Tag Archives: pedagogy

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Hacking Scholarship, Planned Obsolescence & the ACRL Framework

On Friday I went to a talk about the new ACRL (Association of College & Research Libraries) information literacy guidelines. The guidelines currently in place are officially titled Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education and are a rubric of points, subpoints and subsubpoints that guide librarians in teaching and evaluating information literacy. The proposed new guidelines (still under review) are titled Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education and are based on threshold concepts “which are those ideas in any discipline that are passageways or portals to enlarged understanding or ways of thinking and practicing within that discipline.” (line 26)

As they currently stand, the six threshold concepts in the new Framework are:

  1. Scholarship is a Conversation
  2. Research as Inquiry
  3. Authority is Contextual and Constructed
  4. Format as a Process
  5. Searching as Exploration
  6. Information has Value

I found the talk and the new Framework ideas really interesting, especially in conjunction with this week’s readings, which I see as closely related to the concepts in the Framework, and the direction ACRL is trying to move information literacy in higher education. I like the movement away from a checklist of skills and towards a more encompassing platform that encourages thinking both critical and creative—core components of humanities education. Given that trends in higher ed (especially assessment, accreditation and concepts like ROI) are moving toward the quantifiable, I’m sort of surprised (though pleased) at the direction ACRL is taking with this.

I am including the longer explanation from the Framework with the three areas most connected to the readings. Most of these are not fully formed thoughts, but the start of some connections. Fortunately, Fiztpatrick is very support of the blog as a way to hash out ideas! (p 70-71)

Scholarship is a Conversation

 Scholarship is a conversation refers to the idea of sustained discourse within a community of scholars or thinkers, with new insights and discoveries occurring overtime as a result of competing perspectives and interpretations. (Framework, lines 138-140)

This is right out of Fitzpatrick (maybe it actually is). She states that we need to “…understand peer review as a part of an ongoing conversation among scholars rather than a convenient method of determining “value”…” (p 49) I agree that the traditional peer review model can be really limiting in terms of scholarly conversation, and the idea that it confers value or status is something I don’t necessarily agree with. Yet I have to explain it to students in that way, because that is the model their professors know and expect their students to learn. Trying to explain the peer review model and simultaneously offer ways to question it is hard in a 50 minute class period, where peer review is only one small aspect of what I have to cover.

Daniel J. Cohen says that “Writing is writing and good is good” (Hacking, p 40), and Jo Guldi, in thinking through an alternative wiki-process for review of publications, says that an author should “produce a stronger article then at the beginning [of the process]” (Hacking, p 24). Both of these come back to what gives value to a source. Who decides what good is good? Who decides if an article is stronger after the revision process? In both of these alternative models suggested still need someone to be an arbiter of the final product.

Authority is Constructed and Contextual

 Authority of information resources depends upon the resources’ origins, the information need, and the context in which the information will be used. This authority is viewed with an attitude of informed skepticism and an openness to new perspectives, additional voices, and changes in schools of thought. (Framework, lines 224-227)

Guldi says “The web suffers from a crisis of authority” (Hacking, p 20) and also points out that only 3 types of scholarship are highly valued (editorial, peer review, book review) and that other forms of scholarship have been excluded. Fitzpatrick also argues for a more expansive view of authorship, one that values collaborative efforts more than the current model.

 

The idea that authority is constructed is a way for me to push a little bit on the idea that scholarly, peer reviewed sources are ‘best’ or more valued. This week (inspired by Friday’s talk), I asked two classes of first year students what conferred authority. The first answers from both classes were ‘published’, ‘researcher’, ‘has PhD’. Only student said ‘lived experience’, and no one mentioned societal status as something that conferred authority. I didn’t see any obvious lightbulbs going off (or thresholds crossed) but hopefully they’ll continue to think about it.

Format as a Process

Format is the way tangible knowledge is disseminated. The essential characteristic of format is the underlying process of information creation, production, and dissemination, rather than how the content is delivered or experienced. (Framework, lines 279-281)

This element is slightly more obscure than the others, and the title of it has actually been changed in the upcoming draft, although I didn’t write down what the new title will be. There were discussions of format in the readings, and the two that most appealed to me were David Parry and Jo Guldi’s essays. Parry says ‘Books tell us that one learns by acquiring information, something which is purchased and traded as a commodity, consumed and mastered, but the Net shows us that knowledge is actually about navigating, creating, participating.” (Hacking, p 16) Moving away from the scholarly monograph or article as primary and working to include other formats as relevant and valuable is huge. Guldi offers several suggestions as to ways that journals can reposition themselves to take advantage of the potential changes in scholarly publishing. Most students entering college now have been raised in an information environment that encourages participation and would take easily to a wider and more flexible view of what constitutes a scholarly source, and how format can inform the scholarship.

I am very much looking to hearing Kathleen Fitzpatrick this week!

the interventionists

“To the rescue, many librarians believe computers are the only means to effectively cope with their bulging bookshelves”. 1966. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection (Library of Congress).

I must admit that I am still belaboring the idea of the field of DH as a (partial) means to subvert the strong focus on research and publishing for tenure to instead promote and enhance teaching & learning. Not to throw CUNY & the Academic Commons under the proverbial bus — it’s great, really! And I find it beneficial on many levels, academically and professionally — but the AC as a collaborative place limited to faculty, staff, and doctoral students is perhaps just redefining self-inclusive nature of academia*. The AC is also still imbedded within an institution where tenure is a reality. Sink or swim. Publish or perish (or my personal favorite, “It does not have to be good, it just has to be published,” which has said to me at least once at CUNY).

With all that said, having a centralized, digital place to provide such support and education to peers/faculty is, or could be, extremely progressive. In Digital Humanities Pedagogy Simon Mahony and Elena Pierazzo write, “what is needed is the development of a group space that exists somewhere between study and social areas” (217). The AC could directly answer to the need for such a group space should it eventually allow for a structure to accommodate it.

Within this process is the need to include the teaching parties by fostering their interest in engaging in digital technology into the classroom. Let’s be honest, part of the problem with academia/tenure is not just publishing fees, the subsequent pay-walls, and the cost of journals to libraries, but it’s also JOB COMPLACENCY. In some ways as students of DH we are being trained as the next generation of instructors who can then be on the front lines to promote and support continued efforts to get research, publishing, and tenure out of the ground and into the cloud(s). In Debates in the Digital Humanities Luke Waltzer writes, “More so than just about any other sub-field, the digital humanities possess the capability to invigorate humanities instruction in higher education and to reassert how the humanities can help us understand and shape the world around us.” DH doesn’t need to stop at humanities. It’s important to have that emphasis there, for the “learning for the sake of learning” and “lifelong learning” aspects of a humanities-driven education may become idioms of the recent past when still yet other disciplines can benefit from the tools DHers employ. For instance, teaching with DH concepts could become a gateway to future STEM interests and Open Access awareness. DH as a gateway drug, perhaps?

I almost wish DH had been instead titled “Interventionists”**. Academia needs a lot of creative intervention before true change can take place. Beginning the process in instruction is an excellent place to start as long as the institution supports the mission completely. That is to say, the process of instruction isn’t as wrapped up in the bottom line as publishing for tenure, and perhaps the trickle down effect of emphasizing digital technologies within traditional analysis can bring change overall.

*I believe this situation was mentioned in one of our first classes, and with good reason for the current design. If the AC is going toward the greater goal of community based digital collaboration, then I would argue that the place would need to evolve away from social media (i.e.: profiles and resumes, friendships, meeting announcements) to a platform that is used in undergraduate coursework and within workshops. A repository to instruct on new technologies and collaborate for pedagogical purposes. I imagine it being used as we are I’m DH praxis, but more widely (even within the GC).

**While the name “The Interventionists” is already taken, the concepts remain in tact to appropriate it for DH here: creative disruption.

REFERENCES

Gold, Matthew K., ed. Debates in the digital humanities. U of Minnesota Press, 2012.
Hirsch, Brett D., ed. Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Practices, Principles and Politics. Vol. 3. Open Book Publishers, 2012.

Pedagogy vs. Research: Possibilities Beyond Hierarchical Approaches

As Steve Brier’s “Where’s the Pedagogy” demonstrates in its appraisal of CUNY’s diverse digital humanities and reform projects, “digital pedagogy projects and strategies offer an alternative pathway to broaden the impact of the digital humanities movement,” and in part are able to do so because they negotiate the relationship between traditionally-conceived academic research and university pedagogy practices.

I’d assert that the distinction between research and pedagogy, and the values attached to each of these activities at the institutional level, is central to the discussion of how we collate and disseminate information at the foundational level of digital scholarship. Broadly conceived today, the relationship between teaching and research is often viewed as hierarchical, whereby teaching functions to facilitate “new or better research” (Mahony and Pierazzo). The idea that instruction should predicate research seems to not only useful, but necessary: teaching creates the groundwork to understand theoretical and methodological practices, to use them correctly, and to produce scholarship that is meaningful, accurate, and relevant.

However, the conception of teaching–>research can easily place teaching in a subservient position, especially when viewed in the round with labor and educational policy practices. Service-related labor in the university structure (the “ugly stepchildren,” to use Steve’s term) such as classroom instruction, course design, and even committee service or community organization, often receives significantly less attention in coursework topics, job applications, and even consideration for tenure. This privileging of research over instruction at R1 institutions has vast structural consequences for expectations of both students and instructors of undergraduate and graduate education, as well as definitions of academic labor and reasonable work expectations. Katherine Harris’s idea of teaching as “invisible labor” even extends to the other arms of the university that facilitate research, and the invisibility of this labor can be attributed to complex structural issues as Roxane Shirazi (at CUNY!) discusses in her excellent blog on feminized labor, librarianship, and DH.

There’s a lot to unpack in the concept of this hierarchical labor system of teaching and research—what effect does this have on students? How does this connect to the rise of adjunct labor and its invisibility? To what extent does emphasizing the false dichotomy of research and pedagogy create structural inequities in academic labor? Or equal pay? However, I hope you’ll forgive me if I leave those questions for discussion, and shift gears to address how the digital humanities have tended to position themselves on this debate (according to this week’s syllabus readings).

I’ve noticed thus far that the digital humanist approach to pedagogy and research offers a less hierarchical structure in its very acknowledgement that pedagogy, rather than research products (books, projects, articles), shapes the field to some extent. Perhaps this is caused in part by how quickly the field is transforming—there’s just not time to publish books, peer-reviewed articles, and traditional research projects with the old publication models. Perhaps also, digital humanities believe that the field itself is shaped by pedagogical practices and not just the research products that they spark. That is, the teaching environments that Mahoney and Pierazzo describe are not just a means to creating digital humanities—they help to define it. As Tanya Clement’s observes in “Multiliteracies in the Undergraduate Digital Humanities Curriculum,” “any program that identifies itself as digital humanities is in fact inflected by a version of digital humanities that is situational and irreproducible.” These programs are situational and irreproducible because they are humanistic pedagogical experiences, and perhaps even research projects in and of themselves.

When the classroom is a research project, then, how does this change the relationship between pedagogy and research? Can research inform instruction, and instruction inform research? Sure–but I think that digital humanities pedagogical practice often transcends the idea of permeable boundaries or a mere back-and-forth model. Can we theorize a new pedagogy/research hybrid, particularly in light of newer collaborative publishing platforms?

As ever, no firm answers yet, and looking forward to discussion,

Mary Catherine.