RIOT: One-Shot Library Instruction, does it work?

Like most librarians, I would love to be able to integrate library instruction in to courses working collaboratively with faculty but the reality is that, for the most part, I only get to do single sessions for various courses so I was quite interested and encouraged by the findings of this article:

Spievak, E. R., & Hayes-Bohanan, P. (2013). Just Enough of a Good Thing: Indications of Long-Term Efficacy in One-Shot Library Instruction. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 39(6), 488-499.

The authors asked undergraduate students to evaluate the results of a Google search for genetically modified foods. “Participants were asked to consider the initial Google search page as well as the content, layout and usefulness of individual web pages in the context of a one of the following hypothetical situations: freshman-level writing assignment, upper-level research assignment, or personally relevant search.”  The researchers had an interesting approach to obtain unbiased responses by not explicitly indicating that they were trying to find out if library instruction was effective. Instead, they advertised the study “as an investigation of reactions to and attitudes about web pages.”

Spievak and Hayes-Bohanan found that students that had library instruction were significantly more likely:

  • to choose the US Government webpage as the best source and to choose Wikipedia as the worst source
  • to continue searching for more information for their project
  • engaged in more elaborative thinking about the sources and their choices was indicated by the open-ended request for suggestions for improvements to the presented materials
  • to be more efficient in evaluating sources and engaged in more complex information processing
  • to evaluate the sources critically
  • ask reference questions, and also more sophisticated questions

These results, not doubt, are encouraging: library instruction is an effective tool in building information literacy and critical thinking.  Here a few questions to start our discussion:

  • Are there particular strategies that we can incorporate in to single library sessions that can further encourage the development of these skills?
  • Can we create support materials (guides, tutorials, etc) that complement what is working in these sessions?
  • Are there significant information literacy concepts that we can see missing in the findings of this study?  And if so, how do address those gaps?

Aside from the content of the article, I also think the research methodology that the authors used is worth a closer look and can be a source for discussion:

  • Are there any issues with their methodology?
  • Can we incorporate assessment in less obvious ways?
  • Can this approach be scaled up to more complex research tasks?

Discussion: It’s not just an event…It’s a classroom

Kristen kicked off the discussion by asking the group about collaboration with student organizations.
Benson has been involved in a student led anthropology conference. They have also worked with student groups such as a Spanish and Portuguese group who wanted information about the Benson. AJ will go to a classroom to talk to a group of students, in this case there were 15-20. This again is student initiated.
Teaching and Learning Services (TLS formerly LIS) works with student groups. RAs will ask them for a study break or pre-Law student groups will ask for a presentation about the Libraries. The Welcome Tables were also mentioned. Michele considered the learning outcomes for the welcome tables and thought relieving library anxiety would be one. Peer mentors were also mentioned.
When Roxanne puts on a Science Study Break she always makes time for information about the library and relevant to the study break to the attendees.
For Poetry month, Kristen partnered with students including a Design class who designed a broadside for an upcoming event. She has also been considering classes in the library about poetry led by students.
The art history undergraduate symposium was mentioned, both assisting students in preparing their visuals and the FAL co-sponsoring the event. Laura plans to mention the FAL and its resources at the event.
April mentioned the student entrepreneurs group and assisting the students in their 72 hour marathon. She helps the students get started with their projects and research.
PG mentioned vendors coming to campus and looking to students as their audience. Vendors have considered having experts come and lead a discussion. This is primarily motivated by marketing.
There are so many student groups, some are stable and some are fleeting. They are looking for space to meet and connect, so the Libraries has an opportunity. But we must offer more than space. We must offer the value-added service. We need to find partnerships that are related to student learning.
In the media lab focus groups, creating newsletters for student organizations came up as a need. A workshop in the space could consist of creating a newsletter and a design faculty or grad student could lead it.
The Archives workshop was mentioned. This is coming up next month. Elise steered the conversation to the Archives Week programming that she wants to do in the Fall. She is trying to work with the Society for American Archivists student group. She is hoping for a faculty panel about how archives are used in the classroom or possibly students talking about how they have used archives in their class projects.
Kelly mentioned the K-12 Mapping Workshop led by Julianne at the Benson. Two grad students who worked on mapping and worked with Benson maps presented. This was partly student led.
The conversation then moved to student initiated or student curated exhibits. Martha talked about the exhibit currently being mounted at Architecture and Planning. She also wondered about engaging students in much smaller exhibits, for example students could work on a display of special collections objects they came across in their research. She also mentioned that she was giving her end of semester presentation in the Alexander Architectural Archive for the class she was taking this semester.
The discussion then moved to engaging students in pulling materials for exhibit or display. And we talked about the difficulties of setting something up that is driven by someone else and the difficulty of doing something regularly or committing to anything these days.
AJ mentioned the Benson student photo exhibit which is not student led but students are the authors of the work on exhibit.
Brittney discussed the Library Guru idea which is to train students to go out and let other students know about the Library. This works because students tend to be more comfortable with a peer than with a librarian. These trained students should receive compensation for their work.
Building relationships with the Marketing campaign and Advertising campaign classes was also mentioned.
Martha also wondered about leveraging resources for a student competition to redesign how the journals are displayed at the Architecture and Planning.
Janelle talked about Education students and engaging with them about publishing and the publishing process. This is a service that we can grow and that will be of interest to graduate students across disciplines. A library class could be developed and recorded and learning objects could be created around it.
The Texas Teen Book Festival was discussed and its relationship with the Youth Collection. This may be the first step in moving the Texas Book Festival on to campus.
Kristen thanked everyone for contributing to the discussion.

RIOT: It’s Not Just an Event… It’s a Classroom

This is, as usual, a lively month for events at the UT Libraries – I know many of you are organizing events, and PCL events are also part of the vision-in-action of the Learning Commons. This past month I’ve been working (with a lot of great collaborators) on planning for the April 10 National Poetry Month event (yes, that’s a shameless plug!). I wanted to take a look at how we describe/use programming in the library – and, in particular, in collaboration with students – as information literacy education/engagement. And then, of course, how we can raise awareness about this benefit.

I took a look at this article:
Margeaux Johnson, Melissa J. Clapp, Stacey R. Ewing, and Amy Buhler, “Building a Participatory Culture: Collaborating with Student Organizations for Twenty-First Century Library Instruction,” Collaborative Librarianship 3.1 (2011): 2-15.

The authors make a connection with Partnership for Twenty-First Century Skills’ “Framework for 21st-Century Learning” and, in particular, their focus on “collaboration and communication skills” as well as on information literacy (2). While they see lots of literature about librarians’ collaborations, one missing piece is analysis of librarians’ connection with student organizations.

I like the framework of the “participatory culture”: “Twenty-first century learners not only create content, but they also contribute content to their community. This practice of community membership, creation, and collaboration can be seen as building a participatory culture” (5). Libraries, they point out, are testing grounds for new skills for building participatory cultures. While I hardly think this is limited to the 21st century, I do think that we are drawing on student interests and participation in the classroom as well as in our outreach. How are we making explicit connections between the two?

The examples the authors offer from the University of Florida indicate that to them collaboration focuses on getting students into the library. I wanted more discussion of what the negotiation part of the collaboration looks like – more on this after the overview.

Two of the examples are, I think, particularly useful and relevant to our context. The authors describe the first as an example of inviting students to peer-teach information literacy at the library. A student organization focused on understanding and promoting student creation of Open Access materials approached the library to hold an OA week event in their learning commons. The students selected four open-source media creation programs to load onto learning commons computers, then held an open classroom where the students taught other students how to use the programs to create media mash-ups. (In case you’re interested, the four programs were: Gimp for image editing, Blender for 3-D animation, Audacity for sound editing, and Inkscape for vector drawing.)

For each example, the librarians offer learning objectives. For example:
Learners attending the “Mind Mashup” workshop will be able to do the following:
1. Select Creative Commons licensed images, movies, and music to reuse, remix, and construct new creative products.
2. Identify Gimp, Blender, Audacity, and Inkscape as high quality open source software programs available for media creation.
3. Recognize the library Information Commons as a place for high-tech learning and play.
4. Create their own multimedia projects using images, video, and sound clips.  (7)

In other examples the library participated as a Human v. Zombies site and the Student Government partnered with the library for their first year student recruitment event.

The article closes with an inviting framing for these collaborative events: “Developing collaborative experiences with student-led organizations not only increases turnout at events, but also creates opportunities for students to develop twenty-first century skills, practice new media literacies, and attain higher levels of cognitive engagement” (12).

I’m interested in how we do or can think about our events in these terms, and market them as such to update faculty and student ideas about information literacy.

Here are some questions to consider for our discussion:

  • How do we/can we frame ongoing library programming as information literacy education?
  • How do/could you partner with student organizations within your liaison departments?
  • How can we build information literacy education into the collaboration itself? For example, how can we engage students in the ethics of representation (the Humans v. Zombies event relied heavily on “zombie trances in Haiti” (9))?
  • How could/does this event-based collaboration inform our classroom instruction?

Discussion: Talking Research Data Management

At our February 25 RIOT, Robyn started with including us all, reminding us it’s not just the sciences requiring data management: the NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) and the IES (Institute of Education Sciences) require data management, too. (Tellingly, perhaps, the NEH data management plan executive summary is a PDF. The IES offers a detailed data sharing implementation guide.)

In her post, Robyn outlined a dream workshop building graduate students’ information literacy through data management skills. At the session, we worked through how to move towards such workshop.

Start with a small, focused group: One starting point would be to focus the workshop by working with a small group of graduate students in one lab, or starting with one Principal Investigator, or doing a drop-in session at the Pickle campus. Then, move outward to a department or area. Research says data management education gets too expansive in interdisciplinary groups, so it’s best to focus on a small group.

Perspective of scale: Schools doing this well have teams of dedicated data curation librarians. Purdue (linked to in the original post), for example, has money to invest in infrastructure like this. So, we need strategies to make this scalable as we get started.

So what does this look like? From the librarian’s perspective, data curation might start with a website or online modules teaching students how to organize and manage their files, preparing students to think about and create effective metadata so that the data is truly shareable.

Starting where we are: Structurally, we can start by sharing what we have. Let’s let students know about Box and the UTDR. We also have data sets available through subscription to ICPSR (Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research); using this tool, we could build data literacy.

Then build skills: The critical scaffolding for using Box and UTDR effectively includes issues like copyright and the ethics of open data. These conversations open up space to think about how graduating students leave data behind, how well-structured data can increase citation.

Sharing data: This approach could build capacity within UT, since people want free data sets to use with undergraduate classes, particularly with the growth of digital humanities. Building UT awareness of data management frameworks and metadata best practices would allow UT classes to use UT student and faculty data sets, an exciting prospect.

Connected to Learning Commons Initiative: During focus groups for the learning commons, students and faculty said they wanted help using Excel to manage data. This would include both help using Excel and help understanding data analysis (as well as understanding that changing how we analyze the data can change our results).

Next steps:

  • Build data management discussion/awareness into graduate student orientations.
  • Add data management resources to research guides.
  • Curriculum mapping to find out where students are using/creating data.
  • Get started with small, scalable groups.

Our role is in building best practices, connecting researchers with data networks for the future.

RIOT: Research Data Management (aka Data Management, Data Curation, and Data Stewardship)

One of my goals is to provide a workshop on data management for engineering graduate students.  Instead of presenting on a particular article, I’d like to highlight some of the initiatives done at other universities.  Many of these schools have dedicated library staff working, to some degree, on data management instruction and/or outreach.  Many of my engineering colleagues are working on this issue, but this is not solely an engineering topic, librarians from the natural sciences and social sciences are often part of an interdisciplinary team.  I’m curious if others are working in this area with your students/faculty?

Why would students want our help with managing their data?

  • Prevent data loss (preservation)
  • Continuity among rotating graduate students
  • Providing unusable data is not nice.  In other words, if a dataset is made available in an acceptable format other researchers, educators, and the general public can benefit from your work.  [Of course, personal/private information, patent and proprietary issues are taken into account.]
  • Funding requirement*

*Data Management Plan: This is a requirement of funding agencies including the NSF, NEH, NIH, IMLS and the Institute of Education Sciences.  Straight forward(ish) – a data management plan demonstrates to the funding agency how you will make your datasets freely available to the public.  Colleen has a helpful page and the DMPTool is a service that provides step by step instructions for researchers.  Not a place to re-invent the wheel.

Big data: So I’m not talking about managing “big data”. This is the type of work being conducted by the likes of CERN, the federal government, and Target.

Why should we be interested in providing Research Data Management services?

  • There is a definite need among graduate students and post docs.
  • This is an important trend within our profession.
  • This with be a topic for a future UT Strategic Initiative.

Sample of ARL institutions:

MIT – Data Management and Publishing: MIT has a great website, one that I will use as a model in creating my own research data management web page.  While they don’t have a dedicated position for data management services, they do have a team of 5 librarians from various departments including engineering, economics, and biosciences.

Purdue – Research and Data Services: Data Curation Profiles

University of Minnesota – Managing your data: Another great website, I will borrow from these guys as well.  They also have videos of previous workshops.

University of Virginia Library – Data Management Consulting Group: U.Va. has 4 data consultants! In addition to having a great website they have a Library Research Data Services Newsletter, provide Data Services office hours, and conduct a series of data management workshops.

Potential Modules:

  1. Overview (i.e. why managing your data is important)
  2. File organization best practices/standards
  3. Metadata
  4. Data storage and security protocols
  5. Data sharing options (i.e. Institutional repositories vs subject based repositories)
  6. Copyright and Ethics
  7. Funding requirements/Data Management Plan (DMP)

Resources/Toolkits for Librarians:

Discussion: Guides

At our latest RIOT meeting, Roxanne reviewed a new library guide form Portland State University Library: Library DIY.  This resource has a different approach to libraries’ old question: How do we guide our users through the research process? As Roxanne explained in her blog post and during our meeting, Library DIY does this is with something reminiscent of a dichotomous key, an idea that she had been considering because of her positive experiences using these keys for topics such as plant identification.

The group discussion began with this specific resource and branched out to other guides, results from assessment conducted by Library Instruction Services and, surprisingly, student tardiness… but I will skip details on the latter.

On the pros, cons and questions about Library DIY, we discussed the great potential in guiding students when they don’t know what they need to ask or they don’t know the steps the need to follow. This resource might be a good way to present steps that they might have not considered before because it walks you through the research process.  One of the limitations of using a model like this is that for a dichotomous key to work, we would need to identify common tasks within the research process in specific disciplines, which works better in some disciplines than in others.

Thinking of common tasks lead to a couple of examples at UT Libraries that are more FAQ and less research process guides: Michele explained that the original goal of How Do I? was to point at content that sometimes wasn’t easy to find but that over the years some content has been created when it didn’t already exist. The UT Business FAQ is a subject specific resource but the focus is not necessarily on decision making during the research process.

Kristen brought up her concern with scaffolding with a tool like this because, although all students need basic tools, those who already know how to use these, might need more advanced guidance depending on which threshold concepts (see Meghan’s post about this) they have already crossed.

Another issues is that, as AJ pointed out, it is hard for us to judge if a tool like this really works because we already understand the concepts that we are trying to convey so it all makes sense and seems logical.  These lead us to ask questions regarding how the librarians behind this project are getting feedback from users.

The group wondered if something like Library DIY might be more useful as a tool marketed to faculty to use in class for two reasons: first, when the students see concrete examples of how they can use it for a specific assignment, it is more likely that they will use it, and second, students tend to put a lot of weight on what faculty recommends. Library staff could also use this tool during reference interactions or when training other staff less familiar with research.

But these uses would be taking a lot of the “DIY” out this tool so other ideas came up on how to make this sort of help more visible but not obtrusive so that it would work as DIY.

The Guide on the Side project from University of Arizona might be a good option to explore further. Megan set one for a German database and it seems to work well because the help is right there on the database so you can do you research while following step-by-step instruction. Guide on the Side might be great for this kind of use but, again, probably not for conceptual help.

The good news is that Krystal has been working on assessment of video tutorials has discovered that videos are more successful when focusing on concepts than when providing step-by-step instruction so videos might be what we need to use for conceptual content while other media can be used for teaching specific tasks.

RIOT: Guides

I was quite pleased to see the 2014 ACRL IS Innovation Award-winning library research guide, Library DIY. I love it. I’ve always liked to idea of a step-by-step guide or a flowchart guide, and in fact I’ve played around with developing a dichotomous key for common library research tasks.

There’s nothing wrong with our setup, but I often think that students, especially first-year students, may not be so good at knowing the steps of what they need to do, and therefore not so good at articulating what help they need. And many libraries’ setups, including ours, rely on the users being able to identify the steps of their process and then go looking for that specific help.

The beauty of the Library DIY is that the standard steps are articulated for the users. This is lovely teaching, I think—providing answers, plus showing users what the steps are at the same time. It’s also great teaching for instructors—if any chance to check it out—to see what it is that their students need help learning to do and to show the instructors the level at which their students are thinking about the research process. It could even be helpful as a guide to instructors as they design assignments.

I have several thoughts and questions about this for our discussion.

Do we have a definitive rubric for guides? If we brainstorm to construct one, what are some criteria? Here’s a start:
1) Teachability—how well it teaches; how many different audiences it teaches (students on which levels, instructors, library staffers who aren’t in user services…)
2) Ease of use
3) Comprehensiveness of topics covered
4) Timeless/long-lived or will content units become dated?
5) Is it interactive? Is it an info dump?
6) Frustration level?
7) Goals?—different guides have the same goals or different goals
8) Placement and findability—Is it in a place on the site where users are likely to look for this information? Could it popup if users spend a designated amount of time doing or not doing something? How to describe/tag it, for users who want to search the library website?
9) Macro or micro level of assistance/coverage? General or specific?

What formats are being used for guides? What are pros and cons of different formats? There’s a reason why they use dichotomous keys in plant biology, for example, but there may be no analogous work to do in, say, social work. Certain guide formats may be a more natural fit for certain subject areas. What are some Helping Tools for common tasks in other disciplines?
_______. 2014. Dichotomous key. Wikipedia entry. Retrieved 02/10/14.

American Library Association. 2014. Farkas, Hofer, Molinelli and Willson-St. Clair win 2014 ACRL IS Innovation Award. ALA News.

Farkas, Meredith. 2012. In Practice: The DIY Patron. American Libraries 43(11/12):29.

RIOT: On Instruction, Technology and Not Being Evil

This RIOT post will examine the integration of and critical engagement with technology in library instruction:

Magnuson, Marta L. “Web 2.0 and Information Literacy Instruction: Aligning Technology with ACRL Standards.” Journal of Academic Librarianship 39, no. 3 (May 2013): 244-251.

Once when I was on chat reference duty, I received a chat from a graduate student who was in a full-blown panic. For the past six years, she had been saving citations in an EBSCO account, and while intending to delete only one page of those citations, she accidentally clicked “select all” and deleted them all. What could I do to get them back? Well, not much. But I called EBSCO customer service and spoke to a nice fellow who said he would file a service request with IT to try to recover the student’s saved citations from one of their backed up cron jobs. He warned me that it might take several days and that it wasn’t always 100% successful. While I was chatting with the student, who was slowly coming to grips with the fact that she might not get her articles back that evening (or indeed ever), I suggested that she start using Zotero to organize her research. Zotero has the advantage of storing data locally on the user’s computer, as well as in the cloud, and when the user tries to delete something, it reiterates the request and asks for confirmation. I told her she could take a library course to learn to use the software, if she wished.  But as is usual with chat interactions, I have no idea what the patron ultimately did. I forwarded an e-mail from the EBSCO guy communicating that the service request was still in process, but I don’t know if EBSCO ever succeeded in recovering this student’s information.

This story left me wondering about how we use and teach technology in library instruction sessions. I don’t actually have much experience teaching it, and I was curious to see how the literature in our field treats the subject. My question has two parts: [1] how are librarians integrating technology into their instruction, and [2] with such a diverse marketplace of tools, do we also teach a critical awareness of technology?

Magnuson’s article relates more to the first of my questions. She asks: “How do attributes of Web 2.0 foster the information literacy skills outlined in the Association of College & Research Libraries’ Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education?” She notes that Web 2.0 technologies mesh well with aspects of constructivist educational theory, particularly those that emphasize active learning and collaboration. Her article is a qualitative case study of an online graduate information literacy instruction course taught at UW-Milwaukee’s School of Information Studies. If anyone is curious, she expands upon this topic in her dissertation.

Magnuson’s interest is in demonstrating the helpfulness of Web 2.0 technologies in supporting the ACRL’s Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. Since the focus of her study is on the integration of concepts, and less on structure, she bypasses the need to evaluate the technologies themselves by preselecting the tools: Glogster, PBworks, Diigo and Prezi. Each tool gets matched with learning objective(s) and a class assignment. Magnuson’s methodology section describes a data collection process that involved “observations, field notes, pre- and post-surveys… course assignments and e-mails.” I found myself wanting some of this detail in her paper. For instance, select quotes describing the learning curve involved in these teaching technologies, their effectiveness for a given assignment, their shortcomings, etc., would have helped the reader to understand how class time was spent, and what, if any, critical engagement was taking place with the technologies themselves.

Magnuson instead structured her findings in relation to the ACRL standards and identified five themes that supported the enhanced learning possibilities of Web 2.0 technologies:

  1. Sharing and collaboration
  2. Information organization
  3. Creativity and enjoyment
  4. Catalyst for discussion
  5. Learning about educational technology

The reader’s eyes might cross at the mapping of standards, indicators, outcomes, and Web 2.0 technologies. That aside, I particularly enjoyed her discussion relating to numbers 2 and 3 from the list above. As an example of information organization, students were asked to create electronic posters using Glogster. The space constraints, as well as the multimedia possibilities of the tool (Glogster integrates text, images and video) forced students to think carefully, and differently, about the information they included, and how they chose to display it. Under the theme of creativity and enjoyment, Magnuson talks about how students enjoyed the visual nature of Glogster and Prezi, and that despite the learning curve involved with Prezi specifically, students found them to be fun and creatively stimulating tools. I think this might get at part of the reason we integrate teaching technologies in the first place. We want to make learning fun and stimulating so that students retain more of what they learn, and are inspired to continue learning outside of the classroom.

As for number 5 on her list – learning about educational technology – this relates to my initial question about the evaluation of technologies, and here Magnuson’s description is a little thin. She says that the students learned about the specific Web 2.0 features of the selected tools, and how to use them in support of instruction. But what of other tools that do similar things? Why do we choose one tool over another? I wonder if the evaluation of technologies might support ACRL standards 3 and 6, namely:

  • Evaluate information and its sources critically
  • Understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally

Is it important for students to know the differences between a corporate tool and a tool created by a consortium of non-profit institutions? What values are at stake when we choose one over the other? Is it important for us to teach the hallmarks of Web 2.0 design, which is to say technologies that take as often as they give back? We all have time constraints in our information literacy sessions, in which we need to address content, concepts, and technology. The evaluation of competing technologies might be a shade too far for us, especially in the standard one-time instruction session. But I’m very curious to hear your impressions.

RIOT: Rethinking Graduate Student Library Instruction

Today’s Article:  Incoming Graduate Student in the Social Sciences: How Much Do They Really Know About Library Research.  By Amelia Monroe-Gulick and Julie Petr

I was drawn to this article because it focuses on work with graduate students, which is something that doesn’t come up often in library instruction discussions and literature.   We do know some things about this user base… We know they are our biggest collection users.  We know they use journals more than any other type of source.  We know which disciplines prefer ebooks to print.   We even know a bit about how they search, how we have typically approached instruction and what we usually teach.  But what should be we teaching them?

The authors’ aim was to create an evidence-based plan for instruction to graduate students, based on incoming strengths and deficiencies.  To that end, they took on three projects:  1) interviewing incoming students 2) identifying faculty expectations of these students and 3) piloting a class based on these findings.   This particular article focuses on the results of the first project.

They conducted lengthy open-ended interviews with 49 masters students from political science, sociology, psychology and anthropology.  Each student was evaluated on the fulfillment of the ACRL Standards outcomes and, despite what academic librarians typically assume, a majority of the students fulfilled the outcomes.  With this new perspective, the authors made many suggestions.  Here is what especially resonated with me…

1)    Start from a strengths perspective. Rather than focusing on student deficits, the authors determined that “recognizing and building up the skills that the student already possessed would an important component of working with graduate students.”

2)    Professors are vital.  A majority of the student report gaining their IL skills through faculty resource recommendations, consultations and check-points built into their classes (turning in outlines, bibliographies, lit reviews, etc.).  On the other hand, students didn’t consider librarians as a step/resource in the research process and remember library instruction sessions as only moderately helpful.  To have a lasting impact, librarians must build bridges with faculty an be recommended as a legitimate resource/consultant.

3)    Encourage and support senior projects.  Students who completed such projects come to graduate skills with stronger IL skills and strong sense of “academic socialization” (how information is created and used in academia).

4)    Be flexible with standards. ACRL Standards should not be narrowly applied to as the sole measure of information literacy for graduate students.  The standards are focused on the types of skills that studies show doctoral studies acquire independently through coursework and research projects.  Graduate students could benefit from a broader focus on the research process itself.

5)    Focus on discussion.  Spend more time talking with students about the research process rather than showing them resources and strategies.  The authors plan to hold discussion groups about the expectations of graduate work, individual styles of approaching research and academic socialization.  They imagine these to be a way of establishing rapport with students so they begin to see us as a primary resource.

Questions / Points of Discussion:

  • Because of the small sample size, authors couldn’t generalize beyond political science, sociology, psychology and anthropology?  What’s your experience in other disciplines?  Are students coming in with basic IL skills?
  • Do you have ideas about how we can embed a strengths perspective into our planning and presentation styles?
  • Have any of you tried to used the ACRL Standards with graduate students/programs?  Have you found them applicable/complete?
  • Even if you don’t hold discussion groups with your students as the authors plan, do you build these discussion points into your class?  Do you think it would work?
  • To focus on the “research process itself” can take a lot of time.  How does this translate into the one, 90 minute class your planning?

Discussion: Want to Improve your Teaching? Be Organized.

AJ kicked off the meeting by discussing the article, “Teaching Clearly Can Be a Deceptively Simple Way to Improve Learning,” by Dan Berrett published in the November 22, 2013 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education.  The article discussed how teaching clearly is basic to improving student learning.  This conclusion was drawn from an analysis of 3 studies that looked at how organization and clarity of professors is connected to deeper student learning.

The group then talked about different strategies we use in our attempts to explain things clearly and be organized in our teaching.  The strategies included:

  • When you explain a concept, have the students reflect it back or explain it to you.  This not only serves as a check for student understanding, but improves the chances of students who initially didn’t understand now “getting it” since it has been explained in more than one way.
  • At the beginning of class, tell the students your plan and goals for the class.  Write the goals on the whiteboard or project them on the screen if possible.  Check back in along the way so they see how they are accomplishing those goals.
  • At the beginning of class, ask students to tell you what they need to know in order to do their assignment.  Structure the class around their stated needs.
  • Give yourself time markers when you plan the class so you know how long different sections and activities should take and you don’t end up rushing through parts.  Be sure to build in some flexibility, too, and be prepared to sacrifice some content if students end up needing more time on a concept than you intially planned.
  • Give students time markers.  For example, tell them how long they have for an active learning activity and then give them a 1 minute warning before the end of that activity so they can wrap-up.
  • Use a variety of examples and illustrations to explain a point, recognizing that students have different backgrounds and different approaches to learning.
  • One example of how to explain the difference between formats is to show them a journal article, magazine article, newspaper article, and blog post and ask them to tell you which is which, how they know and possibly when different types of information might be useful to their research.
  • Watch other people teach so you don’t get stale in your own teaching.  This is a way to find new ideas to organize your classes and explain difficult concepts.

We also discussed time constraints, which is a problem everyone faces with one-shots. It is hard to build in repetition (so that you explain the same concept in more than one way), formative assessment (to check on student understanding as you go) and even summative assessment (to check on understanding at the end of the class so you can follow-up later and change things next time) into one-shots because of this time constraint.  However, it isn’t impossible and we discussed some useful approaches such as asking students to post resources they find during active learning into a GoogleDoc you can review right away, or taking a few minutes at the end of class to have them write 3 things they learned or the muddiest point.  Krystal mentioned that LIS has a book called “Classroom Assessment Techniques” on our shelf that anyone is welcome to borrow and she is also available to consult with anyone who wants to build assessment into their class.

One outcome of this RIOT is that we decided to start each one with a 15 minute discussion of things we are doing in the classroom in order to learn from each other and get new ideas.  These will be captured in the blog posts and categorized as active learning, assessment and/or “in the classroom” so we can easily find them again.  In addition, people want to observe LIS teaching so we will make that happen in the spring.