Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Reconsidering the Relationship between Generic and Situated IL Approaches: The Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition in Formal Information Literacy Learning Environments, Part I

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Reconsidering the Relationship between Generic and Situated IL Approaches: The Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition in Formal Information Literacy Learning Environments, Part I

Article excerpt

Introducation

This is the first of two papers discussing the application of Berkeley phenomenologist Hubert Dreyfus' five-stage model of skill acquisition to information literacy (IL) theory and practice. This first paper outlines the theoretical moves in the early 1980s within the nascent IL field that led librarians to conceptualize disciplinary research expertise in terms of teachable generic skills, and the subsequent critiques of that move by theorists who have attempted to re-place IL and its instruction within the situated context of disciplinary practice. It will then show that as this critique became more widespread throughout the 1990s and 2000s, a question arose about the relationship between generic, conceptual, competency-based approaches to IL definition and instruction and what has come to be called "situated" approaches.

This paper will review and build on attempts to answer this question and will propose its own answer, arguing that both the generic and situated approaches to IL ought to find a place within a complex learning continuum. Dreyfus' model depicts this continuum as one in which learners start out as novice rule-followers and then develop, over time and with guidance from instructors, into experts capable of what he calls "skillful" "embodied" "situational" "coping" (Dreyfus, 1997). In Dreyfus' continuum, learners pass through 5 stages on the course to expertise: Novice, Advanced Beginner, Competent, Proficient, and Expert. Over the course of their development, learners transition from what Dreyfus calls detached, non-involved, analytic behavior--behavior that depends upon following abstract rules--to contextually situated, involved, intuitive behavior (Dreyfus, 2004; Dreyfus & Dreyfus, 2005).

The Dreyfus model is here put forward as a synthetic approach - that is to say, one which systematically brings together existing approaches - that can be used by IL theorists and instructors to design curricula aimed at maximizing the learning potential of students in formal learning environments. Although many information literacy programs in practice may and often do draw upon pedagogical techniques that correlate with the continuum put forward in the Dreyfus model, it is hoped that the model will help bring these correlations out in systematic ways, as outlined in the second paper, and thereby aid in the development of more deliberate instructional design.

Following Woolwine (2010), these papers rest on the assumption that the way librarians define the relationship between generic and discipline

specific IL instruction is central to "the structuring of information literacy education." As Woolwine notes, defining "what types of instructional formats are best suited for teaching information literacy, what forms of collaboration between library faculty and discipline-based faculty should exist, and when in the educational experience information literacy should be taught" depends upon what role librarians give to generic information literacy skills and their impartation in the process of students' development of information literacy behaviors characteristic of disciplinary experts (p. 169).

Historical Origins of the Split Between Generic and Situated IL Skill Acquisition

In 1981 the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Bibliographic Instruction Section published its "Think Tank Recommendations for Bibliographic Instruction" (ACRL, 1981). Comprised of a number of influential "'first generation' bibliographic instruction librarians," the Think Tank saw its mission as setting out the "most pressing issues" in bibliographic instruction and a general vision for instruction librarians to work from going forward (p. 394). Although the "Recommendations" initially met with a fair amount of controversy (an entire issue of the Journal of Academic Librarianship was devoted to debating its merits (Euster, 1983)), one of its central tenets, its view of what "research competence" is and how it ought to be taught, both articulated an already prevalent approach to instruction in the growing BI field and established what has come to be viewed as the dominant paradigm in information literacy learning theory. …

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