I am so excited for the Association of Christian Librarians Conference coming up in less than five weeks! As I have mentioned before I will be presenting with a number of other team members on improving information literacy education by seeking out personal/ relational connections with students. I’ll have more to post on that topic in the future, but today I have been working on my poster presentation entitled “Teaching the Emotional Side of Research.”
I just submitted my two sentence summary for the conference notebook:
“This poster presentation seeks an understanding of information behavior studies, primarily Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process, and hopes to make them applicable to everyday information literacy instruction. By using a holistic approach to instruction, the presentation hopes to provide tools that compliment the proposed ACRL Threshold standards.”
Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process (ISP) is a model that she originally presented back in 1991, you can read the article here. She was interested in how students experienced the research process emotionally. She proposes a 6 stage research process, with each stage possessing it’s own set of emotions and appropriate research tasks. (Kuhlthau’s stage names are given in parenthesis) The process starts out with a level of uncertainty (Initiation) as you first begin the research project; you then move into optimism (Selection) as you have selected a topic to explore. Your emotions take a dive once you begin to explore the topic and find yourself confused and frustrated (Exploration). However, from this onslaught of information you are able to formulate (Formulation) a direction and begin to collect (Collection) more selectively; this process helps abate your research anxiety. When you finally turn in your completed project (Presentation) you either feel relief or disappointment, depending on how pleased you are with your final result.
I’m currently trying to work out how to help students enter fully into the research process. IL so often focuses on simply getting information effectively and efficiently that it misses out on teaching the bigger picture of research. This leaves students with a task completion orientation to research, instead of encouraging them to truly wrestle with information and create new knowledge. In particular I am trying to explore the potential of teaching the ISP model in order to help students see the non-linear, constantly fluctuating nature of the research process. While reviewing the relevant literature I ran into a fantastic article that rings even truer today, a decade after it was published. Unfortunately it’s not open source, so you will need to go through your library to get a copy. (This link will give you all the citation information.)
The article by Jeff Purdue is titled, “Stories, Not Information: Transforming Information Literacy.”
Purdue starts out by reviewing the ACRL information literacy standards and then confesses that he often does not line up with these standards. He will chase research rabbit trails, go back at the end of the research process to fill holes in his information, and scrambles to try and keep up with the ever changing requirements of ethical information use. However, he, and most of us, would consider himself a very information literate individual. The problem is that the ultimate goal we aim for when we discuss information literacy does not match up with the literal definition of the phrase. We aren’t aiming for literacy, the bare bones minimum needed to function, instead we are aiming for a much higher level of reasoning and involvement. Furthermore, information acquisition is not the final goal, but instead it is the creation of knowledge. Purdue utilizes the metaphor of a story. Information has a short shelf life; it can be immediately verified and once it is known it no longer has value. A story on the other hand can be continually transformative because it cannot be verified in a moment, but instead must be actively engaged by the hearer/reader. Purdue argues for a story approach; one that recognizes the often messy, passionate, and beautiful process of research. The goal is not teaching a standard set of skills, but instead giving students the tools necessary to engage and critically analyze information. We hope that they will see information contextually and incorporate it into their own knowledge base, creating an academic story that they can continually build from and re-imagine.
The article is fantastic and really worth a read. I think it resonates very well with Kuhlthau and the proposed ACRL threshold standards. They all are trying to figure out how we bring students into this giant tangled web we call the academic community. They are asking, “How do we create scholars, instead of simply human filing cabinets and summarizing machines?” I think the process begins with not over-simplifying the research process. An Ebsco, “Full Text”, “Peer-reviewed” search cannot give you all the answers. Over the next few weeks I will be creating videos, infographics, and a lib-guide that I hope will all help introduce these ideas to students. I will link to all of that content from the blog, so make sure to follow it. Also if you have any ideas or suggestions for how to make this content as helpful as possible to the library community please comment below!