Research Proposal

Question: Using ideas of Personal Learning Environments and Critical Information Literacies and frameworks for pedagogical research, how can the critical, contextual and theoretical aspects of the curriculum be delivered creatively and challengingly ways in blended educational environments to enhance the student’s experience and practices at UAL?

Literature: In PLEs, a learner can start using the tools and the resources that are used in the practice of a field. In this way, and can be seen as ‘a tool intended to immerse yourself into the workings of a community’ (Downes 2010). CIL approaches extend this idea by encouraging students to recognise and consequently shape the wider conventions and characteristics of the discipline or community, rather than remaining an onlooker. Learners will be asked to engage a specialist, by commenting on a blog and through interviews, viewing inquiry as entering a conversation. Students learn how to ‘research and write like the specialists in these communities’ and to ‘participate in a world of already articulated ideas’ (Elmborg 2003, p. 73).

CIL is a complex set of behaviours, attitudes and interactions that a learner adopts to engage critically. It is founded in critical pedagogy and critical information studies as a culturally and socially situated phenomenon (Luke and Kapitzke 1999, p. 5). CIL inquiry encourages an individual not to be passive, but one who poses questions and interrogates; who explores, plays, internalises and contributes; who reflects and revises information practices and beliefs (Accardi, Drabinski, and Kumbier 2010, p. xii).

The underlying values of CIL approaches encourage the learner to question customs of knowledge production, including ‘‘what should count as knowledge,’ ‘for whom’ and ‘in whose interests’’ (Luke and Kapitzke 1999, p. 484). By questioning the traditional hierarchical systems ‘wherein expert authorities determine what counts as ‘knowledge’’, learners are positioned to engage in decentralised and open information exchange (Pawley 2003, p. 426).

Research assignments feature prominently in the undergraduate curriculum. We use the research assignment to firstly, assess students’ skills of inquiry and writing and secondly, to acculturate students into academic discourse and disciplinary content. In this way, these assignments are often miniature replications of the formal scholarly activity that academics enact throughout their professional careers (Elmborg 2006, p. 196). Despite being designed to model expert habits for the research novice, students often exhibit only superficial interaction with the process and the content of study (Fister 1993; Leckie 1996; Lee 2013; Nelson 1994). They may consequently experience research as a decontextualised, procedural task rather than engaging their own questions, knowledge or interests.


Alison Hicks & Caroline Sinkinson (2014) Critical connections: personal learning environments and information literacy Department of Arts & Humanities, University Libraries, University of Colorado,

Lisa Marie Blaschke (2014) Using social media to engage and develop the online learner in self-determined learning Research in Learning Technology Vol. 22, 2014 Center for Lifelong Learning (C3L), Carl von Ossietzky Universita¨t Oldenburg,

Yishay Mor, et al (2014) The Art & Science of Learning Design Sage Publishing