Friday, May 1, 2015

Sabbatical thoughts / Threshold Concepts

Ray Land stated that liminality is part of threshold concepts, and Barbara Fister wrote that the learner on the threshold becomes "practiced at navigating uncertainty" (6) and learns "how to join an unfamiliar community and become a member of it" (6). However, "A learner may also grasp the material to be learned but choose to take a critical stance rather than become a convert to a particular way of knowing. The ability to manage transitional states might be, then, a transferrable learning experience, one that involves increasing self-knowledge and confidence" (6).

As I learned at QUT in Brisbane, Australia, and as I wrote about in my experiences in the Seventh-day Adventist church, a sabbatical is also liminal. I will have to join the Spanish higher education librarian community even though I will not become a member; I will need a theoretical stance to help me keep my balance (as the Quakers grounded me). I want to examine UD's infolit theory as practiced, within the larger Spanish context, compared & contrasted to the U.S. theories & practices, and see if there is anything I can bring back to GVSU, and if there is anything I can give back to UD's librarians.

Fister summarizes the new ACRL Framework's definition ("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.") as "understanding the systems of communication within which people participate in making meaning" (7). Isn't this also a definition of communication itself?

When Fister states that IL "has to be learned in multiple contexts, because information always comes in contexts that matter. It has to be learned over several years, because it’s complicated and needs lots of practice. It’s experiential learning that involves skills, dispositions, emotions, and varying degrees of intrinsic motivation. You learn how information works by encountering, using, and creating it. Having good guides helps, but this kind of learning only happens in the doing of it" (7), it reminds me of Christine Bruce's discoveries.

A university library is a learning commons: "We design our libraries to be inviting places where our students can feel a sense of belonging, right in the middle of innumerable ongoing conversations, conversations that they have the right to join. The library as a social institution is a safe liminal place, a site that appears orderly but where ideas come into conflict, where there are lots of answers, none of them definitive, a place a colleague of mine once called “the palace of ambiguity.” Our libraries embody that liminal state of questioning and probing" (7-8).

Fister states that librarians must minimize "our emphasis on how to search (something they [students] don’t find all that challenging, anyway, even if they don’t do it the way we would) and spending more time helping them think about what they are looking for and how to rethink a search based on what they’ve uncovered" (9). And, "It seems to me important to describe research as a process of learning about an issue, weighing people’s insights, and applying your own critical and moral choices as you make up your mind. I want students to be prepared to rethink their assumptions if what they learn leads them to change their minds. I also want them to realize that addressing challenges to their ideas can strengthen them" (9).

"Beyond that, where I think we need to refocus many of our efforts is in providing faculty a place to discuss their pedagogy, to share ideas, to learn from one another. It’s not enough to get a bit of class time carved out for us. We end up working with students at a point here and a point there during a messy, complex learning process during which their relationship to information changes profoundly. Instead, we can use our time and skills to help the faculty help one another to figure out how this kind of learning will take place across campus for all students, wherever it can be practiced in their courses, in their majors, or in general education. As we learned with our threshold concepts project, faculty love having opportunities for conversation, particularly with colleagues from other departments. Any chance we have to give faculty opportunities to share their teaching ideas will pay off – potentially far more than those chunks of time we coax out of them for us to meet with their students" (9).

As with Danielle & Victoria....

Fister, Barbara. The Liminal Library: Making Our Libraries Sites of Transformative Learning. LILAC 2015. Retrieved:1 May 2015, from

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