Background Reading on 4 Theories in the Atlas of New Librarianship

Conversation Theory: Learning as conversation in context is based primarily on the work of cybernetician, Gordon Pask.

” Pask refers to learning about “why” as comprehension learning and learning about “how” as operation learning. and conceives them both as being complementary aspects of effective learning. These distinctions allow Pask to give a formal definition of what it means to understand a topic. For Pask, understanding a topic means that the learner can “teachback” the topic by providing both non-verbal demonstrations and verbal explanations of “how” and “why”. (Scott 353)

Motivation Theory:   Hense and Mandel write about the self determination theory of intrinsic motivation: Self-determination theory postulates that intrinsic motivation depends on fulfilling three basic psychological needs: competence, autonomy, and relatedness.” (22).   Competence describes the experience of an individual in control and having mastery of  a situation. Autonomy describes the ability to strive towards one’s own goals, interests, and aptitudes. Relatedness describes the feeling of belonging to a community with like-minded peers. The two motivational constructs beyond self determination are interest and flow.  Interest describes the relationship between the learner and the content or area of knowledge and flow refers to the person being fully immersed in a challenging task or activity. For flow to be induced, the task has to have goals, the learner’s skills have to match the task and also there has to be immediate feedback.

Sensemaking Theory:  Sensemaking is an ongoing process and it is the librarians role to  facilitate sensemaking.  The concept was championed by Brenda Dervin and also by Karl Weick.  The Atlas of Librarianship adopts Weick’s approach which focuses on public sector organizations.  Weick was investigating how human beings made sense of contradictory information.  The activities related to sense-making as described in this article by  Kirsten R. Butcher and Tamara Sumner  are the same as critical thinking activities: locating appropriate resources, evaluating accuracy and applicability of  resources, determining relevancy, and integrating multiple sources of information with prior knowledge.  The end result of educative sensemaking, according to Butcher and Sumner, is a final learning representation, such as an essay, that  will reflect the students’ current understanding of the topic.

Postmodernism Theory: according to this article, the concept  has implications for organizational communication. It is a controversial theory that has to do with power, knowledge, discourse analysis (specialized language of a community), and identity. Postmodernists rely on the work of French philosopher and historian, Michel Foucault, and argue that organizations are marked by irony, ambiguity,contradiction, uncertainty, and paradox.


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