Information Literacy and the Fashion Item

I am sharing what I think is a very interesting lesson plan that my colleague Maria Rothenberg designed for one-shot library instruction sessions. One-shot is library lingo for the brief hour librarians usually get to introduce students to the array of resources and skills they will need to pursue research in modern libraries and on the web. When you only have one hour, you’d better have a hook that engages the student. In this case, the hook is the use of iconic clothing items as learning objects to teach information literacy knowledge practices.

Converse, Chuck Taylors

Converse, All Star Chuck Taylor’s

In my opinion, the lesson plan touches on several of the new ACRL Information Literacy Frames (not only the two listed in the outline below). If you’re not familiar with the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, which replaced the ACRL Information Literacy Standards this year, here is the list:

Authority Is Constructed and Contextual
Information Creation as a Process
Information Has Value
Research as Inquiry
Scholarship as Conversation
Searching as Strategic Exploration

This one-hour lesson plan provides a good introduction to many of these new frames, and, if one were given more time than an hour, could easily be expanded to include all of them.

Maria Rothenberg- Lesson Plan


LESSON OVERVIEW:  In this lesson students will study one iconic fashion object to generate questions about their object and assess the factual information they will provide to tell the story of their object. Within this exercise students will determine what information is needed for a correct APA citation and how this information is useful when evaluating blogs, wikis, academic journals, etc. To support their finding they will choose three different sources to gather information on their object. Students will articulate why they made those particular choices.


From Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Educations

  • “Authority is Constructed and Contextual”
  • “Information Has Value”


  • Students will work in groups of 2 (class of 20)
  • I will pass out 10 8”x11” color photos of an iconic fashion item (for example, Levis 501 jeans, a pair of Dr. Martens boots, Izod polo shirts, etc.)
  • Internet access to web and library resources
  • Library database handout
  • Examples of APA citations


  • Approximately one 60-minute lesson (20 minutes of working together in a guided example, 30 minutes of working together in their groups and 10 minutes of presenting their findings).


  1. This lesson is based on a class assignment where 20 students (10 groups of 2) will write a descriptive synopsis of an object of fashion (1-2 paragraphs).
  2. Before students break into their groups and start working, we will explore a fashion item together, which I will project on the screen. This will set the stage for how students are to proceed with their object.
  3. My goal is to get the students to talk about what they see by asking them some open- ended questions about the object we are looking at. We are not talking about “research”, but about what we are seeing and questions that are coming up that we might want to explore.
  4. I elect a note-taker to jot down some of the keywords we have mined from our observation of the object. From our discussion, we have questions we want answered.

I suggest a basic format we might use to do our research – general to more specific. 

  1. We start with some general research queries to explore the history of the company that made the garment. We get more specific and describe the trend that the garment exemplified, the time period during which the garment was worn, etc. We discuss what we are finding and what we are not finding. We examine three different sources (blog, e-book, newspaper article). I ask them questions about perceived audiences, the language/tone used, whether they contain original research, etc. We then further discuss how and when certain sources can be used appropriately (e.g., using a fashion blog as a form of public discussion around an issue, but not necessarily as a means of supporting one’s argument). Students refer to their APA examples to find the relevant information to cite the blog or other sources we find.
  2. Students break out into smaller groups. I circulate the room to see how students are progressing with their research.
  3. After 20 minutes each group presents and briefly discusses their object, the three research sources they found and why they chose them.


  • Participation in discussion.
  • References that are cited in final project.

The use of a familiar fashion item as a learning object gives context to research skills and appeals to the visual learner. If you like this lesson plan, please let me know.

One thought on “Information Literacy and the Fashion Item

  1. Way to go Maria! I tried out the lesson plan and had fun looking up my favorite fashion pieces.

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