Research Agenda — Critical Information Literacy and Feminist Pedagogy

The political nature of women’s studies and the parallel between some feminist pedagogical objectives and information literacy objectives make the intersection of information literacy and women’s studies a provocative area for study. A handful of recent studies have shown how thoroughly the construction of best practices in information literacy instruction have been aligned with the innovations of feminist pedagogy: small group discussions, the use of personal experience as a legitimate way of knowing, a collaborative ethic, and an inversion of the power structure in the classroom so that students feel empowered to create knowledge (Ladenson 2010; Fields 2001; Wilkinson 2004). In addition, the importance of the affective learning process, or the acknowledgement and processing of the emotions involved in the research process has been emphasized in recent work (Mortimore and Wall 2009; Wilkinson 2004). These findings lead to some further questions:

  • What are some best practices with regard to using personal experience and group work in information literacy instruction for women’s studies?
  • Does an emphasis on the affective learning process inherent in research improve student outcomes? Can the validation of student emotions be helpful in student motivation for success?
  • What are some best practices in the use of research journals to track and validate the affective learning process?

In the previous incarnation of the research agenda, we asked “how integrated is the women’s studies librarian into the life of the women’s studies department in terms of instruction?” Caroline Nappo’s 2006 study, while limited by a small sample size, showed that in general women’s studies librarians do feel integrated into the departments, although they would like to become even more so. The biggest hindrance to faculty-librarian partnerships was the lack of institutional support for women’s studies programs. This begs further study:

  • What types of women’s studies programs/departments are the most conducive to faculty/librarian partnerships?
  • Are librarians integrated into women’s studies courses most commonly at the lower-division undergraduate level, the upper-division undergraduate level, or the graduate level?

Articles by Wilkinson (2006) and Broidy (2007) indicate a possible trend in librarian integration into women’s studies programs: that of librarians teaching credit courses that combine the principles of feminist pedagogy and information literacy with political and theoretical course content. Broidy’s course “Gender and the Politics of Information” and Wilkinson’s course “Gender and the Research Process” may presage a movement to take the political nature of research instruction in women’s studies a step further by combing pedagogy with critical theories of information in semester-long courses.

  • To what extent are women’s studies librarians beginning to teach credit courses on research methods and/or the politics of information? To whom are these courses targeted? Are they required courses?