Monday, June 25, 2012

Moron Information Literacy

So, you may remember this post from last week. Boy, I sure do. Just one of the many examples where doing the pre-reading helped me avoid making a complete ass of myself.

But a thought struck me this morning -- why not do what Barr and Tagg pseudo-recommend in "From Teaching to Learning" -- that is, offer an interdisciplinary course on information literacy in which students get minimal lecture but lots of time to practice what ails them?

Let me go back to what they say, then see if my idea passes muster or just squirts more mustard into the diaper of my ignorance.

They say:

We now see that our mission is not instruction but rather that of producing learning with every student by whatever means works best.

And this:

For example, if students are not learning to solve problems or think critically, the old logic says we must teach a class in thinking -- and make it a general education requirement. Thie logic is all to circular: What students are learning in the classroom doesn'ta ddrss their needs or ours; therefore, we must bring them back into another clasroom and instruct them some more. The result is never what we hope for because, as Richard Paul, director of the Center for Critical Thinking observes glumly, "critical thinking is taught in the same way that other courses have traditionally been taught, with an excess of lecture and insufficient time for practice.

And this:

Students, the co-producers of learning, can and must, of course, take responsibility for their own learning. Hence, responsibility is a win-win game wherein two agents take responsibility for the same outcome even through neither is in complete control of all the variables. When two agents take such responsibility, the resulting synergy produces powerful results.

And this:

In the Learning Paradigm, on the other hand, a college's purpose is not to transfer knowledge but to create environments and experiences that bring students to discover and construct knowledge for themselves, to make students member of communities of learners that make discoveries and solve problems.

So far, so good. But, before I introduce my idea, I'll give a little more background.

The classes I enjoyed the most from my masters work at Utah State were those taught by David Hailey and Ron Shook, who took on two different perspectives.

Hailey's classes were open-ended. We did not have a text but rather were reading a text he was in the process of writing. We didn't have a set syllabus but instead took voyages through knowledge meant to help us first see the problems with, say, writing for the web, the divine ways to fix the problems. His classes were frustrating in that we didn't know from week to week what we were going to do. But they were fun for the same reason.

Shook's classes were more structured, but he prefaced every class with the following, liberating sentence: If you've got a project or paper you're working on for your full-time job that you think will work as an assignment in this class, let me know. Hailey also used this approach -- and I found as a student that taking this approahc allowed me to work on something I knew I had to work on "for real," rather than just inside the classroom -- so what I was learning in the classroom had immediate real-world application.

So I got to wondering this morning as I sat on the bus, unable to sleep. And I pounded the following out on my Kindle:

Cross-curriculum information literacy

Concern by Barr et al that glasses on informational literacy aren't across the curriculum and that students aren't able to apply what they learn in an information literacy course to other subjects. So we bring other subjects into the curriculum. We look at projects they may fe working on in, say, other English ir communication or nursing of automotive or botany or whatever and we let them use assignments they're working on in other clases in this information literacy course. Tjod leaves the curriculum for the info lit course wide open.


Students have to submit a significant assignment from other course to he taken seriously. Will want it to be assignment due in other course far later in semester so they ave time yo work on it in both courses.

would have to work with profs on other course to fill in teacher's info gap

Call it an experiment in cross-curricular information literacy

Yes, typos included. I was more tired than I think. But too tired to see where Barr and Tagg might be okay with this? Let me check.

Learning by whatever means work best? Maybe. This might be the means to help some students, but not all students.

Excess of lecture with little time for practice? Maybe not. Keep the lecture light and encourage them, week to week, to check in with questions, bounce ideas off instructor and peers, who might suggest through converastion rather than lecture ways to improve upon the writing and research and such.

Responsibility with neither fully in control of variables? Yes. Responsibility on students to find appropriate assignments. Responsibility on instructor to expand horizons and guide and communicate outside of one field of expertise. Lots of variables with no one person in complete control.

Community where students become learners and problem-solvers? I'd like to think so.

More from Barr and Tagg:

[Fixing the learning] reward skilled and advanced students with speedy progress while enabling less-prepared students the time they needed to actually master the material. By "testing out," students could also avoid wasting their time being "taught" what they already know. Students would be given credit for degree-relevant knowledge and skills regardless of how or where or when they learned them.

Maybe portions of this course -- but certainly BYU-Idaho should consider letting some students "test out" of FDENG 101 and ENG 201 so they're not bored in the classes and weary of jumping through the hoops.

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