This Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (Framework) grows out of a belief that information literacy as an educational reform movement will realize its potential only through a richer, more complex set of core ideas. During the fifteen years since the publication of the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education,1 academic librarians and their partners in higher education associations have developed learning outcomes, tools, and resources that some institutions have deployed to infuse information literacy concepts and skills into their curricula. However, the rapidly changing higher education environment, along with the dynamic and often uncertain information ecosystem in which all of us work and live, require new attention to be focused on foundational ideas about that ecosystem. Students have a greater role and responsibility in creating new knowledge, in understanding the contours and the changing dynamics of the world of information, and in using information, data, and scholarship ethically. Teaching faculty have a greater responsibility in designing curricula and assignments that foster enhanced engagement with the core ideas about information and scholarship within their disciplines. Librarians have a greater responsibility in identifying core ideas within their own knowledge domain that can extend learning for students, in creating a new cohesive curriculum for information literacy, and in collaborating more extensively with faculty.
The Framework offered here is called a framework intentionally because it is based on 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. At the heart of this Framework are conceptual understandings that organize many other concepts and ideas about information, research, and scholarship into a coherent whole. These conceptual understandings are informed by the work of Wiggins and McTighe,2 which focuses on essential concepts and questions in developing curricula, and also by threshold concepts3 which are those ideas in any discipline that are passageways or portals to enlarged understanding or ways of thinking and practicing within that discipline. This Framework draws upon an ongoing Delphi Study that has identified several threshold concepts in information literacy,4 but the Framework has been molded using fresh ideas and emphases for the threshold concepts. Two added elements illustrate important learning goals related to those concepts: knowledge practices,5 which are demonstrations of ways in which learners can increase their understanding of these information literacy concepts, and dispositions,6 which describe ways in which to address the affective, attitudinal, or valuing dimension of learning. The Framework is organized into six frames, each consisting of a concept central to information literacy, a set of knowledge practices, and a set of dispositions. The six concepts that anchor the frames are presented alphabetically:
Neither the knowledge practices nor the dispositions that support each concept are intended to prescribe what local institutions should do in using the Framework; each library and its partners on campus will need to deploy these frames to best fit their own situation, including designing learning outcomes. For the same reason, these lists should not be considered exhaustive.
In addition, this Framework draws significantly upon the concept of metaliteracy,7 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.8 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,9 or critical self-reflection, as crucial to becoming more self-directed in that rapidly changing ecosystem.
Because this Framework envisions information literacy as extending the arc of learning throughout students’ academic careers and as converging with other academic and social learning goals, an expanded definition of information literacy is offered here to emphasize dynamism, flexibility, individual growth, and community learning:
Information literacy is the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning.
The Framework opens the way for librarians, faculty, and other institutional partners to redesign instruction sessions, assignments, courses, and even curricula; to connect information literacy with student success initiatives; to collaborate on pedagogical research and involve students themselves in that research; and to create wider conversations about student learning, the scholarship of teaching and learning, and the assessment of learning on local campuses and beyond.
1. Association of College & Research Libraries, Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education (Chicago, 2000).
2. Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. Understanding by Design. (Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2004).
3. Threshold concepts are core or foundational concepts that, once grasped by the learner, create new perspectives and ways of understanding a discipline or challenging knowledge domain. Such concepts produce transformation within the learner; without them, the learner does not acquire expertise in that field of knowledge. Threshold concepts can be thought of as portals through which the learner must pass in order to develop new perspectives and wider understanding. Jan H. F. Meyer, Ray Land, and Caroline Baillie. “Editors’ Preface.” In Threshold Concepts and Transformational Learning, edited by Jan H. F. Meyer, Ray Land, and Caroline Baillie, ix–xlii. (Rotterdam, Netherlands: Sense Publishers, 2010).
4. For information on this unpublished, in-progress Delphi Study on threshold concepts and information literacy, conducted by Lori Townsend, Amy Hofer, Silvia Lu, and Korey Brunetti, see http://www.ilthresholdconcepts.com/. Lori Townsend, Korey Brunetti, and Amy R. Hofer. “Threshold Concepts and Information Literacy.” portal: Libraries and the Academy 11, no. 3 (2011): 853–69.
5. Knowledge practices are the proficiencies or abilities that learners develop as a result of their comprehending a threshold concept.
6. Generally, a disposition is a tendency to act or think in a particular way. More specifically, a disposition is a cluster of preferences, attitudes, and intentions, as well as a set of capabilities that allow the preferences to become realized in a particular way. Gavriel Salomon. “To Be or Not to Be (Mindful).” Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association Meetings, New Orleans, LA, 1994.
7. Metaliteracy expands the scope of traditional information skills (determine, access, locate, understand, produce, and use information) to include the collaborative production and sharing of information in participatory digital environments (collaborate, produce, and share). This approach requires an ongoing adaptation to emerging technologies and an understanding of the critical thinking and reflection required to engage in these spaces as producers, collaborators, and distributors. Thomas P. Mackey and Trudi E. Jacobson. Metaliteracy: Reinventing Information Literacy to Empower Learners. (Chicago: Neal-Schuman, 2014).
8. Thomas P. Mackey and Trudi E. Jacobson. “Reframing Information Literacy as a Metaliteracy.” College and Research Libraries 72, no. 1 (2011): 62–78.
9. Metacognition is an awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes. It focuses on how people learn and process information, taking into consideration people’s awareness of how they learn. (Jennifer A. Livingston. “Metacognition: An Overview.” Online paper, State University of New York at Buffalo, Graduate School of Education, 1997. http://gse.buffalo.edu/fas/shuell/cep564/metacog.htm.)