thing 15: Collaborating with Writing Programs


Johnson, B., & McCracken, I. M. (2016). Reading for Integration, Identifying Complementary Threshold Concepts: The ACRL Framework in Conversation with Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies. Communications in Information Literacy, 10(2), 178-198.

NOTE: Thanks to Caroline Hopkinson for recommending this reading! 🙂


Choose ANY of the questions below to respond to in a comment, or respond to the component of the article that most stood out to you:

  • Johnson and McCracken suggest that it may be helpful to view the Scholarship as Conversation frame as “the driving threshold concept in information literacy.” How might introducing students first to the concept of the scholarly conversation change, enhance, or otherwise impact the way you teach information literacy?
  • Which frame stood out to you as illustrating the most connections to associated threshold concepts in writing?
  • In Naming What We Know, authors identified components of concepts that may be particularly “troublesome” for students. What components of the frames do you feel may be most “troublesome” for students, and why?
  • Johnson and McCracken point out the the Information Creation as a Process frame focuses primarily on “other people’s products,” rather than addressing students’ role as content creators. How could this frame be adapted in order to address what students need to learn in order to effectively act as information producers?
  • This article highlights the need for instruction that helps “student understand research as inquiry, not as a reporting on sources as a means of ‘satisficing’ an instructor.” What kinds of learning experiences, resources, and assignments can help students shift their view of the purpose of research?



  1. When we read the Framework and start grappling with it as a tool for instruction, “Scholarship as Conversation” does rise to the top as the frame around which all of the other frames rotate. Without conversation, there is no context, process, value, inquiry, or exploration. The conversation gets things moving.

    How do I bring this overarching frame into my instruction when I’m supposed to be focusing primarily on two other frames (as requested by my faculty)? By making the instruction all about conversation – a sharing of ideas back and forth between the students and me, by encouraging the students to think through their thought processes aloud with me and with their peers as we learn about keyword searching, building citations, academic honesty and plagiarism, fake news, and everything else that gets piled into a one-hour, one-shot instruction. Once they start talking, they don’t want to stop; because if I affirm what they are saying, it gives them courage and the impetus to say more and stay on-target with the task at hand (whatever that task may be).

    Once they understand that they are contributing to conversations everywhere, ex. social media, and that their contributions can be considered a “source” by someone else, it changes the way they view themselves and what they are writing/contributing.

    I may not approach it or even teach it as in-depth as others, but for our students, it works to help them think about their place within conversations they have, with their professors, with me, with their peers, etc.


  2. I think the one aspect of the Framework that students would struggle with the most, especially undergrads, is the personal side. When I’ve taught various aspects of the Framework, students understand them conceptually but they don’t see themselves as part of the information process. They don’t see how what they write as having value. They don’t see themselves as part of the scholarly conversation. In their minds, the conversation is for people with more expertise. They don’t even feel like information gaps they discover might represent information/research gaps they could explore. Instead, they believe the information must be out there but they just can’t find it.

    So, if anything, I think that’s where students will struggle. I probably struggle with teaching it as well because I’m not immune to similar thoughts of seeing the information process as outside of me.


  3. I have found that engaging the students is easiest when they understand that what we are covering in this “library session”, a term we find in syllabi, will be immediately useful for other assignments and classes. The two Frames that come to mind are “Research as Inquiry” and “Information Creation as Process”. These two concepts in conjunction with the push for Problem Based Learning at all levels of education, and has allowed me to demonstrate that by fully engaging with the assignment immediately in front of them will allow them to learn skills that can be applied immediately to other assignments or situations. The trick is to plan well, and I have been using Collaborative Learning Techniques: A handbook for College Faculty, by Elizabeth F. Barkley, Claire Howell Major, and K. Patricia Cross a good bit this past year. Project Cora and the ACRL Sandbox have given me a good push as well, thanks to the exercises in 23Things.

    The challenge is that we sometimes do not have a clear assignment to work with or that the students have not been adequately prepared for their time learning about research and working with library resources. As others have discussed, timing is so important in working with students. Ideally, we see them just when they are starting the research process and have some deadlines they have to meet. For the times that this is not the case, I try to show that what I am teaching them, or ideally what they are actively learning through a lesson plan, relates to skills that are required for life outside of school or immediately to other assignments or situations. I have been using the Jigsaw exercise with some success and tried the “Send a Problem” or “pass the problem” with limited success.


  4. Johnson and McCracken (2016) talk about how research is not simply “reporting on sources as a means of ‘satisficing’ an instructor” (p. 187). In a literature review, though, researchers do report on sources.

    Recently I helped some students whose lit reviews did not have enough reporting on their sources. Since at least one of them is preparing for the thesis, these students were probably focusing on original contribution. You can’t make an original contribution, though, without knowing if it’s original. To use the conversation analogy, you join a conversation once you know what has been said to that point.

    I have asked faculty about their expectations for lit reviews. What is obvious to faculty may not be so obvious to students. The article reminds me to include the Writing Center in further conversations. If we’re all on the same page, we can offer better support.



Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s