You discovered a new teaching method, technique, lesson, activity, etc. from a conference or colleague. How can you incorporate it into your own teaching?
Something I picked up from ACRL is the BEAM method. I had heard of it before, but had only seen it used in upper division undergraduate classes (junior and senior research seminars). At ACRL, Meredith Farkas talked about how she used BEAM when teaching first-year students how to do research.[i]So, should I try it with first-years in my own UGS classes? How? I ended up following this path to figure out how to incorporate the new method into my own teaching: Own It, Apply It, Try It.
What is BEAM?
Before I go into my example, I should explain that BEAM was a method created by Joseph Bizup in 2008 to teach research-based writing strategy.[ii] According to Bizup, these are the four main ways you can incorporate outside sources into a paper:
• Background – using a source to provide general information to explain the topic.
• Exhibit – using a source as evidence or examples to analyze.
• Argument – using a source to engage its argument.
• Method – using a source’s way of analyzing an issue to apply to your own issue.[iii]
BEAM could be taught in a variety of ways: a lecture, a handout or box on a course guide, an active learning activity, etc. Any of those methods of delivery are valid. But when I thought about how I would teach with BEAM, I thought that facilitating a discussion about the four categories would be the best fit for my critical pedagogy.
In the last Classroom Teaching Series (Active Learning Sandbox), Michele and Roxanne talked about developing authentic teaching styles. What works from one person might not work for you. Can you own the technique and make it yours? Maybe not, maybe so. You may need to tweak the delivery of a certain kind of lesson so that it works for you.
I wasn’t sure that a discussion on BEAM would apply in any of my one-shot sessions. But I kept the idea in the back of my mind. And sure enough, an opportunity presented itself. A multi-section class had an assignment that required them to find only one source outside of the course materials. I anticipated that students would struggle to find one “perfect” source, and I thought it might help if they approached the search by thinking critically about how they would use an outside source to strengthen their paper: Would the outside source provide context (Background), act as an example to analyze (Exhibit), engage with the argument they’re making (Argument), or provide a framework for how to make their own arguments (Method)?
Before trying it out in class, I came up with a strategy for some formative assessment. To measure whether or not BEAM worked (for me and for this class), I had these two questions:
1. Were students engaged in the discussion?
2. Did they then use BEAM vocabulary when consulting with me during active learning?
In the first section, the conversation resonated with the students and they were, indeed, using the BEAM vocabulary to ask me questions. Example of a student question: “I’m comparing these two films, but I want to talk about how they are a product of the times. So, I need a Background source. What is a good database that can provide some historical background?” Having this vocabulary and understanding definitely made stuents more strategic about their searching before they even asked me a question. Most students decided to use the course materials as Exhibits and to use their one outside source as Background or Argument. After determining that it worked, I decided to move forward and use it in the next two sections and it also resonated with those students.
I’m still thinking about other ways to use BEAM for other classes. Whether you are using BEAM or any other new teaching technique, remember to Own it, Apply it, Try it.
For more information on BEAM:
Rubick, Kate. “Flashlight: Using Bizup’s BEAM to Illuminate the Rhetoric of Research” (presentation, Library Instruction West, Portland, OR, July 7, 2014). http://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/liw_portland/Presentations/Material/10/
Woodward, Kristin M. and Ganski, Kate L., “BEAM Lesson Plan” (2013). UWM Libraries Instructional Materials. Paper 1. http://dc.uwm.edu/lib_staff_files/1
[i] Meredith Farkas, “Good for What? Teaching Sources for Sustainable Lifelong Information Literacy” (presentation, Association of College and Research Libraries, Portland, OR, March 25-28, 2015).
[ii] Joseph Bizup. “BEAM: A Rhetorical Vocabulary for Teaching Research-Based Writing.” Rhetoric Review 27, no.1 (2008): 72-86. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07350190701738858#.VTaHdCFVhBc
[iii] “How to Use a Source: The BEAM Method,”Hunter College Libraries, last modified 2014, http://library.hunter.cuny.edu/research-toolkit/how-do-i-use-sources/beam-method