(Abstract) At the core of the new ACRL Framework for Information Literacy is the educational theory of threshold concepts, according to which every discipline contains "troublesome" concepts that stand as barriers to learning. Accordingly, by identifying these barriers and directing our teaching towards them, educators can foster deeper understanding and appreciation of complex subjects. In light of the new ACRL Framework's adoption of threshold concepts, this presentation from a former member of the Framework Task Force will offer a critical assessment of the applicability of threshold concepts to information literacy.
This presentation will argue that the six "frames" of information literacy are underdetermined, they fail to distinguish concepts from skills, they are too relative to individual student experiences to provide general guidance, and they reduce information literacy to a single discipline. This last point is especially important insofar as the new Framework removes our ability to think of information literacy as a general, interdisciplinary set of critical thinking skills.
Ultimately, through its insistence on threshold concepts as first principles, the new ACRL Framework moves away from its promise of holism and instead becomes inward-looking and exclusionary. Thankfully, the Framework is malleable enough that with a few modifications to threshold concept theory, an increased sensitivity to student learning differences, and close attention to the cross-disciplinary relevance of information literacy, there is something to salvage. Rather than accept the ACRL Framework uncritically, we owe it to ourselves and our students to ask tough questions.