Linearity vs. Literacy: Teaching IL as Epistemological Inquiry

Patrick K. Morgan, Hope College


Information literacy instruction, despite its widely-acknowledged value in higher education, is frequently hobbled by a variety of constraints, both pragmatic and intellectual. One of the subtlest and most damaging of these is the implicit linear model promoted by standard writing curricula and ironically abetted by well-intentioned librarians struggling to juggle true "literacy" instruction and teacher expectations of the library session. When relegated to an adjunct position vis a vis the "real" subject matter of a writing course, the value of IL instruction is occluded and results stunted. Against this, I suggest that when IL is approached as a process of epistemological inquiry, the role of IL work in the internal life of the undergraduate can be seen for the portable, supple concept-skill it is. While necessarily less tidy, such a model liberates our instruction from dry, rote coverage of library-tool checklists and simple skills and offers students to develop meaningful awareness of information landscapes and themselves as information users.