All posts by Michele

RIOT Recap – Instruction for Graduate Students

Janelle and Roxanne led a discussion of instruction for graduate students, talking about different articles they had read about the topic and comments they had solicited via this blog before the discussion.  One of the most common questions submitted by fellow RIOTers was about whether or not graduate students come into the class with different levels of preparedness and, if so, how do you handle it?

The answer was a resounding “yes” but one of the unique characteristics of this population is that they understand how valuable to their work as graduate students what librarians are going to teach them.  One way to handle that discrepancy in preparedness is to capitalize on their natural interest and teach them a variety of skills and tools.  Even though some will know some of it, they definitely won’t know all of it and will find value in many areas of the session.   Librarians who regularly teach graduate students agreed that there isn’t a need to struggle to engage this level of students as there is with undergraduates.

The group discussed the different needs graduate students have and how these needs also change depending on where they are in their program.  For example, someone working on their first systematic review will need something different than students writing their dissertation lit reviews or dissertation proposals.  All of them, however, need help understanding what is expected of them when doing this type of research and tools and techniques for finding, evaluating and managing relevant resources.

One tool that is effective with a graduate student population, because of their understanding of how the library will be valuable to their work, is research orientations at the beginning of the semester.  Issues of timing and tying to a particular assignment aren’t necessarily as important with this population.  Roxanne also discussed a workshops program for grad students at another university that was effective.

RIOT Recap: Teaching Open Access in Instruction Sessions

The RIOT discussion on December 15 was all about open access.  Sarah led off with a question for all of us sparked by her post – is there a place to incorporate Open Access and OERs into one-shots?

We had an excellent discussion about how this does and could work in both undergraduate and graduate classrooms, and what the challenges are.  Many of us already talk about open access journals in our undergraduate classes and find that students get very engaged when you talk about the price of journal/database subscriptions (about $10m/year for UTL) and “behind the scenes” information about the Libraries.  This line of discussion comes up in the context of evaluating information, including understanding peer-review, and is easy to demonstrate when talking about GoogleScholar.  Nobody has intentionally brought it up or built a lesson around it in undergrad classes, though, and there was some discussion of what this might look like.  Ideas included using Colleen’s infographic from OA week to spark discussion or asking students to look for information in both an open access portal (such as DOAJ) and a database and compare.  This might work better in a class with a social justice component.

When talking about open access in graduate student classrooms, there are natural ties to their own publishing activities.  Janelle works with one seminar class where she spends 1 of her 2 sessions with them talking about this very issue.  Because social justice is a big component of the College of Education, she is able to frame her discussion of OA this way.   As she puts it, she asks them to “think about how what they are creating can’t be accessed by the people they are most trying to help.”  PG talked about the importance of continuing education to social workers and how that lends itself to a discussion of OA.

We also talked about how to tie discussions of OA and Creative Commons to other creative activities besides scholarly publishing.  Sidney talked about how many of her grad students and faculty want to use other people’s work in their own creative work (often without citation) but do not want to openly share their own.  There are fears that sharing your own work under a creative commons license will lead to others profiting from it or using it in ways with which you disagree.  This happens in the College of Ed, too, where people are training to be teachers (or may already be teachers) who heavily borrow from each other’s work already.  Janelle encourages them to think about how to share their work with others for the benefit of those they teach.

One challenge everyone discussed is how to be an activist about this topic with or in front of people who are participating in the system.  For example, when you are teaching undergraduates and talking about changing the model for scholarly publishing, the faculty member in the room is often a participant in that model.  Graduate students often have to participate in that model when they get on the tenure track to achieve tenure.  The trick is to find a balance between raising awareness about the issue and still showing why using library journals/databases now is important in the current environment.  Janelle often explains to her users that if the model did change, the $10m we spend on subscriptions now could go to support research instead.

The discussion went on past the hour and included some non-instruction related threads such as:

  • the importance of educating faculty to write OA into their grant proposals so that the fees for publishing in OA journals are covered
  • the difference between disciplines and how the sciences are more embracing of OA and use different metrics
  • trying to connect with the people on campus who make course packs so that we don’t ask students to pay copyright fees for articles we already subscribe to
  • wishing there was a simple way to add links to articles in our databases within Canvas – the current model is too much of a barrier for faculty and we don’t have the staff to do it for them, although it would be a great cost savings for students

We also had some ideas for OA week that Michele will pass along to Colleen, including having giant checks in the PCL lobby to clearly show the costs of our current system, and taking some undergrad and grad papers, and even a dissertation, and showing how much each “cost” to create (basically adding up subscription fees for the journals they accessed).

Michele also promised to send around the ACRL IL/Schol Comm white paper from a few years ago, which can be found here – http://acrl.ala.org/intersections/.

 

TLS TIP: Taking a Teaching Leap

It seems that every second of the last month has been spent working through technical and logistical issues in the Learning Labs and as a result, I confess I often forgot why they seemed like a good idea in the first place.   This week Shiela and I worked with a UGS class where the professor gave us full license to “take the Learning Lab for a spin,” as he said. And we did. And then I remembered why we built them to begin with.

Constructivism and active learning – we talk about these things quite a bit.  We try to employ a combination of learning by discovery and guided learning into our classes, and to recognize what knowledge our students already bring into the classroom and build upon that.   We try not to lecture or talk for too long at any stretch.  We try to assess along the way with Q&A and do quick assessments at the end with a 3-2-1 or muddiest point.   I’ve always felt that I was doing a pretty decent job of teaching students what I wanted them to learn in our old classrooms.

But in the class this week in a Learning Lab, I learned so much about how our students are (or are not) learning what we are trying to teach them.  We were able to address the learning gaps right there in the class. It was messy, sometimes uncomfortable but also really fun and energizing – just like learning is supposed to be!

If anyone wants to see our whole class outline, I’m happy to share it but I want to focus on one part.   Students needed to know how to find scholarly articles, which means they needed to be able to use our databases, including some tricky Classics ones.  One of the exercises we did that took up the bulk of class time was to give each group a database, have them figure it out and teach it to the rest of the class.  We handed out this exercise (below) and had each group collaborate around a different flat panel.  Then as each group was teaching their database to the rest of the class, we sent that group’s flat panel around to all of them.

We saw them struggling with all of the databases, not just the  Classics databases.  Even JSTOR which seems like an easy one, was difficult.  As they taught the rest of the class, Shiela, the professor and I were able to ask them clarifying questions and clear up misconceptions.  They presented what they were confident they knew but they were often a little (or a lot) off the mark and we were able to address that right there.  It made me wonder what misconceptions every other student I’ve taught still carries around with them.

The down side – we covered a lot less ground.  The up side – they seemed to learn it better.  I’ll be getting copies of their assignments for further assessment but I left that session feeling inspired!

Before sharing my thoughts with the professor, I asked him what he thought, and here is what he had to say.

“I thought it was fantastically successful, although of course the real proof will be in their preliminary bibliographies for the research paper… I really liked the group component, and I thought that having them explain the databases to each other was a great strategy. And having seen those screens work in practice, I’m completely convinced.

… my general impression was that this format was far more effective than our previous versions — not that those weren’t great too, but there’s something about working through a particular problem and sharing the results that makes the databases and the process more concrete to everyone.”

So there you have it.  If anyone else has already tried something new in the Learning Labs, please let me know or share in the comments.

DATABASES ACTIVITY

Use your assigned database to find a source that you would use for this assignment.  Be prepared to teach this database to your fellow-students by demonstrating a search and telling them the answers to the following questions.

  1. What database are you using? What is it good for/what would you find in it?
  1. Show a search. If possible, show or explain how you’d find the full text of the article.
  1. What tips or suggestions do you have for using this database?

 

What We Shared at the Active Learning Sandbox

On March 31, Roxanne and I held an Active Learning Sandbox with  people from around the Libraries who were interested in sharing ideas about how they incorporate active learning into their classrooms.  Here are a few of the many great ideas that were shared.  I’ve put an asterisk next to those that don’t require technology.  I’m sure there are others I failed to capture and ideas out there that other people have.  Feel free to add anything in the comments.

Keywords and Boolean logic:

  • *Think, pair, share:  Have students take their own research topics/questions and turn them into keywords.  Then pair students up, have them share their keywords with each other and give each other ideas.
  • *Finding keywords in a source:  Either give or have students find a source (such as an encyclopedia or an abstract from a paper), have them find keywords within it, and have them use those keywords to build a search.
  • *Stand up, sit down Boolean logic:  Ask students to stand up if they are wearing jeans.  Then ask those who are wearing jeans and have brown hair to stay standing to demonstrate AND.  Then ask students who are wearing jeans or have brown hair to stand to demonstrate OR.  (Play with your terms – it doesn’t have to be jeans and brown hair).
  • Keyword tool:  Bring up the keyword tool for everyone to see and, using a sample topic, fill it out together.  It demonstrates visually how keywords are combined using AND and OR.

Evaluating Sources:

  • *Building evaluation criteria:  Put students in groups and have them review a source (either online or one you’ve printed for them) and write down what criteria they used to determine the source’s credibility.  After giving them time to do this in groups, have each group report out one criteria, discuss it, and add it to the board.  By the end you should have built a list of evaluation criteria together.  This can be used with any type of source and you can either preselect it or have them search for something themselves.  For more details, see this blog post.
  • *Why does this source exist?:  Provide a variety of sources to students, some that would be better for an assignment and some that wouldn’t be.  Use these sources to discuss choosing good sources, with an emphasis on purpose.  Katherine Strickland uses this approach with classes in the Map Room where she shows them different maps of the same place (such as a CIA map and a Chamber of Commerce or Cracker Barrel map) and asks them to evaluate them.
  • *Archival sources: select items from an archival collection (could be print or digital) and ask students to analyze those items with specific questions to answer.  These questions should be customized to the class and materials but could include questions about what you learn by comparing drafts with notes to final printed/published versions, or how the format itself provides meaning.  Kelly kindly shared two examples she and Christian use at the Benson.  If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll send them to you.

Source Types:

  • *Evaluating scholarly sources:  if students have to use peer-reviewed sources but don’t know what they are, instead of telling them what they are, use an activity where they will end up explaining it to you.  Divide them into groups, give them a source either online or one you’ve printed out for them, have them answer a series of questions and then use those answers together as a group to build a definition of what scholarly sources are and how they are useful.  For more details, see this blog post.
  • *Popular versus scholarly:  choose a topic and give students an example of a popular source and a scholarly source on that topic. It could even be a popular source reporting on a scholarly one (ie; a health magazine reporting on a recent scientific study).  Have students explore and discuss the difference between these two source types.
  • *Archival sources: select items from an archival collection (could be print or digital) and ask students to analyze those items with specific questions to answer.  These questions should be customized to the class and materials but could include questions about what you learn by comparing drafts with notes to final printed/published versions, or how the format itself provides meaning.  Kelly kindly shared two examples she and Christian use at the Benson that I am happy to share if you email me.

Choosing and Searching a Tool:

  • Poll everywhere:  Give them a topic such as “Does eating late in the day cause weight gain?” and then ask students to identify at least two databases that are good choices to search for articles on this topic via PollEverywhere.  As students enter their answers and they scroll by, comment on them. (e.g., “Pediatric Nutrition Care Manual is actually a handbook, with chapters, so it’s not a good choice for this particular question, because we need to find articles.” “Academic Search Complete has articles on a variety of subject areas, and has both popular and peer-reviewed articles, so it’s a good starting database for almost any topic.”)
  • *Best tool for the job:  Use a worksheet or a GoogleForm and ask students to consider what type of information they need for their project and where they might find it.  (Ex: statistics from the government; research studies from journals).  You can set this up for students to do in groups if they are working on group projects, individually, or in groups on a topic you give them.  Review and discuss what they come up with and discuss which tools are the best for different information needs.

Other :

  • *How to Read a Scientific Article:  Roxanne teaches this in sections of an upper-division NTR class with a writing flag, where (some) students seriously engage with scientific literature for the first time. Working in pairs, students answer questions about a section—introduction, methods, results, discussion—of a scientific research article. The article title and abstract have been redacted. The pairs of students then compare their answers with the answers of student-pairs who had other sections of the article.
  • *Finding Books:  Laura takes students into the stacks to engage with the art and art history literature.  She writes down call numbers on cards and has groups of students find the books and then report back about what they found.  They learn how the library is organized and how to browse for additional information.

TLS Tips: Building an Arsenal of Active Learning Activities (and alliteration)

A few weeks ago,  about 30 staff from across the UT Libraries got together to give TLS input to help us plan the classroom teaching series.  This is a series of workshops to be held this spring and next fall to support people as classroom teachers in all types of classrooms, from the traditional auditorium classroom to the technology-rich active learning classrooms we are planning for the Learning Commons.  The common theme of the input was active learning.  In fact, our first workshop on March 10 from 1-2pm will be about getting started with active learning for people new to it and those who want a refresher.   If you are interested, you can RSVP here and also see and RSVP for other workshops planned for the spring.

I thought I would get the conversation started by asking you to share what you do and sharing something I am doing.   First, you!   Please take a moment to fill out this GoogleForm with something you do in class that you think works well.  If you want to share more than one thing, fill it out multiple times.  I’ll compile the results and share them so we can begin to build a bank of activities we can all use.  Since most of what we do in TLS is focused on the non-major freshman, it would be especially fantastic to get examples of what you like to do with your majors and your upper division students.  So, let me just thank you in advance for sharing!

Ok, now me.  Today I had a class of freshmen who had to use 10-12 peer-reviewed articles for their research paper.  Although they’ve read a few for their course this semester, they didn’t know it and hadn’t discussed what one is and why people write and read them.  I decided to  start out with an activity where they would discover for themselves what a peer-reviewed article is and why all their professors want them to read them.  That would inform everything else in the class from brainstorming keywords to choosing a database and searching.  Here was my plan:

–          Select one popular and one scholarly source on the same topic and link them from the SubjectsPlus course guide as Article 1 and Article 2.  (It would also be great to find a scholarly article and then a popular one reporting about the scholarly article, but that didn’t work out for this class topic.)

–          Break the students into groups and ask them to review both articles and answer a series of questions.  You could do this in a GoogleForm or give them these questions in paper. Give them about 15-20 minutes to do this.

–          Have groups report out and use what they say to facilitate a conversation about the differences between scholarly and popular sources and when you might want to use one or the other.  As you take notes on what they say on a white board or a document on your computer, you could build a popular versus scholarly grid.

Due to the power outage causing us to get a late start, I wasn’t able to do this full exercise as planned  but I did have them look at the scholarly article and, as a group, we figured out the characteristics together and I wrote them on the board.  This worked pretty well and one girl even took a picture of the board.   That never happens and it made me really happy.

I hope you will take a moment to share what you do or try out the above exercise in full and let me know how it went.

Our Partnership with the School of Undergraduate Studies

We have been working closely with the School of Undergraduate Studies (UGS) since it was formed in 2006 and I frequently get questions about our involvement and collaborations.  So I decided to blog about it and hope it will be useful to people interested in the information literacy work we are doing in the core curriculum here at UT.

About the Signature Courses:

UGS offers over 200 Signature Courses each year.  Knowing a little about the Signature Courses is essential to understanding our involvement:

  • Signature Courses are required of every student in their first year at UT.
  • These academically rigorous courses are designed to help students transform from excellent high school students to excellent college students.  Each course has 7 required elements – one of which is information literacy – selected to ensure that students learn how to write, discuss, present and find, evaluate and use information.
  • Distinguished faculty from every discipline across campus teach in this program.  If they are interested, they propose a course which may or may not be accepted by UGS.
  • Courses labelled UGS 302 and TC 302 are small format and capped at 18; courses labelled UGS 303 are large format and can be anywhere from 25 to 300.  The large format classes have discussion sections that meet weekly and are run by specially trained TAs.

History

When we learned that the undergraduate curriculum was being reformed, we began our quest to integrate information literacy into that curriculum.  We spoke with members of the Faculty Senate working on curricular reform as well as influential faculty on campus who supported our goals.  When the inaugural Dean of Undergraduate Studies was appointed, we also approached him and were successful.  We established program-level learning outcomes based on the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards.

Our Program

Our goal is to integrate our program-level learning outcomes into each Signature Course in a way that support the goals of the particular course, and to assess our work to ensure students are learning.  To achieve our goals, we reach out individually to every faculty member teaching a UGS course.  We offer assignment design and course consultations to help faculty incorporate information literacy into their courses; instruction sessions tied to research assignments; tailored research guides; assignments and exercises; tutorials; and training of TAs to teach information literacy skills during discussion sections.   In addition, we work with the UGS’ Sanger Learning Center to support the TAs directly, visiting their learning community cohort meetings to talk about how to teach information literacy skills to freshmen.

We also maintain and develop an Information Literacy Toolkit.  Faculty may browse it to find learning objects they can use as is or adapt to their course on their own or with our help.  It also includes examples of how other faculty have incorporated information literacy into their Signature Courses.

We offer an annual information literacy award to students enrolled in Signature Courses.  While most students are nominated by their faculty, students are also allowed to self-nominate.

Our assessment plan outlines our approach in the Signature Courses, which includes pre and post-testing large numbers of students and assessing individual student work.

Other UGS Programs

In addition to working with the Signature Courses, we are involved with UGS in other ways.

One of our larger programs is with the First-year Interest Group program, or FIGs.  We train all of the FIG mentors (upper division students who lead the interest groups) to lead a game-based program to teach their students what plagiarism is and strategies for avoiding it.  You can read more about our plagiarism prevention approaches here.

We work closely with the Sanger Center in UGS on UGS TA support, but also partner with them to offer workshops in the Libraries on a variety of topics ranging from career exploration to public speaking.  We partner with the Writing Flag Coordinator to teach workshops about teaching writing since it so often overlaps with teaching research.  We support the Honors Colloquium each summer, promote Freshman Reading Round Up and work with the Office of Undergraduate Research.  We are always looking for ways to expand our partnerships.

 

 

 

Discussion: Alignment of Research and Instruction

We met to discuss April’s post about the article, “Reinventing the Library’s Message through the Alignment of Research and Instruction,” a project by librarians at the Vanderbilt University graduate school of business.  The project described in this article included the librarians choosing 3 broad objectives they thought all of their students should understand and that they could all commit to teaching, using similar language.  Our conversation revolved around two of those three objectives: information has value and research is a process.

Information has value:  The group discussed when and how we talk about the value of information, including the price tag associated with it, and that this resonates with students outside of business schools as well.  Krystal gave the example of how she uses this concept in UGS classes.  Before discussing databases, they discuss how and why you can’t get everything for free on the Internet, which sets the stage for understanding that different information lives in different places and helps students decide where to search.  Others talk about the actual cost of certain databases in their classes to show the value of this information.

Research is a process:     The group spent the majority of time talking about this objective.  We know that students don’t think like librarians, but we also think it is important to teach them that research is a process, that the more you practice the better you’ll become and that we, as librarians, are able to reflexively do some of these things and think in certain ways because of practice.  We should teach students to think differently about the research process so they can improve.

One of the ways people teach the process is to start by asking students “who cares?”  This helps them decide who would collect or create the data/information so they know where to begin looking for it.  There were numerous examples of how people incorporate this into a class, such as Laura’s Art History example.  She asks students to consider who would care about a piece of artwork besides art historians.  It helps them move beyond their discipline and understand that “art doesn’t live in a vacuum.”  Kristen frames it as a “reflective research process” where students are asked to consider who is talking about the topic and map it to databases and research guides before starting their searches.

The group also talked about how there is some resistance from students because just using Google and simple searches has worked for them.  They look at librarians as unnecessarily complicating things.  This led to a discussion of how students don’t really understand what a college or university is and what faculty and librarians do. Instead they see college as a place to get a degree so they can graduate and get a job.  Faculty and librarians, however, are trying to teach critical thinking skills which are what will help students succeed in work and in life.  We discussed ways we can explain what college is and what a research university is so they can understand why they are asked to go beyond what worked in high school and how their work fits in with the mission of a university.  This ties in with understanding and evaluating scholarly sources, and we had our usual discussion about how difficult it is to teach them source evaluation.

We ended with a discussion about alternative ways to show our value and our learning objectives to our students.  We agreed that some of the information literacy threshold concepts apply here, such as authority is contextual, information has value and research as inquiry (research as a process).  One idea was to make posters/infographics showing our objectives and the value of what we have.  This is something we may explore further in the spring.

 

TLS TIPS: Evaluating Sources in the Classroom

This semester I started teaching source evaluation differently and wanted to share this approach in case it can be adapted for use in anyone else’s classroom.

Using the Assignment in Your Classroom

Step 1:  Split the room into groups.   This works really well in PCL 1.124 because they’re already facing each other at tables.  Tell them the first thing they have to do is assign a recorder and a presenter.  This gets their attention.

Step 2:  Explain the exercise and pass it out on a half sheet of paper.  It is  interesting to see the types of things students write down, some of which they will have learned by the end of the exercise isn’t really helpful (for example, “if it is an .edu you can use it but if it is a .com you shouldn’t”).   Here is the exercise – just click on it to make it bigger:

eval sources

Step 3:  Have a student explain the exercise back to you.   This way students hear it two ways and it ensures they understand what they are supposed to be doing.  I didn’t do this the first time and they didn’t really get it, but I didn’t know that until they were reporting out.

Step 4:  Assign each group a source.  I pre-pick the sources and put links to them on the SubjectsPlus course guide.

Step 5:  Give them about 7 minutes to do the exercise and then have each group report out one criteria.  As you add it to the board, ask questions and hold a discussion.

My experiences with it

This has worked well in every class in which I’ve used it (all freshmen classes, though).  Sometimes I mix up the source types and other times I’ll stick to one or two types.  I tie the types of sources I use to the assignment and learning outcomes for the session.  It can be used as a viewpoint evaluation exercise, a web evaluation exercise, a scholarly versus popular exercise, or a more general source evaluation exercise.

I always do this at the beginning of the class, after I’ve introduced myself, gotten them logged on and told them the goals (LOs) and agenda for the class.  It works nicely as an ice breaker, but more importantly, it lays the groundwork for weaving source evaluation in to discussion of tools.   When they are doing their own searching during class, they can refer to the criteria list they generated and apply it to the sources they are finding.

I think you could do this exercise in a classroom with no technology and just hand out print sources.

In the honors classes I’ve taught, they gotten really into it and don’t want to stop talking.  It brings up all sorts of issues they want to know more about including evaluating (or arguing with each other about) Wikipedia, figuring out how funding may impact a web site or figuring out which journals are more important than others (not really a freshmen thing but this exercise has led to that question).  Other times it takes a while because they aren’t quite getting it but they always do eventually and I see that they have begun to move away from black and white criteria (all blogs are bad!  don’t use opinions, etc).

It is really fun and establishes a nice connection with the students.  If I start with this exercise, students seem to ask more questions during the rest of the class and seek out my help more readily.

While I would love to know how effective this is beyond what I can learn from anecdotal evidence, I only have that anecdotal evidence right now.  I’d be interested to know what other people’s experiences are if they adapt this exercise for use in their own classroom.

RIOT: Does Library Instruction Make You Smarter?

All across UT (and higher education in general), people are attempting to assess student learning and articulate the value of their programs to student success, measured by retention, on-time graduation, GPA, post-college success and more.  While we are successfully measuring the impact of our sessions on student learning, meaning we know they are achieving our learning outcomes in our sessions for at least some of our programs, we haven’t measured whether what they are learning translates to more general success in or after college.   Since Megan Oakleaf’s Value of Academic Libraries Review and Report in 2010, I have been wondering just what impact one-shot instruction sessions have on student success, whether that is defined as GPA, retention or on-time graduation.  I am clearly not the only one wondering this so I put together this post as an attempt to answer that question.

In 2007, Joseph Matthews published the book “Library Assessment in Higher Education” which I haven’t read yet but have read about many times.  He looked at studies up to 2007 and found that they are pretty evenly split between finding a correlation between library instruction, GPAs and retention and finding no correlation.   I found a few more articles published since 2007 that represent what has been happening since his book came out.  This list is by no means comprehensive but the articles illustrate the state of the research on the question and the ways people are approaching the question.

Vance, Jason M., Rachel Kirk, and Justin G. Gardner. “Measuring the Impact of Library Instruction on Freshman Success and Persistence: A Quantitate Analysis.” Communication in Information Literacy 6.1 (2012): 49–58.

Librarians from Middle Tennessee State University attempted to find out whether one-shots for freshmen impacted their GPAs and/or their likelihood of returning for a second year (retention).  To do so, they gathered information about the one-shot classes they were offering to freshmen over a two year period, noting that these were introductory rather than research intensive classes.  They also gathered information about high school GPA, family income, ACT scores, race, gender, and major (all variables that have been correlated with retention).  The results of the study were that they could not find a direct connection between library instruction and student retention, although library instruction does appear to have a “small measurable correlation with student performance” (which, in turn, is tied to success and persistence).  There were a lot of issues with the study that the authors themselves point out, including the fact that the students they included as having attended instruction sessions may not have – they were enrolled in the courses that came in but they may have skipped.

Wong, Shun Han Rebekah, and Dianne Cmor. “Measuring Association Between Library Instruction and Graduation GPA.” College & Research Libraries 72.5 (2011): 464–473.

Librarians from Hong Kong Baptist University looked at the correlation between GPA and library workshop attendance for 8,000+ students who graduated between 2007 and 2009.  The findings were that GPAs were positively correlated with increased workshop offerings.  In programs that offered 5 workshops, GPAs were highest.  In those that offered 3 or 4, GPAs were positively affected and in those that offered 1 or 2, there was no positive correlation.  Workshops, in this case, were a mix of required and voluntary, stand-alone and course integrated.  One issue with this (and many) study is that it is only about correlation, not causation.

Bowles-Terry, Melissa. “Library Instruction and Academic Success: A Mixed-Methods Assessment of a Library Instruction Program.” Evidence Based Library and Information Practice 7.1 (2012): 82–95.  

This study from the University of Wyoming used a mixed-methods approach, with qualitative data provided by focus groups with 15 graduating seniors and quantitative data provided by transcripts for about 4,500 students.  The interesting thing about this study is that it provided some evidence for the idea that scaffolded information literacy instruction is most effective for student success.  Students in the focus group said the ideal form of instruction was a session their freshmen year and then at least one more when they were farther along in their majors to focus more on doing research in their discipline.  Transcript analysis showed a correlation (not causation) between GPA at graduation and getting upper division library instruction.  Once again, the authors identified issues such as the fact that they didn’t know if students in the transcript analysis actually attended sessions or skipped that day, and the fact that the analysis only showed correlation.

So what is the answer to our question?  A definitive “we don’t know.”   And where does that leave us as we struggle to demonstrate our value to the teaching & learning mission of UT?  It is clear that researchers in libraries are attempting to answer the question of whether what we do in library instruction is transferrable and positively impacts student’s retention, graduation and academic success.  It is also clear that we can’t definitely say it does.  On the plus side, I didn’t find anything saying it harmed students.

Questions for discussion:

  • How do you articulate the value of library instruction to the students you work with?  To the faculty?
  • Is there something we could or should be doing here in the Libraries to attempt to answer the question?
  • Does the fact that we don’t know affect your plans for library instruction provision
  • Does the fact that we don’t know (beyond anecdotal evidence from our faculty) even matter?