We met to discuss April’s post about the article, “Reinventing the Library’s Message through the Alignment of Research and Instruction,” a project by librarians at the Vanderbilt University graduate school of business. The project described in this article included the librarians choosing 3 broad objectives they thought all of their students should understand and that they could all commit to teaching, using similar language. Our conversation revolved around two of those three objectives: information has value and research is a process.
Information has value: The group discussed when and how we talk about the value of information, including the price tag associated with it, and that this resonates with students outside of business schools as well. Krystal gave the example of how she uses this concept in UGS classes. Before discussing databases, they discuss how and why you can’t get everything for free on the Internet, which sets the stage for understanding that different information lives in different places and helps students decide where to search. Others talk about the actual cost of certain databases in their classes to show the value of this information.
Research is a process: The group spent the majority of time talking about this objective. We know that students don’t think like librarians, but we also think it is important to teach them that research is a process, that the more you practice the better you’ll become and that we, as librarians, are able to reflexively do some of these things and think in certain ways because of practice. We should teach students to think differently about the research process so they can improve.
One of the ways people teach the process is to start by asking students “who cares?” This helps them decide who would collect or create the data/information so they know where to begin looking for it. There were numerous examples of how people incorporate this into a class, such as Laura’s Art History example. She asks students to consider who would care about a piece of artwork besides art historians. It helps them move beyond their discipline and understand that “art doesn’t live in a vacuum.” Kristen frames it as a “reflective research process” where students are asked to consider who is talking about the topic and map it to databases and research guides before starting their searches.
The group also talked about how there is some resistance from students because just using Google and simple searches has worked for them. They look at librarians as unnecessarily complicating things. This led to a discussion of how students don’t really understand what a college or university is and what faculty and librarians do. Instead they see college as a place to get a degree so they can graduate and get a job. Faculty and librarians, however, are trying to teach critical thinking skills which are what will help students succeed in work and in life. We discussed ways we can explain what college is and what a research university is so they can understand why they are asked to go beyond what worked in high school and how their work fits in with the mission of a university. This ties in with understanding and evaluating scholarly sources, and we had our usual discussion about how difficult it is to teach them source evaluation.
We ended with a discussion about alternative ways to show our value and our learning objectives to our students. We agreed that some of the information literacy threshold concepts apply here, such as authority is contextual, information has value and research as inquiry (research as a process). One idea was to make posters/infographics showing our objectives and the value of what we have. This is something we may explore further in the spring.