Information Literacy, Diversity, and One-Shot “Pedagogies of the Practical”

Karen P. Nicholson, Maura Seale


This essay examines the information literacy one-shot in conjunction with similar one-off training approaches often found in diversity education. Through this lens, we interrogate the ways that superficial approaches to complex issues such as mis- or disinformation and racism inhibit the kinds of engagement and (un)learning that transformative pedagogy requires as well as the structural conditions that give rise to such approaches. We find that information literacy and diversity one-shots emerged within the neoliberal turn in higher education and share a common philosophical foundation in liberalism and a belief that educated publics will come to consensus in the interest of the social good; they are based in narratives of individual deficiency, empowerment, and self-work. They are “pedagogies of the practical,” practices that ultimately fail to challenge white supremacist structures in higher education. Because education is about affect, emotion, and beliefs as well as knowledge, transactional one-shots can never truly be transformational or liberatory. We conclude by considering the role of affect in teaching and learning, and how “pedagogies of emotion” might help us to better address power and race in the information literacy classroom.

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