Tag Archives: teaching and learning

Fact or Fiction?

While the library is always a key resource for students and faculty exploring Illinois Wesleyan University’s Annual Intellectual Theme, opportunities abound for library engagement in the coming year with our campus focus on the theme of Fact or Fiction?

The IWU mission statement places the nurturing of a commitment to critical thinking and a “spirit of inquiry” among the central goals of a liberal education, and these have been essential to the development and impact across the curriculum of The Ames Library’s information literacy program. Working with partners in Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, our librarians have established student learning outcomes designed to complement and extend the distinctive commitments of our undergraduate education program and to demonstrate why information literacy and critical thinking skills are essential to the development of students as engaged citizens in an informed democracy. And, while the ability “to discern fact from fiction” has always been a foundational goal of education in a democracy, our focus on this theme in 2019 is especially timely, as advances in information technology and the expanding acceptance of “alternative facts” in a “post-truth” environment have raised new questions about what is “true,” about the nature of scientific authority, and about the ethics of creating and disseminating information in an increasingly polarized political environment.

In a recent article, researchers from Project Information Literacy reported on a national study of the ways in which college students discover, discuss, and engage with news and current events, as well as the factors influencing their determination of the credibility of those sources. They found that the classroom offers an important opportunity for students to develop a critical thinking framework for their “news habits,” both as students and as lifelong learners. Discussing the news and news sources as part of the curriculum, they continue, can promote student awareness of the ways in which information is constructed, both commercially and socially, disseminated through face-to-face, print, and (increasingly) digital media, and employed in our society. Information literacy skills related to the news media can form a basis for collaboration among librarians, classroom faculty, and student affairs educators, as well as another means by which colleges and universities can prepare students for a lifetime of civic engagement, which is, of course, another foundational goal of a liberal education.

The Ames Library faculty and staff will be working with colleagues throughout the year to support the study of this year’s “Fact or Fiction” theme in the classroom and through related exhibitions and programs. Working with colleagues in Information Technology Services, we will also explore connections between this year’s theme and the concept of “digital literacies,” including data literacy, media literacy, and the capacity to “[assess] social and ethical issues in our digital world.”

The Annual Intellectual Theme is coordinated at Illinois Wesleyan University by students, faculty, and staff serving on the Intellectual Theme Working Group, whose members work together to identify “an idea or theme with the potential to engage thinking, creativity, and dialogue through multiple disciplinary lenses and interdisciplinary approaches” across the curriculum and co-curriculum.

Librarians Participate in Training for International Study of Teaching with Primary Sources

students studying archives

students studying archives

Earlier this month, IWU librarians Meg Miner and Scott Walter took part in a two-day workshop hosted by Ithaka S&R for institutions participating in the upcoming, international study of teaching with primary sources.

In this study, participating institutions, including IWU, Williams College, Brown University, Dartmouth College, University of Virginia, Indiana University, University of Sheffield (U.K.), Lafayette College, Yale University, and others, will explore how “[teaching] undergraduates with primary sources promotes student engagement and critical thinking skills and is a key ingredient in the current pedagogical push toward ‘inquiry-based’ or ‘research-led’ learning.” Given the history of instructional collaboration among Ames Library faculty and colleagues in academic programs across the curriculum in information literacy instruction, writing-intensive instruction, and service learning, IWU is in an excellent position both to learn from local research set within this global context, and to provide examples of “best practice” to colleagues who will employ the results of this international study to inform their own teaching and learning programs, especially around media literacy, digital literacy, and artifactual (or “primary-source”) literacy.

During Fall 2019, the IWU research team will be conducting interviews with a small number of campus faculty (tenure-system, visiting, or adjunct) who make effective use of, or take innovative approaches to the use of, primary source materials in their teaching. While the focus for the study is in the humanities and social sciences, our team will consider faculty from any department who wish to participate in the study when making our final selection about who to include in the participant pool (according to guidelines provided to all participating institutions by Ithaka).

If you would like to learn more about this study, or to add your name to the list of potential participants in the study currently being reviewed for inclusion, please contact Meg Miner, University Archivist and Special Collections Librarian. Invitations to participate in this study will be issued in August 2019.