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Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education

This is the libguide version of the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education as laid out by the Association of College and Research Libraries.

Suggestions on How to Use the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education

The Framework is a mechanism for guiding the development of information literacy programs within higher education institutions while also promoting discussion about the nature of key concepts in information in general education and disciplinary studies. The Framework encourages thinking about how librarians, faculty, and others can address core or portal concepts and associated elements in the information field within the context of higher education. The Framework will help librarians contextualize and integrate information literacy for their institutions and will encourage a deeper understanding of what knowledge practices and dispositions an information literate student should develop. The Framework redefines the boundaries of what librarians teach and how they conceptualize the study of information within the curricula of higher education institutions.

The Framework has been conceived as a set of living documents on which the profession will build. The key product is a set of frames, or lenses, through which to view information literacy, each of which includes a concept central to information literacy, knowledge practices, and dispositions. The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) encourages the library community to discuss the new Framework widely and to develop resources such as curriculum guides, concept maps, and assessment instruments to supplement the core set of materials in the frames.

As a first step, ACRL encourages librarians to read through the entire Framework and discuss the implications of this new approach for the information literacy program at their institution. Possibilities include convening a discussion among librarians at an institution or joining an online discussion of librarians. In addition, as one becomes familiar with the frames, consider discussing them with professionals in the institution’s center for teaching and learning, office of undergraduate education, or similar departments to see whether some synergies exist between this approach and other institutional curricular initiatives.

The frames can guide the redesign of information literacy programs for general education courses, for upper level courses in students’ major departments, and for graduate student education. The frames are intended to demonstrate the contrast in thinking between novice learner and expert in a specific area; movement may take place over the course of a student’s academic career. Mapping out in what way specific concepts will be integrated into specific curriculum levels is one of the challenges of implementing the Framework. ACRL encourages librarians to work with faculty, departmental or college curriculum committees, instructional designers, staff from centers for teaching and learning, and others to design information literacy programs in a holistic way.

ACRL realizes that many information literacy librarians currently meet with students via one-shot classes, especially in introductory level classes. Over the course of a student’s academic program, one-shot sessions that address a particular need at a particular time, systematically integrated into the curriculum, can play a significant role in an information literacy program. It is important for librarians and teaching faculty to understand that the Framework is not designed to be implemented in a single information literacy session in a student’s academic career; it is intended to be developmentally and systematically integrated into the student’s academic program at variety of levels. This may take considerable time to implement fully in many institutions. 

ACRL encourages information literacy librarians to be imaginative and innovative in implementing the Framework in their institution. The Framework is not intended to be prescriptive but to be used as a guidance document in shaping an institutional program. ACRL recommends piloting the implementation of the Framework in a context that is useful to a specific institution, assessing the results and sharing experiences with colleagues.

How to Use This Framework

  • Read and reflect on the entire Framework document.
  • Convene or join a group of librarians to discuss the implications of this approach to information literacy for your institution.
  • Reach out to potential partners in your institution, such as departmental curriculum committees, centers for teaching and learning, or offices of undergraduate or graduate studies, to discuss how to implement the Framework in your institutional context.
  • Using the Framework, pilot the development of information literacy sessions within a particular academic program in your institution, and assess and share the results with your colleagues.
  • Share instructional materials with other information literacy librarians in the online repository developed by ACRL

Considering Information Literacy

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.

This Framework sets forth these information literacy concepts and describes how librarians as information professionals can facilitate the development of information literacy by postsecondary students.

Creating a Framework

ACRL has played a leading role in promoting information literacy in higher education for decades. The Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education (Standards), first published in 2000, enabled colleges and universities to position information literacy as an essential learning outcome in the curriculum and promoted linkages with general education programs, service learning, problembased learning, and other pedagogies focused on deeper learning. Regional accrediting bodies, the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), and various discipline-specific organizations employed and adapted the Standards. It is time for a fresh look at information literacy, especially in light of changes in higher education, coupled with increasingly complex information ecosystems. To that end, an ACRL Task Force developed the Framework. The Framework seeks to address the great potential for information literacy as a deeper, more integrated learning agenda, addressing academic and technical courses, undergraduate research, community-based learning, and co-curricular learning experiences of entering freshman through graduation. The Framework focuses attention on the vital role of collaboration and its potential for increasing student understanding of the processes of knowledge creation and scholarship. The Framework also emphasizes student participation and creativity, highlighting the importance of these contributions. The Framework is developed around a set of “frames,” which are those critical gateway or portal concepts through which students must pass to develop genuine expertise within a discipline, profession, or knowledge domain. Each frame includes a knowledge practices section used to demonstrate how the mastery of the concept leads to application in new situations and knowledge generation. Each frame also includes a set of dispositions that address the affective areas of learning.

For Faculty:  How to Use the Framework

A vital benefit in using threshold concepts as one of the underpinnings for the Framework is the potential for collaboration among disciplinary faculty, librarians, teaching and learning center staff, and others. Creating a community of conversations about this enlarged understanding should engender more collaboration, more innovative course designs, and a more inclusive consideration of learning within and beyond the classroom. Threshold concepts originated as faculty pedagogical research within disciplines. Because information literacy is both a disciplinary and a transdisciplinary learning agenda, using a conceptual framework for information literacy program planning, librarian-faculty collaboration, and student co-curricular projects can offer great potential for curricular enrichment and transformation. As a faculty member, you can take the following approaches:

  • Investigate threshold concepts in your discipline and gain an understanding of the approach used in the Framework as it applies to the discipline you know.

    — What are the specialized information skills in your discipline that students should develop, such as using primary sources (history) or accessing and managing large data sets (science)?
  • Look for workshops at your campus teaching and learning center on the flipped classroom and consider how such practices could be incorporated into your courses.

    — What information and research assignments can students do outside of class to arrive prepared to apply concepts and conduct collaborative projects?
  • Partner with your IT department and librarians to develop new kinds of multimedia assignments for courses.

    — What kinds of workshops and other services should be available for students involved in multimedia design and production?
  • Help students view themselves as information producers, individually and collaboratively.

    — In your program, how do students interact with, evaluate, produce, and share information in various formats and modes?
  • Consider the knowledge practices and dispositions in each information literacy frame for possible integration into your own courses and academic program.

    — How might you and a librarian design learning experiences and assignments that will encourage students to assess their own attitudes, strengths/weaknesses, and knowledge gaps related to information?

For Administrators:  How to Support the Framework

Through reading the Framework document and discussing it with your institutions’ librarians, you can begin to focus on the best mechanisms to implement the Framework in your institution. As an administrator, you can take the following approaches:

  • Host or encourage a series of campus conversations about how the institution can incorporate the Framework into student learning outcomes and supporting curriculum
  • Provide the resources to enhance faculty expertise and opportunities for understanding and incorporating the Framework into the curriculum
  • Encourage committees working on planning documents related to teaching and learning (at the department, program, and institutional levels) to include concepts from the Framework in their work
  • Provide resources to support a meaningful assessment of information literacy of students at various levels at your institution
  • Promote partnerships between faculty, librarians, instructional designers, and others to develop meaningful ways for students to become content creators, especially in their disciplines