This morning I got an email from a librarian wondering what kinds of concepts I teach, particularly in 300-level courses, beyond how to search. As it turns out, that’s something I think about a lot! Here is what I wrote:
Well, I’m not sure I have much to add that isn’t on my blog already, so I’ll include a bunch of links here, but contextualize them a bit. And probably the closest I can come to telling you about 300-level courses is a four-part post on highest level course I teach before their thesis. Another class that I’ve written up is Critical Methods. These are both for the English department, but I’ve done very similar things for American Studies and languages. The concepts are pretty flexible, and I’m coming to think of them as some of the core info lit concepts for most non-laboratory research. They probably aren’t the ONLY concepts, but they may give you some ideas. Essentially, I have come to think of Information Literacy as being highly related to rhetoric, where the point is to participate as an expert insider within a discourse community, using evidence that makes sense within that community in ways that resonate with the community in order to add to the community’s understanding in some way.
Also, a concept that I flesh out and emphasize differently depending on the level (but which I teach more and more often due to the feedback I get and the research we’ve done) is a circular research process that appears in the middle of this post.
With upper level courses I emphasize that there is a ton of actual reading involved because they’re developing a sense of the scholarly conversation, mapping in out (here’s where mindmapping can come in), feeling out its boundaries, and learning its vocabulary. Sometimes we practice what I call Instrumental Reading and what Booth breaks down into three types of reading (in his Craft of Research, pages 91-96 of the 2003 edition).
And finally, I should say that I teach an awful lot about searching, but I frame it as if I’m not teaching searching, but teaching something more conceptual. Boolean and limiters and all those things come up with the examples we do together in class or examples I’m showing when I’m actually teaching them something else, and I’ll digress briefly to make sure everyone understands why I just wrote OR there before moving on. I say this just because when I first started moving away from “how to” teaching I felt guilty whenever I ended up showing those things, but now I think it’s the best way. The “how to” serves the higher order concepts, and they need both.
So that’s where I am right now in my teaching. I didn’t arrive here all at once, and I hope I’ll keep evolving and learning how to teach because there are a whole lot of rough edges yet. But for me it has been liberating and satisfying to think more and more about information literacy’s relationship to rhetoric and about the deep concepts that interest ME about information literacy. If I’m interested in what I’m teaching, I have a much better chance of interesting my students, and a FAR better chance of feeling fulfilled in my work.~Iris
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