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Rebecca Greer

Threshold Concept Learning Objects
Summer 2014

This document reviews a sampling of learning objects that are affiliated with UW Libraries. Each learning object has been labeled with
threshold concepts that are represented as well as my perception of who the intended audience is and my reflective evaluation of the
object. It is likely that more learning objects from UW Libraries align with the emerging information literacy framework from ACRL. This
document is simply a starting point for further evaluation.

Learning Object: Research 101 LibGuide

Threshold Concept: 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

Audience: Serves as a repository for instructional academic librarians at any institution.

Evaluation: This libguide seeks to outline all 6 threshold concepts, each tab representing a different concept. Within each tab the threshold
concept is introduced and learning goals are identified along with a brief video tutorial and corresponding self-assessment questions.
Additionally, assignment ideas are shared that correspond with the threshold concept. In evaluating these learning objects, I was initially
struck at the lack of insufficient description of the purpose of the guide. From previous committee meetings, I had learned that this guide
was intended for an audience of instructional academic librarians to reference and selectively embed portions of the guide that suited their
interests. The introductory tab states, “Research 101 is a toolbox for teaching academic research. We hope you will use the tutorials,
assignments, and assessments in your course or class.” To me this does not advise instructors to not simply link to this guide for their
instruction. There are multiple reasons that this should be clarified. One, the “learning goals” within each tab are generally defined using
multiple sections of a threshold concept (often culled directly from the iteration of the concept or borrowed from the “knowledge
practices” or “dispositions”). Therefore, these learning goals are not personalized to the institution or class in which these concepts will be
embedded. It is often best to change the language of learning outcomes to make them more comprehensible to the learner and tied directly
to the course or program. Second, the assignments are largely borrowed from the appendix of the framework, loosely identifying a
selection of activities and discussions that could be implemented in a class. Since these are not intended for students to view, it is necessary
to clearly articulate the functional purpose of the guide. However, another issue I noticed with this portion of the guide is there are no
materials or scripts available to see how these activities could be carried out. While the guide meant to be used by any institution, I think
other universities or colleges would benefit from seeing how one or more activities could be incorporated using resources and applications
within a unique institution setting. Lastly, the video tutorial and accompanying assessment is meant to be transported outside of the guide
and embedded elsewhere. The creators of the guide nicely offer embed codes for both pieces, but it is not clear how one would be able to
access the results of the Google form to see how well students complete the task. Because this guide has such a wide audience of potential
users, it is essential that users understand the limitations of embedding the form and the collection of data from the self-assessment. I
realize that it is likely called a “self-assessment” because the instructors do not have direct access to the results. However, because
assessment is a crucial to understanding student gains, it would be beneficial for library instructors to be given multiple ways to transcribe
these assessment queries in other formats such as in-person with a PDF. While the answers to these questions are quite easy to identify
from watching the video tutorial, I would also suggest offering a key of answers within the guide incase a user would like to quickly
transcribe the questions and answers into another online platform. I appreciate the transcript that accompanies the guide from the video
tutorials. However, the videos do not offer subtitles. I would consider adding this to make the tutorials more user friendly.

Note: The last threshold concept not complete.

It is also important to note that while this guide works towards making threshold concepts easier to instruct, the content provided within
the guide does not cover all the intricacies of each threshold concept. Instead, learning goals were extracted from framework. Therefore,
there is much room for this guide to be expanded upon. But, because of the nature of threshold concepts and the practice of information
literacy, it is important to be mindful that there will never be a singular source that will teach everything and anything a learner needs to be
an expert information literate individual.

Learning Object: The Information Cycle Video Tutorial

Threshold Concept: 3. Authority is Contextual and Constructed
4. Format as a Process

Audience: UW students, but all audiences are considered.

Evaluation: This particular video tutorial primarily relates to the threshold concept of “Format as a Process” as an event is evaluated and
dissected temporally along with the resulting information artifacts associated with the event. The intention of the video is to teach users
how the information cycle occurs and the products that result from each piece of the cycle. I have included the threshold concept of
“Authority is Contextual and Constructed” as within each evaluative stage of the information cycle, viewers learn about the producers of
information and the ways in which relevance can be identified. While this video does not emphasize authority of sources, it does
distinguish primary and secondary sources of information. This discussion helps viewers identify how information from a singular event is
related and transforms through the progression of time and who produces this information along the way. This video nicely balances
producers with products and clearly illustrates that authority tends to improve with time. However, I think that this point is slightly
misconstrued. As mentioned in the threshold concept, “Authority is Constructed and Contextual,” authority is dependent on three things,
“a resources origins, the information need, and the context in which the information will be used.” As such, if someone is interested in
looking at witness accounts of an event, primary sources are actually the most authoritative. Of course, this particular video focuses on
what I will call the “superficial methods” of identifying authority, and that is with the use of peer-review and authority with the presence of
scholarly credentials. While these are useful strategies to employ in the early stages of information literacy, to truly encapsulate the interests
of the threshold concept of authority, a more refined approach to exploring primary and secondary sources should be used. To do this, one
can consider incorporating viewer needs. For example, consider why someone would be watching this video? One reason would be to
figure out which sources are the best to consult for writing a research paper. The threshold concept of “Format as Process” states that
learners developing their information literate abilities must “recognize that different creation processes result in the presence of distinct
attributes.” While I think that this is a rather vaguely defined interest of a learner, one way to think of these “distinct attributes” is viability
of the information within their research interests. This nicely ties into another developing ability of an emerging learner as understanding
the “purposes of various formats” will assist them in identifying if a source is applicable to their research aims. While I think there is room
for improvement with this video in meeting the dynamic interests of threshold concepts, it offers viewers an opportunity to further their
expertise as an information literate individual.

Learning Object: How do I evaluate my search results? Video Tutorial

Threshold Concept: 5. Searching as Exploration

Audience: UW Students

Evaluation: This particular video nicely demonstrates the various types of sources that one could consult when needing to write a research
paper. However, I think that this video nicely aligns with the threshold concept of “Searching as Exploration” as one of the abilities of an
emerging learning is to “determine the scope of the question or task required to meet one’s needs.” The video first asks the viewer to
consider three things: 1. source publication date and utility to your research interests, 2. the intended audience of the source and how it fits
in with how you want to use the source, 3. how well the source covers the research topic and if it is appropriate for the product. These
questions require the viewer to understand the parameters of their research aims using specific indicators such as date, audience, and
coverage of a given topic. Understanding these parameters will help the learner determine the “scope” needed to address their research
interests fully. This video also briefly touches on the distinction between using databases and Google searches with the ways in which
sources are organized and offers insights into how to broaden and narrow a search using specific tools and strategies. For example, when
using a library database, the viewer is encouraged to look for “subject terms” to further narrow a topic while referencing books or book
indexes was offered as a method to broaden a search. This strategy also communicates the “serendipitous” nature of research as one source
can often lead to a multitude of others. By offering these search tactics to the viewer, a disposition of “persistence, adaptability, and
flexibility” are communicated which similarly aligns with the interests of this threshold concept. This threshold concept also seeks for
learners to consistently reevaluate their needs as they go through the research process. I think the video nicely introduces this concept as
the three questions offered at the beginning of the video are restated at the end and are encouraged throughout the research process.

Learning Object: Researching Your Topic Document

Threshold Concept: 1. Scholarship is a Conversation
6. Information has Value

Audience: UW Students

Evaluation: This document comes for the Odegaard Writing and Research Center in the undergraduate library. The document begins by
identifying some resources students can use to get help with finding sources. Then it describes how one should approach using sources for
scholarly writing. It is evidenced here that threshold concepts emerge such as “Scholarship is a Conversation.” For example, this document
suggests students practice summarizing their sources so that they will have a firm grasp of the materials that they have read for their
research topic. Then, after these summaries are complete, students are encouraged to categorize their sources. Here the document
expresses that, “writing an academic essay is like taking part in a large, ongoing conversation. While everyone has his own point of view, it
is also safe to say that no one is entering the conversation as a lone wolf.” This particular iteration of the research process is closely
reflected in the “Knowledge Practices” of the threshold concept, “Scholarship is a Conversation.” As students develop their information
literate abilities they are asked to acknowledge that they are “entering into the midst of a scholarly conversation” and must remain
cognizant of the multiple voices present within this conversation. Additionally, the document encourages students to “interrogate your
sources” which similarly relates to this same threshold concept in that students are asked to “critically evaluate contributions made by
others.” Lastly, this particular threshold concept also encourages the summarization of “the changes in scholarly perspective.” Similarly,
this document seeks for students to “keep track of [their] evolving understanding of [their] topic.” I was very surprised to see how closely
this document aligned with the knowledge practices of this threshold concept. However, this particular document also emphasizes aspects
of the threshold concept, “Information has Value.” As students find sources, it is important that they keep track of what they have found
and where they have found it. Every paper submitted requires the presence of a bibliography. As such the document goes through a
number of source types and what information they should note as they will have to appropriately cite these sources in their paper. This
overview relates to the threshold concept, “Information has Value” in that students are required to “give credit to the original ideas of
others through proper attribution and citation.” From a more generalized analysis of this document, students are asked to take on the task
of research as though they are “contributors to the information marketplace” rather than passive participants. As student read through this
document, they are tasked with a multitude of responsibilities that equate them to the level or professionalism and practice of scholars.
While this particular initiative is not explicit, the distinctive usage of examples of beginning student work and scholarly work as well of the
importance of “presenting your own point of view” perpetuates the mental modality of a contributing scholar.