prelude: teaching the scholarly environment

ACRL recently published a white paper called Intersections of Scholarly Communication and Information Literacy: Creating Strategic Collaborations for a Changing Academic Environment, which they describe in their Executive Summary as a “a case for exploring and articulating the intersections between scholarly communication and information literacy.”

This comes at a fortuitous time because my colleagues and I have been presenting and writing a paper on how & why students should develop a more sophisticated understanding of their information environment, of which the “scholarly ecosystem” is a part. Chapter 4 cites a quote from Scott Warren and Kim Duckett (2010) that sums the “why” quite nicely:

As the information landscape continues to grow in complexity, it is becoming increasingly important for students not only to be able to locate and access useful information but also to understand the forces that shape the information they consume. (p. 350)

And earlier, in the same chapter, the white paper presents what were actually the essential questions for tackling the design of our own scholarly communication module in our courses last year:

  • How is information in the digital age created and published?
  • Who owns this information, who controls it, and who can access it?
  • What should we teach about this rapidly changing information environment, and what are the most effective ways to teach it?

We want students to have a comprehensive understanding the changing digital publishing environment in academia. Unfortunately, from what we’ve seen, readings or other informational media surrounding scholarly communication isn’t written for undergraduates–well, aside from piecemeal discussions of the overall peer-review process, fair use, or lessons in citing. Nor is there a lot of explicit instruction in this as part of understanding the research process in the writing courses we’ve seen. The answer to that last bullet point is elusive.

More extensive treatment of these topics are usually for practitioners or graduate students who may–or someday–negotiate with publishers or develop open access policies. While Chapter 7 proposes teaching scholarly communication issues, there is no textbook or comprehensive curriculum to draw from. Eventually, we came up with an instructional plan that get at the ideas and knowledge we want students to understand about the scholarly environment, but I am constantly looking to refine the approaches that we take.

In my next blog post, I’d like to review this white paper and give my overall impressions of its contents as well as summarize its key points and possible impacts on our own instructional practices.

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