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Teaching Information Literacy: Scholarly Discourse

A guide to assist instructors in incorporating information literacy concepts and assignments into their teaching

Scholarship as Conversation

"Communities of scholars, researchers, or professionals engage in sustained discourse with new insights and discoveries occurring over time as a result of varied perspectives and interpretations." (From: ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education)

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Learner Goals

  • recognize they are often entering into an ongoing scholarly conversation and not a finished conversation;
  • seek out conversations taking place in their research area;
  • see themselves as contributors to scholarship rather than only consumers of it;
  • recognize that scholarly conversations take place in various venues;
  • suspend judgment on the value of a particular piece of scholarship until the larger context for the scholarly conversation is better understood;
  • understand the responsibility that comes with entering the conversation through participatory channels;
  • value user-generated content and evaluate contributions made by others;
  • recognize that systems privilege authorities and that not having a fluency in the language and process of a discipline disempowers their ability to participate and engage.

(From: ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education)

Learner Practices

  • cite the contributing work of others in their own information production;
  • contribute to scholarly conversation at an appropriate level, such as local online community, guided discussion, undergraduate research journal, conference presentation/poster session;
  • identify barriers to entering scholarly conversation via various venues;
  • critically evaluate contributions made by others in participatory information environments;
  • identify the contribution that particular articles, books, and other scholarly pieces make to disciplinary knowledge;
  • summarize the changes in scholarly perspective over time on a particular topic within a specific discipline;
  • recognize that a given scholarly work may not represent the only or even the majority perspective on the issue.

(From: ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education)

Example Lessons, Assignments, and Activities

Jenny Innes' lesson serves as an overview of the frame of “Scholarship as Conversation” and why it is relevant to the students and their academic work. Focus on regarding scholarship as not a static “truth” frozen in time, but a process whereby researchers are in a continuum of inquiry and within which variation in research results comprises a “scholarly conversation.”

This lesson plan from Teaching Information Literacy Threshold Concepts, edited by Patricia Bravender, Hazel McClure, and Gayle Schaub and contributed by Andrea Baer, introduces students to the idea that scholarship is a conversation.

For this activity, developed by Ryer Banta, students are asked to imagine that they are organizing a party, specifically a scholarly party. Groups are given a starting article that they evaluate and use as a jumping off point for choosing a theme for their party and finding more sources. Their theme acts as an early version of a research question. Following citations backwards and forwards groups invite other scholars who would have relevant things to say about their theme. Students also assess gaps in their invite list and identify other scholars from different perspectives or discipline who should also be invited.

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