thing 16: Discipline-Specific Instruction

Select one of the options below to complete this activity about how to implement the Framework in discipline-specific instruction.

Option 1: Overview & The CUNY Model


Farrell, R. & Badke, W. (2015). Situating information literacy in the disciplines: A practical and systematic approach for academic librarians.  Reference Services Review, 43(2), 319-340.  doi: 10.1108/RSR-11-2014-0052 [pre-print]


Farrell and Badke (2015) recommend a way to develop information literacy within a discipline using information literacy outcomes matrices created as a result of focus groups with disciplinary faculty.  This method, referred to as the “CUNY model”, provides a two-way conversation between librarians and faculty where both parties gain knowledge from each other – the faculty learn more about information literacy and the librarians learn about the epistemology and metanarrative of the discipline.

Is the “CUNY model” something you could see yourself employing at your institution?  Why or why not?  What other ways have you attempted to situate information literacy within a discipline?  What was the effect?

Option 2: Explore a Discipline


Select a reading about adapting the Framework to fit a specific discipline, preferably one that you liaise with and/or teach sessions for.  Use one of the examples below or search the literature to find a more relevant article.


Garcia, L. & Labatte, J. (2015, September). Threshold concepts as metaphors for the creative process: Adapting the Framework for Information Literacy to studio art classes. Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America, 34(2), 235-248. doi: 10.1086/683383 [paywall]

Carter, S., Koopmans, H., & Whiteside, A. (2018). Crossing the Studio Art Threshold: Information Literacy and Creative Populations. Communications in Information Literacy, 12 (1), 36-55.


Bryan, J. E. & Karshmer, E. (2015, May). Using IL threshold concepts for biology: Bees, butterflies, and beetles. College & Research Libraries, 76(5), 251-255. doi: 10.5860/crln.76.5.9310


Knapp, M. & Brower, S. (2014). The ACRL Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education: Implications for health sciences librarianship. Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 33(4), 460-468. doi: 10.1080/02763869.2014.957098 [paywall]


Franzen, S. & Bannon, C. M. (2016). Merging information literacy and evidence-based practice in an undergraduate health sciences curriculum map. Communications in Information Literacy, 10(2), 245-263.


Connor, E. (2016, September). Engaging students in disciplinary practices: Music information literacy and the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education. Notes, 73(1), 9-21 doi: 10.1353/not.2016.0087 [paywall]


Shields, K. & Cugliari, C. (2017, March). “Scholarship as conversation”: Introducing students to research in nonprofit studies. College & Research Libraries News, 78(3), 137-141. doi: 10.5860/crln.78.3.9635


What article did you read?  Do you think the discipline-specific practices described in the article would be useful in your instruction sessions within that discipline?

Post your responses in the Comments section below.



  1. I chose to focus on the health sciences discipline since all of the programs at my university are in the health sciences.

    I chose the article, “Merging Information Literacy and Evidence-Based Practice in an Undergraduate Health Sciences Curriculum Map.”

    I think using a curriculum map could be potentially used for my instruction sessions. Specifically I would base my map off the “Website Credibility” example provided in the article. Here is how I would adapt the example to fit the needs of my students:

    Scientific/biological perspective of healthcare topic-perspective paper

    Website credibility

    Information has value, Searching as strategic exploration

    Ask the question, Acquire the evidence, Appraise the evidence

    Standard 1 – Determine information need, Standard 2 – Access information, Standard 3 – Evaluate information
    Standard 5 – Ethical use of information


  2. Farrell and Blake (2015) made some very good conclusions in regards to discipline faculty and using their expertise to the fullest. Since each discipline has its own way to gather, shape, use, and store information it seems a foregone conclusion we would consult them about the disciplines information literacy practices. The idea of using focus groups, although not a new one, has been effective across the board and used in my own institution. The way I am using the CUNY model is with professors that are teaching in the Business and Economics department, specifically marketing and entrepreneurship courses. After teaching one shot classes in marketing for many years, I was approached by a local business library, privately owned and funded, to see how we might work together to benefit our students in their coursework and as potential clients after graduation. I solicited five professors of these courses who were all interested so three of us met with their outreach librarian for an afternoon session. Sample assignments and projects were shared in advance and it was my hope that we would end up with questions very much like a focus group set of questions.

    The results of this session, while still fresh, seemed to be an excellent opportunity for all of us to review what we want our students to accomplish, resources we are familiar with, and then how we can supplement them via special and public library resources. As we walked away, I was gratified to hear questions about how we could use our own resources first and then, if we could not find what we needed, how to use these supplementary resources. Although I already know their assignments since we receive syllabi each semester, it was even better to hear the professors talk about the goals they had for their students and how the courses and assignments were scaffold to build up our students’ skills and understanding. There was insight on both sides!


  3. I chose Option 1: Situating Information Literacy in the Disciplines. I do believe that this approach of building information literacy instruction around existing curricular projects succeeds very well when the instructor that the librarian collaborates with has enough trust in the librarian to determine what resources are available to support specific assignments and brainstorm with the librarian about what information literacy components could be involved in their assignments. It has been difficult for me, however, to help my colleagues in the English department understand that students need the most help with the concepts behind information literacy rather than with the skills those concepts demand. Instructors in other disciplines, however, have not exhibited the same resistance and have, I’ve found, welcomed librarians into their disciplines to collaborate with them as content experts in information literacy.


  4. I chose to read Bryan, J. E. & Karshmer, E. (2015, May). Using IL threshold concepts for biology: Bees, butterflies, and beetles. College & Research Libraries, 76(5), 251-255. doi: 10.5860/crln.76.5.9310

    I chose this article because while we do not subject specialize in my library, our student base is heavily slanted toward the sciences and engineering, so a science oriented topic is particularly relevant to my students.
    I like the kit idea, and I agree with their point at the end that it could be easily adapted across disciplines – swap out the topic and the specific resources they’re asked to investigate, and you’re all set. I do like the idea of asking them to investigate specific resources in their discipline, rather than just showing them a list or demoing specific databases. I especially think this would be useful for an introductory level class where students may be getting their first exposure to library resources at all, much less discipline specific ones. I like the way they combined having students look at discipline specific resources with asking them to think about the differences in types of information such as journal articles or encyclopedia entries. I can definitely imagine using this activity or something similar in several of the disciplines we work with.


  5. At times, I have used what I might now call—after reading Farrell and Badke’s article—a “modified-CUNY model” to situate information literacy within a discipline. Before teaching one-shot library classes, I ask professors for their syllabi and for the research assignment. If the assignment or subject area are outside of my comfort level, I contact the instructor to ask questions about the field and the assignment that serve to get me “up to speed.” Then I assess the information and seek out databases, appropriate search terms, etc in an effort to present an IL class that incorporates language and practice from the discipline. So far, this approach has worked as professors feel they are getting an IL class geared specifically toward their discipline and research project. I keep notes on what has worked and what has not worked, so if I teach another IL class in the same discipline, I have a basis from which to ask my next set of questions.


  6. Yes, the “CUNY model” is something I could see using at my institution. Library faculty are extremely interested in collaborating with discipline faculty, and we contact faculty prior to Information Literacy instruction to help ensure that the assignment matches our resources, and that the session will be beneficial to their students.

    I personally have worked with a few Psychology faculty members to discuss their assignments and how my instruction session can further enhance the research strategies that they want their students to possess.

    These discussions have often resulted in multiple Information Literacy sessions, which scaffold skills for their students. Presentations and posters have been designed using the skills gathered during sessions. Faculty have noted that these collaborations have been useful, and that they have helped students value the research process within the discipline.

    I plan to further work with these faculty members, and work on designing a rubric which can be used by members of the Psychology department to further incorporate Information Literacy into the curriculum.


  7. So, I “plowed” through the Farrell/Badke article.

    While I did not specifically target a department like the “CUNY model,’ I sought out and interviewed faculty members who have historically scheduled library instruction for their input into the revised library instrucion module. Their responses to the survey and the follow-up questions were enlightening. All of the defined “information literacy” slightly differently, but most of their definitions contained the same basic words in similar order. They, categorically, chose two frames as most important to their courses and the overall curriculum of the institution that were different than frames I would have selected. When I asked them if they wanted the pre/post assessments to be graded, 100% of the surveyed faculty responded, “no.” One-hundred percent of the faculty surveyed also wanted citation styles specific to their departments taught within library instruction, with the possibility of a follow-up instruction focusing on citation styles to be made available at their request. (That model has been tested this summer, and it worked very well.)

    Through the survey and the follow-up questions (all but 3 of the surveys/questions were delivered face-to-face), I tried to allow the faculty to steer the course of the revised library instruction module that I will be rolling out for the fall semester. Right now, the module is in beta-testing, and it has been tweaked several times since the summer semester began. The one takeaway from the faculty interaction was that they wanted the library instruction to be flexible and to highlight their disciplines more, instead of being a generic one-shot, which is what had been offered in previous semesters. They want discipline-specific resources, citation style, and examples brought to the attention of their students, so that their students, when they need assistance, will feel at ease walking into the library and asking for help.

    By understanding how the faculty define information literacy and how they view the library (because that was a question I asked them), I have been better able to design a flexible instruction that can adapt to disciplinary needs across the campus. So far, the beta-testing of the instruction has been good; and the results have been profitable for me, as the Instruction Librarian and for the faculty, who have expressed apprecation in seeing new IL content taught.


  8. I read the article from Franzen and Bannon. A lot of what they discussed in relation to the Standards vs. The Framework resonated with me because health science programs have a very developed evidence-based-practice (from evidence-based-medicine) system. I know other disciplines are adapting similar philosophies but I haven’t worked anywhere where the concept has been as ingrained as it is here, even if, in practice, there’s still a way to go. It is much easier to integrate the standards with EBP but I have been using the Framework to expand on what that looks like in instruction. EBP does evaluate published studies for their quality but when I discuss it in front of a class, I take a different angle. I apply Information Has Value to look at biases in publishing. It interests students not only because of the social justice angle but rather there are different publication rates in their disciplines around the world. Europe is more likely to publish alternative and integrative stories than the US. Introducing how they’re “discriminated” against (for lack of a better word) opens their minds to the systematic issues in publishing more than they might have been had I focused on gender or race. Most of the activities are more relevant to the Standards but like Franzen & Bannon, I find ways to expand beyond the checklist.

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  9. I can’t see myself implementing the CUNY model at my institution—while I think it is a useful tool, I’m not sure how it would work at a college level. At least one diploma program currently has a regular information literacy instruction series running in which the librarian sees the same class three times over the course of two years, which is useful to the students because topics can be built upon, rather than hearing the same lecture several times in first year courses, which is what I suspect happens for the majority of our programs. I think something like the CUNY model would have to be done at a larger level than at a discipline level, or done for every discipline then worked together. For instance, we have several disciplines under ‘arts,’ but none are a degree, and they probably share similar information literacy skills and fluencies. Examining them all and weaving responses together would be of more benefit to a first year student, who may take elective courses in half a dozen disciplines.


  10. I looked for threshold concepts in the field of counseling psychology, a Master’s and Doctoral program that I liaise with. I didn’t find anything in the literature, so I looked for any standards that apply to counseling psychology programs and found the “Revised Competency Benchmarks in Professional Psychology” from the APA. I took note of some relevant benchmarks that require information literacy.

    Revised Competency Benchmarks in Professional Psychology – APA
    • 7A – Scientific Approach to Knowledge Generation
    • 8A – Knowledge and Application of Evidence-Based Practice
    • 9B – Knowledge of Assessment Methods
    • 14A – Knowledge of the Shared and Distinctive Contributions of Other Professions

    The benchmarks listed above are entry points that I could use to speak with faculty about to partner with them for an information literacy program within the discipline. Since the doctoral students usually need the most assistance, it makes sense to focus on them at this point. I’m fairly new to my position, so I’m still going after groups that are easier to partner with. By this, I mean that I’m not yet ready to go after programs that have shown little interest in library instruction. I’ll work on those when I figure out how to best work with programs that are more open to library instruction. The doctoral group is open to instruction. I have already taught sessions on psychological assessment and initial library research. Since these students are required to write dissertations, it’s fairly obvious that “Scholarship as Conversation” and “Research as Inquiry” are key frames to focus on with these students; however, knowledge of the APA benchmarks allows for some further probing into the other frames. 14A – Knowledge of the Shared and Distinctive Contributions of Other Professions, could lead to instruction in the “Authority is Constructed and Contextual Frame”, assessing authority in other disciplines. 7A – Scientific Approach to Knowledge Generation, has an obvious link to “Information Creation as a Process” and less obvious is a connection to “Information has Value”, where intellectual property and open access could be explored.

    By making these connections to the APA’s Benchmarks I can have enlightened conversations with faculty and administrators about the value I can provide the program.


  11. I looked at Shields and Cugliari’s article about working with Non-Profit Management, as well as the CUNY model and an article Shields and Cugliari cited:

    Heidi Julien and Jen Pecoskie, Librarians’Experiences of the Teaching Role: Grounded in Campus Relationships, Library and Information Science Research 31, (2009) 149-154.
    (you can access this using google scholar, the authors have posted something in researchgate for individual use if you are so inclined)

    The CUNY model or the collaboration that Shields and Cugliari write about is what I strive for in working with faculty at my MPOW. It will happen, just not as quickly as we as a library department would like. Julien and Pecoskie write about the challenge of finding the time for allowing this to happen, this is the primary barrier to starting the process for us.

    At the moment, I have had some success by ensuring that I have a copy of the syllabus and assignment in hand. This has allowed me to better prepare a one shot that involves more active learning with one of the frames as a guiding principle. As with the CUNY model I am not using the exact language from the Framework, but I at least can use it as part of how I frame the instruction.

    Also, if I have the assignment and syllabus I at least can see the language and research expectations in different disciplines. I may not be able to be as fully engaged as the authors in the article, but at least I can understand where the instruction is situated in the arc of the semester.


  12. The Shields and Cugliari 2017) article could inform my work with my school’s Leadership & Organizational Studies (LOS) program. Though the LOS faculty would distinguish between leadership studies and nonprofit management, LOS is also a “high scatter” field (p. 137) drawing upon psychology, communication, and more.

    I think my faculty would like students to have a better grasp of the field. I myself would like to spend less time on mechanics and more time on the lay of the scholarly land. The Scholarship as Conversation frame could certainly help in this regard. Since the LOS program has moved heavily online, I can see how to adapt the class as described to LOS and to the online environment.

    The authors mentioned how some students had found book reviews or newspaper editorials instead of full-blown scholarly articles (p. 140). I see that a lot as well. Often I have to ask my faculty how they are defining “scholarly articles” for the purposes of the assignment. After all, even peer-reviewed journals can have book reviews and commentary. This Scholarship as Conversation article could inform my conversations with faculty.


  13. Thing 16 Discipline Specific Instruction

    * We have used focus groups like in the Suny model. We chose the general English course since we all are familiar with teaching these sessions. From there we created general outcomes which made librarians and faculty more focused on what the instruction session would cover.

    * I would like to focus this on the Performing Arts discipline courses since I am their liaison. I have a good rapport with them. They are an independent group, and I don’t think they know all the ways librarians can enhance their assignments, which includes information literacy.

    I have reached out to those folks by offering sessions on using particular databases and ways to search strategically. According to the faculty, better sources are being used which create improved papers. Due to this success, they call me back for the next semester to teach the same material.



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