Tag Archives: information literacy instruction

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.

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?

 

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

RIOT began with a round-robin. Roxanne shared a recent “crashing failure.” She worked with a nutrition professor to assign pre-readings on how to write scientific articles. Not many of the students did the reading. The professor did not attend the session and was not there to scold them. Roxanne dealt with this problem by summarizing the readings for the students, proving that she was flexible and able to think on her feet.
Michele shared the Meghan had assigned some preliminary readings and tutorials before some of her classes and it worked. There was probably some kind of accountability, or perhaps the students had to submit something beforehand.
Janelle shared her experience. She assigned something that the students had to complete before the session. She said it was a success.
Cindy shared her strategy of a two-shot instruction session: She assigns something to be submitted and works with the professor to make sure there is a participation grade in Canvass.
Martha then summarized why she thought the article was interesting:
• It was realistic: one-shot 50 min session
• She liked that they used a Google search to evaluate comprehension of concepts
• She liked the blind methodology of not telling students what they were really studying
• Overall, it was a simple approach was refreshing

Martha was also heartened because the study showed that one-shot actually do work.

Other points of interest:
• Background literature: internet is easier to use than library resources; students will sacrifice quality for ease-of-use
• Students with low info-literacy skills are less-likely to know that they need training. “They don’t know that they don’t know”
• Sex/gender or other variables didn’t have a significant influence
• Students who had library sessions made better judgments about the authority of the resources and had better/more sophisticated justifications of their judgments
• Students demonstrated that they were transferring the skills and using these techniques in more personal, casual searches

Martha asked:
• How can we incorporate these findings in how we approach instruction?
• Are there any interesting concepts that are not being addressed?
• What did people think of the study’s methodology?

Kristen shared that there is often not enough time in these sessions to cover evaluating information.

Michele said that we know that one-shots are not enough, but that’s all we have.

Cindy questioned whether we could use these findings to demonstrate the need for more library instruction and the case for selecting relevant, non-library resources later in life

Martha stated that the study shows that library sessions are more than databases and tools: they are about critical thinking and information literacy.

Kristen stated that there is something to be said for teaching students that there is proprietary, subscription-based information.

AJ said that this is the other side of libraries promoting open-access, promoting that Libraries have access to proprietary information.

Cindy said she thought the Libraries should do more to promote the public library and access.

Janelle pointed out that it is often difficult to find academic research at the public library and that she recommends that graduates join professional associations to access those associations’ journals.

Roxanne uses a pre-class survey to determine students’ exposure to info-literacy and previous library instruction.

Many spoke of increased library usage and questions from students who had information literacy sessions. The study showed that students ask more, and more complex, questions after information literacy sessions.

The group discussed that students often do not know what kinds of questions to ask. We may need to provide examples. What can you Ask a Librarian?

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?

Teaching About the Literature

Here’s a scenario:

A local professor has published an article that has led to controversy. Other professors, both from your institution and elsewhere have published a flurry of responses to this article. A cursory Google search shows that it’s even appeared in several news outlets.
You face a class full of undergraduates. How can you help them make sense of/think critically about this controversy?
Well, initial critical thinking relates to IL Competency Standard #1—figuring out what to ask. But further critical thought must be fed with evidence.
In the shift from BI to ILI, librarians have somewhat moved away from teaching specific tools and techniques to teaching more big-picture stuff. That’s not a bad thing, but check out what Bodemer (2012, p.337) says about what professors want:

First, while faculty may say that they want students to find good, scholarly sources for their papers, what they ultimately want is for students to learn how to find such sources. Moreover, though never put in such broad terms, they also want students to exclude sources.

I’m going to say that students in such cases need to be taught specifics—not just to find what they specifically need but how to think and explore the literature. In the case of a controversy like this, the novice researcher needs context. A controversial study like this, with findings that are at variance with the previous literature, needs careful critiquing, in a systematic way that isn’t just savaging it on PC grounds.
I don’t see anywhere in the IL Standards where Knowing About The Literature is explicitly mentioned. But in a situation like this, it’s exactly what students need to know. What are the norms of literature in this discipline? What’s the shape of the literature? Some of this can be known without extensive reading. Some of this might be known in a quantified way, via thorough searching.
How many other studies are on the same/similar topics as Regnerus’s? What proportion of social science articles on this topic have this philosophical or methodological approach? What is Regnerus’s methodology anyway? After reading criticisms of Regnerus’s article, students might need to know, for example, how to read the his article to identify its methodology and find search terms they can use to find other Social Science Research articles using that methodology.
Teaching students about the literature—faculty I know aren’t doing it. I don’t typically get to do it. How about y’all? How do we work it in, and how do we make the case to faculty that we should be teaching this?

Bodemer, Brett B. (2012). The importance of search as intertextual practice for undergraduate research. College & Research Libraries 73(4): 336-348.
Brown, Matthew. (2012). Social scientists defend Mark Regnerus’ controversial study on same-sex parenting. Deseret News.
Olson, Walter. (2012). The Regnerus Gay-Parenting Study: More Red Flags. The Huffington Post.
Osborne, Cynthia. (2012). Further comments on the papers by Marks and Regnerus. Social Science Research 41(4): 779-783.
Regnerus, Mark. (2012). How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study. Social Science Research 41(4): 752-770.

Teaching Near the Edge of Chaos

Hautala, Robert M. and Bryan Miyagishima, 2008. Teaching near the edge of chaos: dynamic systems, student choices and library research. Communication in Information Literacy, Spring 2008, 2(1): 25-35. Accessed on Dec. 1, 2008, http://www.comminfolit.org/index.php/cil/article/view/Spring2008AR2.

This article urges instruction librarians to toss students into the drink first, then offer helpful suggestions on how to swim. In other words, before lecturing on or demonstrating information literacy skills, have students attempt to deploy such IL skills as they might possess. Hautala and Miyagishima are hardly the first to propose this. They come to this strategem by way of Dynamic Systems theory, as applied in motor learning.

Dynamic Systems Theory?
The authors refer to “… models [that] contain two important tenets. First, when disrupted, systems will self-organize; and second, the best, most efficient reorganization of any system will emerge from the edge of the chaos that any initial change has first produced (Seel, 1999).”

How Do They Recommend Dynamic Systems Theory Be Applied to ILI?
“… this approach requires the library instructor to design tasks that engage students in desired IL skills and expose them to designated library resources.”

What Can An Instructor Do?
Instructors can directly manipulate two of three “constraints”—the tasks students are assigned and the environment/tools students can use to complete these tasks—in order to indirectly affect the third constraint, students’ skills.

Yes, That Does Sound Like Teaching.
The difference here is that the teacher removes herself from the tasks as much is possible, intervening only to introduce new tasks and/or new environments, providing students with the opportunity to create their best solutions.

That Sounds More Like…
Coaching. And the dreaded sports metaphors hold up here. There are lots of guidelines on how to hit a pitch, but every player has to find her own swing. This approach, the Ecological Task Analysis (ETA), allows the instructor to work with all students, at whatever level—those who “get it” right off will still have something to do, as well as those who need more work to discover their best methods.

How?
The authors give two examples of classroom applications of ETA, following these steps of ETA: “Establish Task Goal; Provide Choices; Modify the Variables; Provide Instruction.” The ETA model seems challenging to translate to a large or a non-technology classroom. (NOTE: Consider also using tutorials, esp. customized learning as described in de la Chica et al., 2008*).

The Take-Away…
1) Instruction librarians should think of and design their classroom sessions more as coaching, where they respond to what students are doing, than as teaching.
2) This article is a quick read, and would be a good one to pass on to faculty members when one is planning an instruction session.

_______

*de la Chica, S., F. Ahmad, T. Sumner, J.H. Martin, and K. Butcher, 2008. Computational foundations for personalizing instruction with digital libraries. Int J Digit Libr 9: 3-18. http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=33333190&site=ehost-live