Workshop for Instruction in Library Use (WILU) (45th : 2016)

To Badge or Not? : Towards an intersection of neoliberalism and information literacy instruction Ford, Emily; Lottes, Jost


As technology in higher education rapidly changes, new pedagogical tools are being tested, developed, and implemented. Digital badge systems are one such tool that can be used to certify student skills and competencies, including information literacy skills. But at what point do micro-credentialing systems and competency-based approaches intersect with neoliberalism? Neoliberalism, a disturbing trend in higher education, values competencies and skills to prepare “market and job-ready” students, whereas non market-based traditional approaches to higher education aim to create an informed and engaged citizenry for the public good. Can micro-credentialing systems co-exist with this ideological aim? Are badges and micro-credentialing systems a product of neoliberalism? Do they inherently further these neoliberal aims or can they further an ideological aim of education as a public good? On the one hand today’s college students face rising tuition and course materials costs. As a result students focus their learning on skills acquisition and job-market competitiveness after college. Students frequently learn information literacy and critical thinking skills throughout their course of study and outside of discrete class-based learning outcomes. Using badges to certify and clearly communicate these skills to students and future employers, then, assists students in their learning and post-educational goals. On the other hand, information literacy and critical thinking skills can be integrated into course instruction without the use of micro-credentialing systems like badges. This session will examine and compare two sections of a community health class utilizing an embedded information literacy and critical thinking curriculum. One section used badges to certify learning outcomes; the other did not. Drawing from their experiences and findings from pre- and post-course student surveys, presenters will discuss the intersection and balance of neoliberal approaches to information literacy with the value of education as a public good.

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