Anthony Pash, Zayed University
Dunstan McNutt, Reference & Instruction Librarian, SUNY Delhi
Carrie Donovan, Head, Teaching & Learning, Indiana University, Bloomington



This session discussed applying pedagogical theories on critical thinking to information literacy instruction. The first speaker, Anthony Pash, introduced the idea of critical information literacy which encourages librarians and educators to focus more on getting students to think critically about the information they work with rather than just concentrating on the transfer of information. One thing we have to keep in mind is that information needs to be viewed in regard to economic, political, racial, and gender context. We also needs to be wary of our current system which has historically benefited a limited cultural heritage and understand that most educators today are products of that system.

Carrie Donovan spoke about using this theory to inform practice. Librarians come late to pedagogy and often teaching is user needs based which doesn’t promote informed consciousness. Some ideas include focusing on the learner’s perceptions rather than the information and addressing bibliographic privilege such as how the author’s race, gender, social and political views may and how that may affect information. Also, encourage looking at underrepresented voices with your teaching.

Dustan McNutt discussed applying contextualist theory to critical information theory. Current standards often reafy traditional norms. The theory of contextualism is that all knowledge is situated in context but at the base there are core truths (which makes it different from relativism). The challenge is to get students to think about their own information seeking in context. One way to do this is to emphasize qualitative data over quantitative and encourage students to track their beliefs during the research process.

This was a lot of meaty stuff to take in at 8:00am but I’m glad I went. I think it is worth considering how we can apply these theories of critical thinking and contextualism in the instruction classroom but also while providing reference instruction (both in person and virtually).