Category Archives: Information Literacy

DART Recap – scoUT Discovery Tool

Yesterday we launched the new platform for our professional discussion group, Discussions About Resources and Teaching (DART), formerly known as RIOT.  Motivated by feedback and transitions within the department, this change better reflects our current structure and goals as a community of practice.  Thank you to everyone who participated in kicking off DART!

Our topic for discussion was teaching with web-scale discovery tools like scoUT. To gather different perspectives, participants were invited to read one of three articles beforehand:

“Teaching Outside the Box: ARL Librarians’ Integration of the ‘One Box’ into Student Instruction” College & Research Libraries

“Beyond Simple, Easy, and Fast: Reflections on Teaching Summon” College & Research Libraries News

“Teaching ‘Format as Process’ in an Era of Web-Scale Discovery” Reference Services Review

We began with a round robin to share how, or in what capacity, people are using or not using our discovery tool scoUT. Perhaps not surprisingly, there was a broad and varied spectrum of responses. Some people actively use it as a teaching tool in classes, while others mention it briefly, do not teach with it at all, or find themselves engaging with it more on the reference desk than during instruction sessions. People mentioned using it for developing topics; searching by citation; refining vague reference requests; finding book reviews; and locating material on obscure subjects or with very specific search phrases only found in full-text.  Also, it seems that few people actually call the tool scoUT when talking about it with students, referring to it instead with names like the “all tab” search; “main library” search; or the “big box” search.

Interestingly, some of the features discussed that make scoUT useful are also what can make it challenging. For example, it is helpful in retrieving sources that cover obscure, specific or seemingly unrelated topics because it searches and crawls across so many things. Yet that also means that it often returns a deluge of results, which people expressed can be difficult or overwhelming to deal with.

After the round robin, much of our discussion stemmed from the third article, which explored the concept of teaching format as process and how web-scale discovery tools factor into this approach.  When searching online, sources become decontextualized; content is separated from its package and so visual indicators cannot necessarily be relied upon. Guiding students to consider the creation process inherent in different source types can help foster the development of higher-level critical thinking and evaluation skills.  A tool like scoUT, that requires sifting through a large number of different, and at times random, source types, presents an authentic opportunity to discuss and hone these skills. However, this depth and engagement takes time, and can be difficult to address in a one-shot instruction session.

There was also a general consensus that whether or not we are teaching scoUT directly, students are going to use it. Not only is it the first, obvious search box on the website, but it also has that familiar Google-like quality that will draw students toward it. So if they are going to use it anyway, it only makes sense for us to think about how we can teach them to do so in a discerning and productive manner that will serve them even outside of school.

It was great to hear at the end of the discussion that several people felt interested and inspired to find new ways to incorporate scoUT into their teaching practice. Thanks again for an insightful and engaging first DART!

Do you have an article or topic you would like to bring to DART? Feel free to contact Elise Nacca with any ideas and feedback!

References:

Kulp, C., McCain, C., & Scrivener, L. (2014). Teaching outside the box: ARL librarians’ integration of the “one-box” into student instruction. College & Research Libraries, 75(3), 298-308. doi:10.5860/crl12-430

Cardwell, C., Lux, V., & Snyder, R. J. (2012). Beyond simple, easy, and fast: Reflections on teaching summon. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries.

Seeber, K. P. (2015). Teaching “format as a process” in an era of web-scale discovery. Reference Services Review, 43(1), 19-30. doi:10.1108/RSR-07-2014-0023

 

Information Literacy Symposoium at Houston-Tillotson

On Friday, January 22nd  the Teaching and Learning Services Department participated in the first-ever Information Literacy Symposium held at Houston-Tillotson University in East Austin. The Symposium was coordinated by Patricia Wilkins, Library Director, Ana Roeschley, Public Services Librarian, and Stephanie Pierce, Technical Services Librarian, and it brought together librarians from across public, school, and college and university libraries.

The all-day symposium was a great opportunity for us all to exchange ideas, share teaching strategies, brainstorm about potential partnerships, and get updates on the ways our libraries and services have evolved in response to curriculum and student learning.

There were four sessions offered throughout the day and TLS gave a panel presentation entitled, “Measuring Learning from Classroom to Program,” about the different ways we integrate assessment into our information literacy instruction and how we address the challenges we encounter.  You’ll find our presentation along with supporting documentation that we referred to during the presentation in this shared folder; please feel free to adapt them, but we would love it if you would credit the UT Libraries somewhere in your adaptation and let us know if you do!

Our sincere thanks to Ana and the rest of the staff at the Downs-Jones Library at HTU for organizing this Symposium.

Spring CATs or Easy Assessment of Student Learning

Resource:  Bowles-Terry, M., & Kvenild, C. (2015). Classroom assessment techniques for librarians. Chicago, Illinois: Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association.

One of the most common questions I’m asked as Learning & Assessment Librarian is how to quickly and effectively assess learning in the classroom. I always feel like my answers are unsatisfying, but the reality is that there is no perfect way to do this. When I went to Assessment Immersion a few years back, much attention was given to Angelo’s Classroom Assessment Techniques, a giant tome full of assessment examples that I believe was referred to at one point as an “assessment bible.” While I agree that it’s a great resource (though perhaps not at the biblical level), it is also huge and sometimes daunting. Not all of the techniques in the book lend themselves to the kind of one-shot teaching we often find ourselves engaging in. All of this to say, I was excited to get my hands on the recently published “Classroom Assessment Techniques for Librarians.” Inspired by Angelo, the authors tailor various classroom assessment techniques (CATs… meow!) for the kinds of outcomes and learning situations that librarians often engage with.

Their model is to simplify CAT usage by breaking it down into three steps:

1) Plan. (Choose a session and a technique.)

2) Do it! (Explain to students that you’re going to be checking their understanding during the session, tell them why, provide clear instructions, and execute your plan.)

3) Respond. (This is the “closing the loop” part. Read and interpret student responses and address what you learn by letting students know what difference that information makes. An example of this is sending a follow-up email to the instructor detailing changes you’ve made to the course guide based on students’ understanding. You should also think about changes you might make to your instruction based on what you learned, and make specific notes for the next time you work with that class.)

The book is broken down into chapters based on the kinds of skills being assessed, and includes examples of CATs being used in various class types and levels. For this RIOT, I’ll give examples of a few that I’m going to try out this semester, and we can talk about things that you have tried/want to try, challenges and possible solutions, and anything else related to CATs (purring, claws, etc).

Assessing Prior Knowledge and Understanding

I used to sometimes send specific pre-assessment questions to classes to gauge where students were at, but eventually learned that first-year students (with the possible exception of honors classes) are almost always going to be all over the place. “CATs for Librarians” includes an example of using pre-assessment in a way I haven’t done before: asking questions before or at the beginning of class to find out about students’ conceptions on how information is available on the Web. Their example questions are as follows (pg. 8):

  • “Google indexes everything on the Web” (answer choices in a Likert scale ranging from agree to disagree)
  • “Information is free”

I love the idea of using this pre-assessment to not only find out more about students’ beliefs, but to set the tone for a session and let students know that we’re not just going to talk about where to click on the Libraries website. I can that this could be a way to introduce multiple threshold concepts, and I’m excited to try it out. I’ll probably use a Google form linked from classes’ Subjects Plus pages and have students respond as they enter the classroom and get settled.

Assessing Skill in Synthesis and Creative Thinking

After going through an explanation of what peer review is, I often wonder how much of my diatribe the students absorbed. This semester, I’ll try the “One-Sentence Summary” CAT (pg. 40). For this technique, students are asked “Who does what to whom, when, where, how, and why?” about a particular concept, in this case, “How do scholarly articles get published?” Bowles-Terry and Kvenild suggest that this technique works particularly well for difficult new ideas and threshold concepts, and offer examples using each of the frames.

A few notes on analysis

Bowles-Terry and Kvenild include the always-useful reminder that assessment is not the same as research. Your goal is to see what your students learned, not to draw sweeping conclusions that can be applied in other settings. Do make sure to set aside time to close the loop, but don’t feel like you have to spend hours carefully categorizing each student response. For some of the higher-level skills (like the “one-sentence summary” example above) it might be useful to score responses with a simple rubric, or even a yes/no checklist. Here’s a very rough “rubric bank” that I sometimes pull from to assess relevant CATs; feel free to use it if it’s helpful to you, but don’t get caught up in “doing it right.” Even if you don’t have time to utilize a rubric for analysis, you can learn a lot by sorting through student responses and thinking about how to respond (to students themselves and in your own teaching).

What CATs are you going to try this semester? What has worked well for you in the past, and what have you learned about your students using CATs?

p.s. We have a copy of “Classroom Assessment Techniques for Librarians in our collection, and TLS also has an office copy that I’m happy to share. There are many more ideas than I was able to address in this post, and I highly recommend browsing it. If you want to see the “assessment bible” itself, we have collection copies and an office copy of that one, too. J

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/.

 

Looking to the Future, While Reflecting on the Past

As the end of another semester and year approaches, I find myself looking to the future, defining new goals, and exploring exciting possibilities, especially since this is the new normal at the UT Libraries today! However, I recently received an email that made me reflect on a past partnership that has blossomed into something greater than I ever anticipated.

The email came from Lisa Hernandez, currently the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo College, Career & Technology Academy Librarian and the Texas Library Association’s Librarian of the Year. In 2013, Lisa had been one of ten Texas high school librarians selected to attend the UT Libraries Information Literacy Summit, a day long summit about information literacy. Information Literacy (IL) is broadly defined by the ability to find and think critically about information and is not only a crucial skill for life-long learning, it is also one of the six requirements of UT’s School of Undergraduate Studies Signature Course program, a required interdisciplinary foundation course for all incoming UT freshman.

During the Summit, high school librarians from across Texas and librarians from the UT Libraries Teaching and Learning Services department shared expertise, identified overlapping skills, and created mutually-beneficial instructional content in order to better understand the types of issues and needs we have at both ends of the high-school to college transition.  UT librarians shared real syllabi used in freshman courses and we worked collaboratively to design activities and assignments that would help augment information literacy development at both levels, a need identified in national research conducted by Project Information Literacy.

One of the goals of the Summit was to continue sharing resources and exploring partnerships beyond the day long information exchange and a number of the participants did stay in touch, presenting a poster entitled, “Partnering with High School Librarians To Create Information Literate College Students” at the Texas Library Association conference in San Antonio in 2014.  Lisa Hernandez, who notes that her attendance at the Information Literacy Summit was the “highlight of her professional career”, used the concepts she learned at the summit to create an E-Research Plan Portfolio which helps scaffolds reading, writing, and research assignments over a period of time. It also integrates resources from her home library as well as from the UT Libraries and UT’s University Writing Center.

Lisa has shared her work with her colleagues, most recently on November 16th at a district librarian meeting and has been a steadfast leader in bridging the relationships between high school and college teachers and librarians. In our recent correspondence, Lisa gave me an update on her collaboration and the integration of the E-Research Plan Portfolio. She writes,

“Presently, our school library has a unique partnership with South Texas College Library.  Collaboratively, a STC librarian and I provide library services to college and/or HS students.  This semester, Criminal Justice dual-enrollment students were introduced to my e-Research Plan Portfolio as a resource to conducting research.  The success of the portfolio is professors and students are beginning to value it as a research tool; the challenge of the portfolio is constantly verifying electronic links are updated and working.  My future plan is that it will serve as an effective resource to better prepare Texas HS students for college academic success.”

Lisa’s work demonstrates how connecting with our colleagues outside of the University can have a real effect in local communities. When we accepted Lisa into the Information Literacy Summit, we had no idea that we would find such an invested advocate and collaborator. For that, we are truly thankful and grateful.

Two female librarian smiling.
Cindy Fisher and Lisa Hernandez prepare for their presentation to the Texas Association of School Library Administrators Conference on June 18th 2014.

TLS Tips: Bubbles and Branches

As part of our assessment plan in our unit, TLS measures students’ ability to brainstorm an effective keyword strategy in pre and post tests administered to UGS students at the beginning and end of each semester. Our latest findings indicate that students are struggling with this skill, which has us experimenting with new ways of teaching this concept in our instruction. Additionally, one new ACRL framework for info lit is ‘Searching as Strategic Exploration‘, which focuses on the iterative process of searching, as well as emphasizing divergent (brainstorming) and convergent (selecting the best source) thinking. It also mentions ‘searching language’ and managing searching processes and results effectively.

The first attempt I made to reformulate my approach was thinking about concept (or mind) mapping, something that students may already be familiar with from their K-12 years. Do you remember these things? I don’t remember them being helpful, but then again, I typically treated school as a ‘run the clock out’ situation:

conceptmapcrazy

My brain will not let me look at those.

There are a few tools online to facilitate concept/mind mapping. Here are some brief reviews of the ones I played with this semester.

bubbl.us. Here’s what that looks like:

bubbl

With the free account (which you have to sign up for), this tool allows you to create a concept map to save and share (up to three times, then you gotta $). There is not a ton of flexibility with this tool.

Padlet isn’t primarily for concept/mind mapping and at first, I was ready to dismiss it altogether because it doesn’t allow you to connect ‘bubbles’. But, if you treat it like refrigerator poetry, it’s actually a quick and easy way to organize thoughts. It also allows you attach files to a bubble and store notes.

padlet1

Free Mind is an open source tool that requires download. I can see using this in an ‘everything but the paper’ assignment more so than in a one shot. There is a ton of flexibility and functionality and the maps are easy to reorganize. You can attach files and images and hide ‘branches’ of your map for organization.

Coggle was instantaneously simple to use, had a helpful side menu always visible, and had some customization options. It  has options for collaboration, so I can see using it in classes with group projects. It requires a google login, so that’s not great for one shots.

What is helpful about these tools is malleability. You can usually (but not always easily) drag bubbles and branches to reorganize your thoughts. You can also insert links and files into many of these tools, making the storage of article references easier. Besides the logistics of accessing (download or account sign up) these tools, the other thing that is unhelpful to instruction sessions is that the discovery aspect (mining databases and background info) exists outside the tool. The simple act of switching from window to window is annoying.

So, what’s been my answer so far? Paper! I’ve been experimenting with a worksheet that walks students through choosing a database and mining titles, abstracts and subject terms for keywords, then experimenting with searches and winnowing down approaches. Informal assessment makes me want to pursue this approach further. I’m tweaking the worksheet to encourage mental flexibility – realizing that the first search is not usually the best, that we need to reformulate keywords as our research progresses, and that a good search involves browsing and the serendipitous discovery of information. Tall order, huh? I have collected these sheets from two classes and can definitely see students working through the process, if only superficially. In one class, I incorporated a peer review piece and had students talk through their research strategy with another student. On paper, this isn’t easy to assess, but all of us have had the experience of talking through a topic with a student and seeing improvement.

Keyword brainstorming is not something students would do if we didn’t tell them to, so introducing an online tool to help them work through this process seems excessive. But, maybe I’m not thinking it through all the way. And, I wonder if my reticence toward these tools is that I’m sort of a messy thinker. I jot stuff down in a frenzy and then insist on my own organizational structure, which would never be bubbles and branches.

Can you see yourself using these tools in a class, whether in a one shot or in a flipped classroom approach? What strategies do you use when talking to students about keywords?

 

RIOT Recap – 10/20/15

Krystal’s RIOT enabled us to have a rich discussion regarding the role reading plays in developing student’s information literacy skills while in the library instruction classroom.  To be sure, it would be difficult to evaluate information without reading it, but, as Krystal notes in her blog post, this is often what happens within the classroom setting when we have limited time to integrate active learning and model the research process.
Time is a constant obstacle in the library instruction classroom in even the most concept-driven and pedagogically sound classes. Creating an inauthentic classroom environment, something Roxanne’s earlier blog post investigated, feels appropriately off. However, framing the short evaluation exercises as good habits rather than retain content could help instructors reinforce that the activity is to build skills. Then, after they have developed the skills to evaluate a source, they can deem that source worthy of follow-up and close reading.
So, instead of an active learning classroom scenario like this:
Librarian: “Okay, now take the next five minutes to read your source, in a group develop criteria you would use to evaluate it, and develop a sound argument as to why or why not you would list as a source for your paper, and don’t worry if you don’t finish the article because there isn’t enough time to do that anyway, this is just for a class discussion…” (slightly dramatized)
We could frame it as:
Librarian: “Okay, now take the next five minutes to skim over your source noting elements within and about this source that would help you decide if a closer reading of this source is useful for your paper. Your criteria should be broad enough that it could be used in any class regardless of the assignment or research you’re doing.”
The latter framing would hopefully reinforce that this is a conceptually exercise rather than a content-driven one.
We also discussed a few other strategies, such as:
  • Reaching out to the faculty member to ask if s/he has talked about reading with the students in an effort to compliment or augment that dialogue.
  • Using and promoting educational technology, such as Endnote Web and Noodletools. Roxanne mentioned that she uses Endnote Web to teach students how to keep track of the research they are finding as a way to organize and conceptualize the research process. Michele mentioned that NoodleTools also enables students to annotate their references and add tags which can be used for critical reading.
  • Designing scaffolded assignments, such as the annotated bibliography assignment, which allows students to build skills and draw connections between readings and assignments over the course of the semester.
  • Framing the research question in a way that elicits a more targeted answer. For example, “Does XYZ solve this question” rather than “how does XYZ effect …”?
Many of us already have great relationships with faculty and have collaborated deeply on their courses and using the successes from these partnerships, we discussed ways to reach out to other faculty and illustrate a collaborative approach as a proof of concept. Additionally, are there ways in which we currently support faculty, such as the Information Literacy Toolkit, that can be redesigned to meet faculty where they are or to reach faculty before they have begun to plan their course.
We also discussed that the way in which students reading patterns have changed, mostly online and in segments, could be challenging the way we teaching information literacy.  Students may write a paper first only to go back and find sources that support their points rather than build it from a body of evidence or they may cherry-pick quotes from an article without having read it in entirety.
Roxanne offered up using review articles as a strategy for helping students better understand the synthesis of research papers. You can start with a review article and point out that scholar’s a + b say one thing, scholar’s c + d say this other thing, and then ask students to go back to the original article to see it in full context and how the author of the review article summarized their research. Sarah recommended asking students to read the first paragraph of an article and ask the to pull out keywords from there.
We ended our RIOT with a discussion of the potential of adding an additional approach to our current Signature Course program as a way to reach all students to instill information literacy skills. Because this program already catches all incoming students, it is a captive audience and we already have buy in from the School of Undergraduate Studies. We discussed what such an approach could look like — something online, a tutorial, an interactive video – and perhaps it would be something online that all students are required to complete, that would complement any of the rich course-integration interactions we currently have. Finally, we ended with a reiteration that curriculum mapping could help us define faculty and areas for partnership.

RIOT: On reading

Recently, I was introducing an evaluation activity to a UGS class in which students worked in groups to come up with evaluation criteria and apply them to an assigned source. I had a lot to cover during the class, and found myself repeatedly telling the students not to actually read the information I had provided them, but to skim the beginning if necessary, and analyze its merits based on context. While the activity led to a great discussion about evaluation and how to use various kinds of sources, something about it felt inauthentic.
Upon further reflection, I came back to something that has bothered me in the past. By necessarily compressing parts of the research process to make room for a deep discussion in a 50 minute one-shot, one of the first things that goes out the window is reading and reflection. I’ve often thought of reading as a problem to overcome while teaching, and have designed most activities to require little or no reading. I ran into this problem again this semester in trying to rethink how I teach students to use background information to find keywords. I struggled to come up with a good way to demonstrate how to pull keywords out of an encyclopedia article without slowing down and giving students time to read and digest the article. I kept coming back to the same roadblock. How can I in one breath tell students that research is a slow, iterative process and in the next breath, tell them that it’s not necessary to actually read the information I’m asking them to evaluate?

While searching for something to RIOT, I came across an article co-written by a librarian and an English professor at Hunter College. The article outlines the reasoning behind a “Research Toolkit” they created that includes both student-facing online learning tools and a faculty guide for their use. While the resource itself doesn’t sound too dissimilar from our Information Literacy Toolkit, the portions of the article explaining their pedagogical reasoning for moving from mechanics of research to deeper, critical inquiry-based research spoke to my own cognitive dissonance around reading and research. Here’s one excerpt:

Reading is an area often neglected by both library and composition scholars. As Brent (1992) explained, “instruction on the research process…deals with the beginning and the end of the process (using the library and writing the drafts), but it has a gaping hole in the middle where much of the real work of knowledge construction is performed. The evaluation of sources is treated chiefly as a matter of measuring the writer’s overall authority as a witness to facts, as measured by factors such as his reputation and the recency of the source” (p. 105). Looking at a variety of writing textbooks and library instruction materials confirms Brent’s statement: most of them focus only on evaluating sources rather than reading them.

Furthermore, the way evaluation of sources is often taught forefronts ideas such as identifying the “bias” of a source. While sources are indeed biased, most students do not understand that all sources will have a bias; it’s how they choose to use the source that matters. Students reading only to evaluate the credibility or bias of a source are not going to do the deeper reading that truly understanding a source requires. Brent (1992) called for a “theory of rhetorical reading” (p. 103), something that has yet to be fully realized.Keller’s (2014) study analyzed student reading practices and noted that focusing on the evaluation of source may have resulted in a form of overcorrection (p. 65), which may lead students to dismiss valuable resources.

Am I doing my students a disservice by focusing on evaluation skills to the detriment of critical inquiry? How can I teach them to construct knowledge when I don’t even give them time to read? The longer I teach, the more I sometimes feel like by cramming the entire research process into a one-shot, I’m deceiving my students. Some things I’d like to discuss:

  • By focusing on evaluating information, are we leading students towards “overcorrection” and away from inquiry?
  • Is it our responsibility to teaching students how to read deeply, or does that fall outside of information literacy?
  • How can you truly model a process that involves reading and sometimes rereading when you have a limited amount of time? Can tutorials and other online learning objects help?
  • Can we come up with exercises that help students practice the “reading and thinking” parts of research?
  • Are there ways to collaborate with our colleagues at the Writing Center around this issue?

Referenced source:

Margolin, S., & Hayden, W. (2015). Beyond Mechanics: Reframing the Pedagogy and Development of Information Literacy Teaching Tools.The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 41(5), 602–612. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2015.07.001

TLS Tips: Choosing a Topic…during the one shot?

There are two types of one shot instruction sessions – the ones where students arrive with really well-formed and researchable topics in hand – and the rest. I feel like this semester I got mostly the latter.  Don’t we all? Even when the professor assures you that students will have topics in hand, even when you’ve worked with the class in the past.

But conversations with other librarians lately have made me question this approach of emphasizing topic selection before the instruction session. Selecting a topic is research (check out this video from NCSU), afterall, and we want to teach students that research is an iterative process. We have all had the experience of working with a student who has either chosen a topic on which there is little written, or who has written an entire paper and needs to shoehorn in three sources by 5pm.

So, I’ve thought of a few ways to come at teaching students how to choose and refine a topic in the instruction session. This tactic was the most interactive and fun, but I’m eager for suggestions. I’m excited to experiment with it next semester and make the exercise better.

The class was about vampires and they had to compare and contrast vampiric folklore with one of the other texts they were reading in the class. This sort of made topic exploration easier, because basically they had to find themes common in both of the works. So, asking them to follow along, I first I demoed searching Beauty and the Beast OR La belle et la bete (one of their readings) in Academic Search Complete.  I asked them to pull out keywords that they thought were interesting (the key to this is to get students to do all the work). Some of the keywords that came up in the search were desire, queer, sexuality, gender, body image, feminism, violence. Now they had a list of keywords that came up in the titles or subjects that they could brainstorm broader or narrower terms from. We then took those keywords and added them to vampire, as in ‘vampire and queer’. Then we went over how to use AND and OR to diversify your search. Students were excited to play around with how adding and subtracting keywords changed results significantly and sometimes led them down new paths of discovery. We brainstormed what this fake paper would be about and what articles would be most relevant. I thought some of the fake titles the students came up with were great!

Doing topic selection this way allowed me to talk about a few key things we always cover in instruction sessions – how to brainstorm broader and narrower keywords, how to link them up with AND and OR, and, something we don’t typically cover, how to examine a results list in a database quickly and effectively.

During active learning time I worked with students on their keywords and helped them follow their topics down all the winding paths research takes us down. They seemed to be having fun. But, then again, their class is about vampires.

Do you ever go over topic selection in one shots? Please tell me about it!