All posts by elise

Elise joined Teaching and Learning Services in 2009. In addition to coordinating the Workshops program, Elise works with faculty and instructors to design instruction sessions, assignments, class activities and online learning objects to meet information literacy goals for first-year undergraduates.

DART Recap: Teaching keywords

We discussed how we teach keywords in this DART with the frame, Searching as Strategic Exploration hovering in the background.  A lot of us use some sort of mind mapping or concept mapping to work through keyword instruction, and many of us guide students by contextualizing keyword brainstorming in discussion of issues like audience and popular vs scholarly information. For instance, Porcia starts such conversations off with a source type activity in order to teach students about the ecosystem of information within their topic or discipline.

A couple of us – especially those who teach freshmen – observe that students are reluctant, or don’t see the value in, brainstorming keywords or reformulating after failed searches. Students often don’t go beyond typing their topic into a search bar, “such as pros and cons of neoliberalism.” Interrupting that is difficult, but some attempt to interrupt this with following the conversation around the topic so students see how topics are debated and described in real life.  Porcia mentioned PICO, a mnemonic for the elements of a clinical question: Patient/Problem, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome. Most of us non-science folks recognized that this is similar to how we teach students to identify stakeholders and controversies when researching topics. Another tactic Porcia uses is to give students an abstract alone and then ask them to pull keywords out and write a title for the paper. I’m excited to see where I can use this in a session or course!

Developing one’s topic and developing a search strategy go hand in hand, so narrowing a  topic before searching often results in a topic with little written about it. Porcia teaches her students to investigate topics using something they already understand: the scientific method – this way they are compelled to test their topics through investigation, as well as to acquire new info and build upon existing knowledge, resulting in healthier topics. Sarah Brandt often sees students who start with an answer and then -plug in evidence later. This started us discussing how we wonder if professors are explaining to students that research is how we learn about disciplines, that there is a conversation happening that they need to tap into. Gina’s students recognize that they are not passive consumers of information – this is empowering for them in the research process. As Joe commented, there is a transition that occurs when you recognizes that the audience for your work is not just your professor, but also other scholars.

I don’t know that we have a silver bullet for teaching this tricky topic, but we shared our experiences and approaches. I’m looking forward to ongoing conversations about our teaching keywords as well as hoping that folks contribute tried and tested approaches in the Toolkit!

Active Learning in the Large Classroom…really?

I think the gold-standard these days for large lecture hall active learning are clickers. I’ve never taught a clicker class. I think clickers are what live studio audiences use to vote for America’s Funniest Home Videos. It’s also the word that old people use for remote controls. My family called the remote control, ‘the box’.
In a TLS Tip from last year, I investigated some mind mapping tools and began using them in the classroom for search strategy brainstorming in group and class discussions. Because of its ease of use and the fact that it does not require an account, I chose Padlet for my in-session activities. This tool is one recommended in this article by a nursing librarian struggling with meaningful active learning in large classrooms. In addition to clicker-based questions, she used Padlet to display to the whole class groups’ answers to librarian-created questions based upon a module the students completed before class. She was then able to use the students’ answers to identify gaps in knowledge and skill and clarify those points face-to-face.
I appreciated the author’s candid assessment of how this engagement went – not perfectly! Students needed more instruction than expected on how to use the tool, it was difficult to manage for a large class with so many groups, and in her lecture hall, only one screen could be shown at a time, thereby requiring her to switch from the Padlet to the Powerpoint awkwardly (would go smoother in our 80 person Lab 1A/B). The goals she had for the class required that she employ a flipped-classroom approach with supporting materials delivered via a module ahead of time. This required a bit of faculty buy-in.
In much of the literature, it seems, the flipped classroom approach to large lecture hall classes is often suggested as it allows faculty and librarian instructors to incorporate active learning into class time. Students watch or complete modules ahead of time and then come to class prepared to participate in discussion (usually classroom response systems (CRS)). In the absence of clickers, one could use polling software. Google Forms, for example, allows students to respond to questions and see the class’s responses in real time.
One shortcoming for clicker and polling questions is that typically, one must use multiple choice questions (mcq). Mcqs often result in unengaged students guessing randomly, resulting in the instructor taking valuable class time to clarify points. Mcqs, furthermore, can cue students to the correct answer. Information literacy is problem solving, it’s using logic – skills difficult to reinforce in mcqs. I do think that clickers and polling can be used to make students feel more comfortable in the classroom. Anonymous responses to polls often relax students when they see others responding similarly. One study I found in this book reported that in a comparison of classes that used clickers vs. those that did not, students using clickers outperformed those who did not in post-assessment (Holdereid, 117)
The authors of this article used CRS to gauge students understanding of concepts such as primary sources or characteristics of popular vs. scholarly sources. I can see these types of questions being good jumping off points for lecture or presentation and have used polling technologies in the classroom for this purpose – assessing what students already know so that I can tailor the discussion.
I guess what I learned from this investigation is that, in some small ways, you might be able to treat the large classroom like the small: pursue flipped classroom approaches, assess existing student knowledge with CRS or polling software, and, if the conditions are right, try collaborative learning on Padlet or a Google Doc.
What approaches do you take in large classrooms? Do you use clickers? Do you feel like the questions are getting at what you want to know? Are you able to engage students or do you feel like it’s more show and tell? Do you feel like you get more or less buy in from faculty in large classroom scenarios?

Deleo, Patricia A., Susan Eichenholtz, and Adrienne Andi Sosin. “Bridging the Information Literacy Gap with Clickers.” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 35.5 (2009): 438-44.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2009.06.004

Holdereid, Anthony C. “Instructional Design for the Active: Employing Interactive Technologies and Active Learning Exercises to Enhance Information Literacy.” Information and Data Literacy: The Role of the Library. Apple Academic, 2016. 111-25.

Rodriguez, Julia E. “A massively flipped class.” Reference Services Review 44.1 (2016): 4-20. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/RSR-07-2015-0033

 

 

RIOT: Good Company: How Peer Tutors in the Library Can Reach Students in Unique Ways

I’m glad I stumbled upon this blog post written by the Writing Center at University of Wisconsin-Madison about the collaboration following the Writing Center moving into the Ott Library there. A lot of the ideas that have come out of brainstorming sessions between our staff and the UWC’s have been put into practice successfully at Ott, including a deep collaboration on a Literature Review workshop, the co-authoring of online learning objects, and joint librarian-writing consultant consultations. I plan to approach the UWC with an idea I grabbed from this blog post – writing consultants have mandatory individual research consultations by their subject liaison for their own work. Experiencing a librarian’s expertise first-hand may make it more likely that the consultant will make referrals (because now they know what we do and how helpful we are) and it creates a deeper connection between consultants and librarians.

This blog post led me down another path I’ve been trying to focus more on since classes have winded down – peer-to-peer learning in libraries. Ott and the Writing Center there have collaborated on a Course-Embedded Tutors program that exists alongside their Embedded-Librarian program. They don’t go into much detail about it, but the same questions popped into my head that always does when I see these types of peer-tutoring programs: How do you recruit? How do you train? And lots of other questions, too, but those are the big ones. Luckily, this blog post makes reference to an article about this very type of initiative.

Grand Valley State Libraries implemented their peer-tutor consultations in 2012 and have gathered a great deal of data and reflections on their program. I like the way they describe the unique learning experience a consultation with a peer can offer, “untethered from the hierarchy inherent in formal instruction environments”. Sometimes we have apprehension about allowing an undergraduate to impart our deep wisdom unto students, fearing they will give bad information or let a precious teaching moment slip by. The authors of this article emphasize that the peer tutors are not teachers, they are learners immersed in the undergraduate experience who have been given specialized and focused training.

Like us, the GVSL was undergoing change: co-location of library, writing and presentation support services. As they were envisioning what their ‘Knowledge Market’ would look like, they fantasized about a space where “students are guided by their own inquiry, through in-depth conversations that help a student envision his or her own research plan, determine the success of that strategy, and develop critical thinking and analytical skills to determine the validity of the information found for his or her specific need.” To them, this model would be led by tutors who would be on hand for drop-in in-depth consultations, presumably outside of regular business hours, a service that would be difficult to staff with busy librarians. In fact, they were inspired by the peer-led models of the Writing Center and the Speech Lab.

Recruiting and orienting consultants happens once a year, reinforcing the team-based approach. They ask that students have comfort with library research as evidenced by two research-based writing samples, a faculty recommendation and scenario-based open-ended questions on the application. I wonder if we would be able to attract students with this skillset here. The article didn’t go into specifics about how they attracted applicants.

For training, they emphasized the ability to listen to students’ needs and the ability to deeply engage with peers. In addition to an initial orientation, consultants are offered professional development sessions and regular mentoring meetings facilitated by ‘lead consultants’, who are also students. These lead consultants assist with many aspects of the program and oversee student-authored LibGuides.

Learning how to conduct a consultation is three-tiered: Observe, practice under observation, and finally conduct a practice consultation by themselves, one that is done with a “student” volunteer (typically library staff with a real assignment in hand). Consultants are given a copy of Muriel Harris’s article on writing tutors which emphasizes how peers can help students be more independent and cope with academic anxiety and confidence issues. The regular professional development opportunities focus on topics chosen based on need or suggestion by consultants.

Assessment of this program and how they used that data for scheduling, budgeting and marketing was impressive, but mostly because students had to give their student-identification number to book a consult. The authors could see this data being used to correlate library use with student retention.

I was impressed with the number of consultations they held in the library (not typically less than 20 a week), but the authors saw low attendance as a marketing issue. They also learned that although subject liaisons were referred to students during consultations, very few students followed up, indicating a perceived distinction between peer tutors and ‘authority figures’. Additionally, many students who came for research consultations reported that they did not know the library would offer such support, suggesting that the service was reaching new segments of the undergraduate population.

GVSL intends to more deeply explore the benefits of ‘collaborative tutoring’ in their space, i.e. a model that allows student tutors in the Writing Center, Speech Lab and Library work together in a more integrated manner. I see a lot of obvious parallels with our organization and theirs and hope to pursue elements of this collaboration further. First, may I ask:

  1. What do you think about this model of students leading research consultations? What fears do you have?
  2. How did this notion of students learning differently from their peers, or seeking out a peer for help more often than they would a professional resonate with you? What do you see in your classes?
  3. I find in my classes, students don’t know what they can ask me. On my guides, I often include sample questions so they know the breadth of inquiries I can field. This article talks about disappointment in the number of consultations sought. To what do you attribute that and does that jive with your experiences?
  4. I see potential to collaborate with a few places on campus. I plan to re-visit an initiative with Student Diversity Initiatives and now I’m brainstorming partnerships with the Office of Undergraduate Research and UGS. Whom would you approach?

Mary O’Kelly and Julie Garrison and Brian Merry and Jennifer Torreano et. al. “Building a Peer-Learning Service for Students in an Academic Library.”portal: Libraries and the Academy 15, no. 1 (2015): 163-182. https://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed November 16, 2015).

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?

 

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!

TLS Tips: Designing Meaningful Archives-based Assignments

Some of us are lucky to work with faculty or staff who incorporate our campus’s fantastic special collections into their work. And some of us wish our students worked with these collections more and wonder what we can do to encourage curiosity for these one of a kind objects. Seeking a richer dialog surrounding archives and special collections based assignments for undergraduates, I co-developed, with a then-lecturer in English, a half-day workshop for faculty in spring 2014. Too often archive and special collection based assignments result in tours or show and tell affairs. As librarians and archivists, we recognize that archives offer rich possibilities for undergraduate teaching and learning and want to encourage faculty using archives in their classes to create meaningful assignments that support course objectives.

My involvement in this conversation came about because of the Gem requirement for UGS classes. We in TLS and other librarians with whom we collaborate wanted to find a way to link the information literacy requirement with the Gem requirement. As a preliminary step, I sought out partnerships across campus to learn more about what a fruitful engagement with an archive or special collection can look like. This included joining a campus-wide archives working group (co-chaired by T-Kay) and building deeper partnerships with campus archives and special collections in order to facilitate the exchange of ideas surrounding this topic.  All across campus and disciplines, I found individuals who were excited about getting undergraduates in the archives.

The resulting workshop was designed for faculty wishing to integrate the use of archives and special collections into their undergraduate courses either in a short term manner or in a semester long engagement. We communicated useful information about how faculty can work with archivists and librarians on archives-based assignments and projects, the logistics and preparation required for bringing students into archives, working with archivists and incorporating their expertise into the engagement, and integrating the use of digital archives into the classroom. We also shared examples of archives-based assignments that could be adapted into their courses.

There is still so much work to be done around this topic! I’m excited to be presenting at ACRL this spring, in poster format, some of the work I did. I hope to meet people from other institutions who have thought creatively about this issue.

Here is the guide we made for faculty attending the workshop. Would you guys like to see this workshop adapted for librarians? What would you like to know? What would you like to share? Email me!

TLS Tips: How to guide for teaching!

Have you ever been preparing for a class and wished you had a smart buddy who never gets tired of you asking questions about teaching? You’re in luck! Teaching & Learning Services has created a series of web pages that covers everything from emailing faculty to integrating active learning and assessment into your session. Before Meghan Sitar left for Cornell, she and I worked to update and refresh these pages. This may be a good time of the semester to reflect on your teaching: What went well? What would you like to work on? The Tips  & Techniques pages don’t judge, so stop by for a visit!

RIOT: Latin@ Perceptions of the Library: Transforming our Space and Services

Dallas Long, Latino Students’ Perceptions of the Academic Library, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Volume 37, Issue 6, December 2011, Pages 504-511, ISSN 0099-1333, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2011.07.007.(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0099133311001613)

As we move forward with our new space considerations and campus collaborations, I am thinking of student perceptions of the library, specifically among our diverse populations. The literature suggests that Latin@ students report lower levels of library usage and do not ask librarians for help as often as other racial and ethnic groups. This group also exhibits lower levels of information literacy (see below studies from Solis and Dabbour and Whitmire).
Over 19% of UT’s student population self-identifies as ‘Hispanic’ according to UT’s Statistical Handbook. What are we communicating to these students as we build our spaces and transform our services? Why is it so hard to find information about the intersections between cultural support and learning support in libraries?

This study is the result of interviews with 9 undergraduate students from a large midwestern residential research I institution. All of the participants held an on campus job for 10-20 hours a week. All self-identified as Latin@ and were recruited for the study by the Latino Cultural Center (LCC), a university program created to support the cultural, educational, and recreational needs of Latin@ students. As such, the researchers acknowledge, the group of students interviewed may not be representative of the Latin@ population at this school or at other schools. These students identify with their Latin@ background and may therefore be “more engaged and better perceive the connection between cultural constructs of identity and educational systems more than other students who share their cultural identity”(507).

All of the participants began using the library after their first semester – sometimes years into their academic career. Many of the students only came to the library after being prompted by their peers. Some reported learning how to use the library catalog or databases from their peers. As with other studies we have read here in RIOT, the students interviewed here rarely ask librarians for help and often do not know what librarians can help with. Not much new information there.

Where the study got interesting was in talking about the participants’ experiences in the library as they related to their specific cultural identities. For instance, one participant revealed that she had felt on several occasions that staff members and student workers could not understand her accent and therefore raised their voices as if she could not understand them (509). Participants also intimated that they are more likely to approach a library staff member who appears to share their cultural identity. One participant is quoted, “It’s good to know who the other people are who are like you, even if it is just to say hello to.” (509)

Another participant felt that the lack of materials on display which reflect her culture make her feel alienated from the space. She said, “seeing materials that are clearly for me and not really marketed to other students…that really sends a message to me that the library knows that I am here and they recognize me and want me to feel included” (509). Her thoughts were echoed by two other participants who lamented the lack of Spanish-language materials, signage, and posters, materials which make them feel at home (509).

Interviews with the subjects also suggest that public and school libraries figure heavily in Latin@ communities. Those interviewed regarded these spaces as part of their community, spaces for cultural support and expression (509). Experiencing a library in this way would make the transition to the typical university library unsatisfying; we do not typically engage students on that level. The authors suggest holding performances, celebrations or showcasing traditions in the library or dedicating space to Latin@ student services (510) in order to make culturally diverse students feel more included.

In anticipation of the Learning Commons, one of the initiatives that I have been working on this semester is building fruitful partnerships with campus diversity organizations, like the Multicultural Engagement Center, the Gender and Sexuality Center and smaller student diversity groups (and credit is due to the hard work and inspiration from Kristen, Jee and the rest of the Diversity Action Staff Interest Group in facilitating this conversation). This article suggests building substantial partnerships with student orgs and support services and any other cultural groups on campus for shared library spaces. I think such efforts in our space could go a long way in communicating our values and promoting our inclusive attitudes, but the key is finding places where our services complement one another.

So, my questions for you are:

  1. Have you ever thought of this issue of students not feeling included in the library space? Do you have examples?
  2. What about in the virtual space – do you think there is a way or a reason to study diverse students’ perceptions of the library based on how they encounter us digitally?
  3. Moving forward with the Learning Commons, what diversity partnerships or initiatives would you like to see?
  4. The students in this study also work on campus. Do you see opportunities for our diverse student worker population in helping us create an inclusive environment?

Footnote:

Jacqueline Solis & Katherine S. Dabbour, “Latino students and libraries: a U.S. Federal Grant Project Report.” New Library World 107 (1220/1221) (2006): 49.
Ethelene Whitmire, “Cultural diversity and undergraduates’
academic library use.” Journal of Academic of Librarianship 29 (3)
(2003): 152.
Ethelene Whitmire, “Campus racial climate and undergraduates’
perceptions of the academic library.” Portal: Libraries and the
Academy 4 (3) (2004): 363.

Discussion: Grab bag of conference ideas

I was lucky enough to attend both of these conferences that Krystal mentions. It’s great to be able to send two delegates from our institution because we were able to split up, see more talks between the two of us, share what we learned and bring back twice as much to share with our colleagues here in the Libraries.

In RIOT, our conversation led us to think about how we can present our own assessment findings in a more public way – to students and to faculty. We are all excited at the idea of translating the data we gather into infographics and tossed around the idea of looking into easy-to-use softwares, like Piktochart, that could help us out.

We also talked about our own struggles with reaching graduate students. The ideas Krystal brought back inspired us to think about what we can do in our changing space here in PCL to more meaningfully engage with graduate students. We have thus far implemented a few initiatives, including a photo show of research at the Benson, so we would like to think of translating ideas that the branch libraries have thought up over here in the new Learning Commons.

Lastly, in response to our conversation about wanting to focus less on teaching skills (tool-based searching) and more on concepts, Janelle promised to share with us what sounds like a great infographic that explains the cycle of information succinctly.

RIOT: Cathedrals and Bazaars: discussing scholarly publishing and open access with undergrads

Kim Duckett and Scott Warren. “Chapter 2 Exploring the Intersections of Information Literacy and Scholarly Communication [Two Frames of Reference for Undergraduate Instruction]” Common Ground at the Nexus of Information Literacy and Scholarly Communication. Ed. Stephanie Davis-Kahl and Merinda Kaye Hensley. Chicago, IL: Association of College & Research Libraries, 2013. 25-44.

Available at: http://works.bepress.com/scott_warren/8

I was drawn to this article partially because it’s Open Access Week and we have a lot of events planned here at the Library to bring attention to this emerging issue. I’ve also been thinking about open access in terms of a Library Class I co-created and co-taught on scholarly publishing. The audience for this discussion seems to be primarily graduate students, researchers and faculty, but lately we’ve been talking here in LIS about the ins and outs of explaining the intricacies of scholarly communication to undergrads. What information is useful to them? How much is too much?

This book chapter by Kim Duckett and Scott Warren makes a good case for discussing the scholarly communication process with undergrads, including issues surrounding open access, the journal pricing crisis and more. A lot of faculty for whom I do one shot instruction sessions will remark at some point during the session how “lucky” the students are to have access to the subscriptions the library offers, that they should take advantage of this access worth “millions of dollars” because they will be cut off upon graduation. It’s meant to get students interested, but I think the concept is abstract to them. Information is, largely, free in these students’ minds, especially since they may be in the nascent stages of learning how to evaluate sources. I struggle in my class planning with how to communicate the world of scholarly communication to undergrads and how to avoid the inevitable glazed over looks and drooping eyelids when the topic comes up.

As Duckett and Warren point out, “[the tools and practices researchers use] are the same processes that students are asked to participate in when they must find scholarly literature and use it in their assignments in ways perceived as valuable and appropriate to the academic community.” (26) We are asking them to contribute to and interact with scholarly dialog, but we don’t give them the full picture, so they adopt a dilettantish persona when doing so, never fully invested in the culture. When you really think about peer review, journal publication practices, how information is created and disseminated, consumed and built upon in academia, it’s antithetical to typical experiences of outsiders. Entering into this level of research, however, cannot be done in a vacuum, and we are doing our students a disservice by leaving this part of the conversation hidden.

The authors suggest two frameworks for discussing scholarly communication with undergrads. One, the Sociocultural Frame, discusses the peer review process, the roles played in it, why its important and why professors require information of this kind in research. We as librarians often assume this information has been communicated by instructors, but we have all had the experience of encountering an upper level undergrad at the desk who has a murky understanding of peer review. Very often, an instructor or a librarian will assume that the student learned these concepts in a previous course, so we gloss over the details.

The Economic Frame that the authors suggest is an expanded version of us preaching “accessing these journals costs you millions.” At NCSU, the librarians developed a seventy five minute workshop detailing the business side of information. How much subscriptions cost and how those steep prices exclude populations. The librarians also highlight issues such as the Cost of Knowledge, taxpayer-funded research, and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Librarians who teach this course find that students become engaged in this discussion. The sticker shock of some journals, the issues of inequality in information access and the various movements which have risen in opposition get students interested because they touch upon concepts to which we all relate: “sharing, ownership, use (and reuse), credit for creation, payment, career advancement, sustainability, etc.” (41).

The authors touch upon issues surrounding open access, but don’t discuss it in great depth, and I wonder about the best way to approach this controversial topic. We have the experience to look at it from both sides, but those new to academia have more experience in a culture where knowledge is free or stolen, traded and willingly shared. I wonder if open access is a no-brainer to them and if that means that the world of scholarly publishing is on the precipice of extinction.

Even within the short one-shot instruction session, how do you talk about scholarly publishing practices, open access, etc.? What concepts get students’ attention?

Can you gauge your students’ perception of academic journal publishing, peer review, and the rest? In other words, are they impressed that these journals cost so much money, or are they disillusioned with institutionalized knowledge, questioning how something so expensive and available to so few could be relevant in our culture?

What are your students’ perceptions of open-access? Even without knowledge of bibliometrics and h-index, do you get the sense that students today would embrace the movement, or are they wary?