1. 1. Information Literacy, Threshold Concepts, and Disciplinarity Sheila Webber, Information School, University of Sheffield Bill Johnston, University of Strathclyde ECIL, Prague, October 2016
  2. 2. Threshold Concepts • Transformative concepts within disciplines • Identified by experienced teachers in their discipline • Enable learners to conceive the subject in a new way & experience possibilities for deeper disciplinary thinking and practice • Mayer & Land (2005: 386) identify ways for educators to use TCs to facilitate “epistemological transitions, and ontological transformations” • They note danger of structuring teaching mechanistically, which might encourage mimicry rather than understanding Sheila Webber & Bill Johnston, 2016
  3. 3. Threshold Concepts Thinking & Practising in the disciplines Variation Theory Phenomenographic Research Part of wider landscape of pedagogical research on disciplines’ teaching and learning Approaches to Learning Entwistle & Tomlinson (2007)Marton, Hounsell and Entwistle (1984) Meyer & Land (2003) Teaching- Learning Environment Akerlind, McKenzie, Lupton, and Trigwell (2010) Constructive alignment Biggs & Tang (4th ed.) (2011) Sheila Webber & Bill Johnston, 2016 Key strands
  4. 4. Weaving the strands of pedagogical research • “threshold concepts are used to determine areas of the curriculum that require focused design attention; • “phenomenographic action research is used to identify what it is about these concepts that students find difficult to understand and • “variation theory is used to guide the design of teaching and learning activities to address these difficulties.” (Akerlind, McKenzie & Lupton 2014: 228)
  5. 5. TCs disconnected: consequences & anomalies of separation Sheila Webber & Bill Johnston, 2016
  6. 6. • Sidestepping the question of disciplinarity: focus on librarians teaching IL to learners of other disciplines • No study of TCs in IL for people studying IL as a discipline in its own right • TCs fixed within the ACRL Framework project, not acknowledging that IL is experienced differently in different disciplines (though note that librarians are exhorted to develop framework in own context) • ACRL Framework has been criticised, but often seen as issue with TCs, rather than issue of not approaching TCs in way originally intended Some anomalies Sheila Webber & Bill Johnston, 2016
  7. 7. Consequences of transplantation • Issues arising from appropriating TCs to a situation constrained by the barriers which librarians face in developing IL education • Evidence that there is pressure to incorporate TCs in reductive ways (e.g, Oakleaf, 2014) • This can negate transformative possibilities and lead to mimicry and surface learning Sheila Webber & Bill Johnston, 2016
  8. 8. Reconnecting with the pedagogical research for the IL discipline Sheila Webber & Bill Johnston, 2016
  9. 9. Applied pedagogical research: the case of IL • Teaching IL to those learning IL as a discipline – currently, mainly trainee librarians • Akerlind et al. 3-strand approach plausible and productive • Constraints – Problem of discipline-denial within the LIS community – Epistemology of the discipline vs. body of knowledge of the profession Sheila Webber & Bill Johnston, 2016
  10. 10. TCs in the discipline of IL • ACRL provides an experiment in the application of TC theory to IL • Also need to reflect on context from which pedagogic theories arise & and the context in which you are going to use them • Given that librarians are central to teaching IL, it is important that trainee librarians engage with the complexity of the discipline of IL • You discover the TCs by asking those who are teaching IL to people who are studying IL • This has yet to be done: need investigation of IL as a discipline, to inform the next generation of librarians and educators Sheila Webber & Bill Johnston, 2016
  11. 11. Sheila Webber Information School University of Sheffield Twitter & SL: Sheila Yoshikawa Orcid ID 0000-0002-2280-9519 Pictures by Sheila Webber taken in Second Life (a trademark of Linden Lab) Bill Johnston Honorary Research Fellow University of Strathclyde
  12. 12. • Åkerlind , G., McKenzie , J. and Lupton, M. (2014). The potential of combining phenomenography, variation theory and threshold concepts to inform curriculum design in higher education. In J. Huisman and M. Tight (eds.) Theory and method in Higher Education research II . (pp.227-247) Bingley, England: Emerald Group Publishing Limited. • Åkerlind, G., McKenzie, J., Lupton, M., Trigwell, K. (2010) Threshold Concepts and Variation Theory. • Biggs, J. and Tang, C. (2011). Teaching for quality learning at university. 4th ed. Milton Keynes, England: Open University Press. • Entwistle, N. and Tomlinson, P. (Eds.) (2007). Student learning and university teaching. (pp. 73- 90). Leicester, England: British Psychological Society. • Marton, F., Hounsell, D. and Entwistle, N. (Eds.) (1984) The experience of learning. Edinburgh, Scotland: Scottish Academic Press. • Meyer, J. and Land, R. (2005). Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge (2): epistemological considerations and a conceptual framework for teaching and learning. Higher Education, 49, 373–388 • Meyer, J. and Land, R. (2003). Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge: linkages to ways of thinking and practicing within the disciplines. • Oakleaf, M. (2014). A roadmap for assessing student learning using the new framework for information literacy for higher education. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 40(5), 510-514. Sheila Webber & Bill Johnston, 2016