Thoughts on “Creating Learning Outcomes from Threshold Concepts”

As I’m working on some new and exciting research projects, I’ve found myself going back to a few of my earlier works and reflecting on how my thinking has changed in the time since I wrote them. I thought I would share some of this here partly because I still get asked about some of these articles from time to time and partly because I think it’s valuable to show how things can change as you grow as a scholar.

So today I’m taking a look at an article I wrote called “Creating Learning Outcomes from Threshold Concepts for Information Literacy Instruction,” which was published in College & Undergraduate Libraries in 2017.(1)

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Dear students: Citing your sources incorrectly is not plagiarism

There’s a unit in the course I teach where I present students with a set of what I call(1) “information creation scenarios.” These are hypothetical situations, many adapted from real life incidents that have made the news, in which I ask the student to imagine themselves in the shoes of an information creator for whom something has gone terribly wrong: a social media post that’s gone viral in a bad way/for bad reasons, an original piece of art that they created and shared online that’s become associated with a hate group, etc. For each scenario, they have to explain what they could have done differently to prevent the situation from happening in the first place and what strategies they would use to try to fix the situation after it happened. It can be a fun challenge.

One of the scenarios I give my students relates to plagiarism. It goes like this:

Imagine that you write a research essay for a course in your major in which you are expected to cite a certain number of sources. Though the required citation style is one you are familiar with, you are still learning about the proper format and placement of citations in a research essay. Knowing this, you do your best to follow the rules for citing your sources. You refer to trustworthy websites like Purdue OWL(2) for help and also visit the Writing Center and the library for advice and helpful resources. You use all of this information to create your reference list and you are careful to include all of the sources from which you pulled information. You hand in your paper confident that you have done your best to properly cite your research.

 A few weeks later, your professor hands back your essay and you are devastated to learn you failed the assignment due to plagiarism. Your professor highlights several passages in your paper with quotation marks but no in-text citations to indicate where the quoted information came from. There is another passage with no quotation marks and no citation which the professor feels is too close to the wording from one of your sources to be considered your own original work. This is why you failed the assignment on the basis of plagiarism.

In my experience teaching students about plagiarism, what this scenario describes is, for them, a huge fear. Nobody cares about intentional plagiarism because intentional plagiarism is, by definition, committed only by those who know that they are cheating and are presumably prepared to face the consequences if they’re caught. Getting a failing grade due to unintentional plagiarism even when you’ve tried your hardest to do the right thing—to many students, that’s a much bigger reason to worry.

Except.

Is the professor in the scenario right to accuse the student of plagiarism?

Personally, I think not.

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Reflecting on un-research

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

As I’m working on some new and exciting research projects, I’ve found myself going back to a few of my earlier works and reflecting on how my thinking has changed in the time since I wrote them. I thought I would share some of this here partly because I still get asked about some of these articles from time to time and partly because I think it’s valuable to show how things can change as you grow as a scholar.

So today I’m taking a look at “Teaching Information Literacy Through Un-Research,” which was published in Communications in Information Literacy in 2015.

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Gone fishing

I’m off for the holidays and won’t be posting any new content until January but I thought I’d pin a thing here highlighting some favorite posts from this past year, organized by general topic, in case you missed them.

Thanks for reading and see you in the new year!

Research in fiction writing

It’s significant that popular books on creative writing don’t talk about research

Research is a process, writing is a craft (except when it’s a process)

The true as the enemy of the good: Creative license and the ethical use of information

Research in fiction writing: What I learned from Five Things posts on Terrible Minds

Why I want to learn about the role of research in fiction writing

What I learned about creative research at the Writer’s Digest Conference

Research as a subject of study

They just keep moving the line: Peer review and the follow-up to “Research is an Activity and a Subject of Study”

Information literacy, teaching, and librarianship

In defense of “finding and evaluating information”

The annotated bibliography as establishing shot Part 1 | Part 2

The role of excitement in teaching

Title policing in libraries

Information literacy skills: Wherefore art thou?

Neil Gaiman’s famous quote about libraries: A critique

That time I participated in a Banned Books Read-Out and what I learned

Information literacy and identity negotiations

Libraries, information literacy, and pop culture

Libraries in pop culture: The Station Agent

The Circle and information literacy

Video games and failing better

What I’m reading: December 2020

Now that I’m officially on sabbatical, I’ve been doing a lot more reading than usual. Rather than devote an entire post to reflections on each of these items, I thought I’d share some thoughts on them in smaller, bite-sized pieces.

Today I’m taking a quick look at a news story about a Hollywood research library, a podcast about the Jeffrey MacDonald murder case, and doing some follow-up on Hannibal and Mr. Robot.

Note: The following post contains spoilers for the Morally Indefensible podcast, which is a companion podcast to the docuseries A Wilderness of Error, which is based on a book of the same name by Errol Morris (long way of saying: assume spoilers for all three). There are also spoilers for Hannibal and Mr. Robot. And I guess the British TV series Vicious. 

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Reflecting on Using Team-Based Learning in an Online, Asynchronous Information Literacy Course

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

As I’m working on some new and exciting research projects, I’ve found myself going back to a few of my earlier works and reflecting on how my thinking has changed in the time since I wrote them. I thought I would share some of this here partly because I still get asked about some of these articles from time to time and partly because I think it’s valuable to show how things can change as you grow as a scholar.

So today I’m starting with my very first peer-reviewed article, first published in the Journal of Library Innovation in 2013, “Using Team-Based Learning in an Online, Asynchronous Information Literacy Course.” 

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Information literacy and identity negotiations

So while I’ve been on sabbatical, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about writing pedagogy. Most of this has been in the area of creative writing pedagogy but a few of my sources are from the writing studies field more generally or another area like composition. I recently got through Writing and Sense of Self by Robert Edward Brooke, a self-described composition specialist. The book describes the workshop model through the lens of identity negotiations, which was useful for my creative writing-related research but actually made me think more about my information literacy teaching as well.

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Creative information-seeking: What I learned from my literature review

Image by Steve Johnson from Pixabay

I spent some time recently reviewing some of the literature on creative information-seeking from the library and information science field as part of my project on the role of research in fiction writing. I wanted to understand what our field already knew about how creative populations find and use information as part of the creative process so that I could use that knowledge to inform my own work.

At the end of the day, I learned a lot of interesting things but I also felt a lot of frustration with what I was finding. Sandra Cowan has a great article that captures her own frustrations with research on this topic, many of which echoed my own feelings.(1) If you’re able to access that article, I highly recommend taking the time to read it if you have any interest in research on creative information-seeking. In the meantime, here’s a summary of my own thoughts, which is maybe a little more rant-like than I intended. Oops.

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That time I participated in a Banned Books Read-Out and what I learned

Image by robinsonk26 from Pixabay

This week is Banned Books Week across libraries in the United States and all around the world. Banned Books Week is a fun but somewhat hypocritical tradition where libraries uphold themselves as defenders of intellectual freedom while ignoring parts of our own history that show that while libraries like to talk the talk, they haven’t always walked the walk. Which is to say, I have some mixed feelings around the whole thing but there are usually some programs and activities that take place around this time that I’ve enjoyed in the past.

One of those activities is what’s known as a Banned Books Read-Out. This is where you take a book that’s known to have been banned somewhere for one reason or another, you talk about why it’s been banned, and then you read a passage from that book in front of an audience. I’ve participated in several of these at various times in my career and while picking my own reading has always been fun, I’ve actually discovered some great stuff after hearing about other people’s picks (most notably Philip Larkin’s poetry).

One year, though, while I was at my former institution, this activity got a little personal for me. That was my first year on my campus’s Big Read Committee, which was a committee made up of faculty, staff, and students that reviews and selects whatever the Big Read will be for incoming freshman the next year. This was kind of a big deal at the time because a lot of first year composition and freshman seminar-type classes were planned around the Big Read and the various activities associated with it.

My first year on the committee, we reviewed what must have been dozens of books before settling on our choice: Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, Ronald Cotton, and Erin Torneo. In this book, Thompson-Cannino talks about being sexually assaulted at knifepoint in her own apartment while in college. Afterward, she identified Cotton as her rapist only for him to be exonerated by DNA evidence after spending eleven years in prison (during which time he was able to identify the true perpetrator of the crime). The two wrote the book together (with Torneo) in order to examine what had happened and why. The subject matter alone made it seem like a good Big Read choice but what made it even better was that Thompson-Cannino and Cotton often spoke together on college campuses for a relatively reasonable fee, so there was a chance we’d be able to arrange for a visit from the authors as one of our Big Read programs.

The committee submitted our choice to the Provost.

The Provost immediately vetoed our decision and chose Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie, the TOMS shoes guy, instead.

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