Tag Archives: faculty collaborations

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.

Lesson + Study = Lesson Study! Researching learning in the college classroom

Sometimes you find a RIOT topic, and sometimes a RIOT topic finds you. I was jumping around from article to article last week when Michele sent out the latest issue of LOEX and this article caught my eye (perhaps because I was hungry): From Prix Fixe to A la Carte: Using Lesson Study to Collaborate with Faculty in Customizing Information Literacy. It describes using a research method called “lesson study” to collaboratively design and assess a one-shot information literacy session for a first year composition course at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. I ended up reading more about lesson study and found the concept really intriguing. This entry focuses on the above article, as well as one that informed it.

What is lesson study?
Lesson study originated in Japan, and is a way of systematically designing and assessing a lesson plan in a way that contributes to our knowledge on teaching and learning. In lesson study, a group of teachers works in a small team to plan, teach, observe, analyze, and refine individual lessons (Cerbin and Kopp). In Japan, the resulting lesson plans and studies are published and disseminated for other teachers to build from and use so that “in essence Japanese lesson study is a broad-based, teacher-led system for improvement of teaching and learning” (Cerbin and Kopp). The Cerbin and Kopp article I keep quoting proposes a model of using lesson study in the college classroom. Instructors at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (where Cerbin and Kopp teach) have actually been using the lesson study method since 2006, and have a really great site that documents the process and shares all of their results. This is the context through which the LOEX article I found originated, as the project has spread to multiple UW campuses and throughout departments.

To embark upon a lesson study, a small team of teachers comes together to select a course, topic, and goals for student learning. Often, these teams are composed of instructors teaching the same course but they can also be interdisciplinary teams (hello, librarians!) working toward common goals. In the Jennings et al. study, 4 librarians collaborated with 3 composition faculty. Their initial list of goals was huge, and they reported that the process of sitting down with faculty to discuss the meaning of their goals, how they could be taught and assessed, whether they could reasonably be taught in a one-shot, and how they fit into the overall curriculum was one of the most valuable aspects of the lesson study. Eventually, they whittled down to two outcomes, leaving the other concepts to be taught in preceding classroom activities or discussions.
The next step is to plan the lesson. One of the main goals of lesson study is to design lessons that make the process of student learning visible, so that it can be observed. Once the lesson is planned, teams must design the study of the lesson. This involves deciding what data they will collect to assess student learning and thinking, and what observation guidelines they will use when team members observe the lesson being taught. To me, this focus on how students learn is what makes lesson study different than other forms of assessment.

“…the primary focus of lesson study is not what students learn, but rather how students learn from the lesson. To investigate how students learn, teams focus on student thinking during the lesson, how they make sense of the material, what kinds of difficulties they have, how they answer questions, how their thinking changes during the lesson and so forth.” Cerbin and Kopp

Teaching and Observing
Once the lesson and study have both been planned, one team member teaches the lesson while the others observe and collect data. Data collection may involve field notes, checklists, rubrics, etc. Cerbin and Kopp note that lesson studies promote observation of students rather than the performance of the teacher, and that the collaboratively planned lesson (not the teacher or the students) is what is being judged.* This takes the heat off of individuals and “helps pave the way for public knowledge building.”

After the first go-round, the team debriefs to talk about their experiences, analyze data for evidence of student learning, and discuss possible changes based on what they found. The revised lesson can then be used in another class, continuing the cycle of evidence-based improvements.

Documentation and Sharing
The idea behind lesson studies is that they will produce valuable knowledge to be shared with others. Teams extensively document both the lesson portion and the study portion so that they can be disseminated and shared.

Why is it valuable?
Some of the reasons Cerbin and Kopp value lesson study include:

  • it encourages scaffolded, reflective design and assessment
  • it can help build a shared language for teaching and learning among instructors
  • it offers an evidence-based approach to teaching improvement
  • it provides a framework for investigating teaching and learning in the classroom

Jennings et al. reported that using lesson study to design the composition one-shot began a process of continual improvement and engendered a “culture of collaboration” among members of the lesson study team. It also led to further library involvement in the integration of information literacy into some curricular revision in the department. Eventually, it also led to similar studies in courses within other departments. They reported that in a science lesson study group, the process revealed that faculty assumed their students came to them with much more robust information literacy skills than they actually did. Through the process of planning the lesson study, “Faculty began to recognize and internalize the idea that if they wanted their students to use information in the sciences effectively and appropriately, it was incumbent upon them to integrate information literacy into the curriculum rather than assuming the students were gaining these students elsewhere” (Jennings et al.). Hooray!

I think this could be a great way to promote collaboration, and to work in some meaningful assessment work. It is difficult to assess the actual process of student learning, and I think this is one angle from which to approach it.

*Yes, this method requires IRB approval

Questions to think about:

  • Where might a lesson study fit in our teaching?
  • Who on campus might we partner with?
  • How would we share our findings?


Cerbin, W. & Kopp, B. (2006). Lesson Study as a Model for Building Pedagogical Knowledge and Improving Teaching. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 18(3).

Retrieved from http://www.isetl.org/ijtlhe/pdf/IJTLHE110.pdf

Jennings, E., Kishel, H., & Markgraf, J. (2012). From Prix Fixe to A la Carte: Using Lesson Study to Collaborate with Faculty in Customizing Information Literacy. LOEX Quarterly, 38(4).

Retrieved from http://commons.emich.edu/loexquarterly/vol38/iss4/4

How Do Students Develop Mastery?

Ambrose, Susan A. Bridges, Michael W. DiPietro, Michele Lovett, Marsha C. Norman, Marie K. Mayer, Richard E. (2010). How Learning Works Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. The Jossey-Bass higher and adult education series (1st ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Chapter 4: How Do Students Develop Mastery?

We recently met with Michael Sweet from the CTL and he recommended this book as a tool to use with faculty when discussing best teaching practices.  Beyond the course transformation work that we’ve discussed previously, CTL is taking active steps to build community around teaching on campus, including the formation of a faculty mentoring initiative with learning communities structured around teaching topics. 

I wanted to take a look at one of the chapters from the book to help everyone around the table gain some familiarity with how the chapters are structured and what faculty might gain from reading it in pieces.  Plus, I figured I’d learn something to improve my teaching in the process.

Each chapter begins by presenting a few teaching scenarios that include problems with student learning problem, followed by a summary of the possible problems.  Then a discussion of the principle of learning that’s at work in these scenario is presented followed by a summary of the research on that principle.  The chapter that outlines teaching strategies suggested by the research, turning the research into practical help with examples.

The book contains a number of appendices that are referenced in the teaching strategies section and that are intended to guide broader teaching strategies, like building effective assessments into a course and using rubrics.

I think I learned more from these 30 pages than I have from almost anything I’ve read in the last year.  The authors do an amazing job of presenting a classroom problem and proposing solutions based on research in clear and convincing language aided by multiple examples.  The chapter is a quick read, but is full of ideas that I’d like to discuss during the RIOT rather than write about here.  I’ll outline a some basic ideas here, but I’d like us to talk about how some of these strategies apply to the one-shot and assignment design consultations.

-Faculty often become frustrated when student performance is disappointing and the faculty member feels like the students should have the skills and knowledge needed to perform well.  The problem is usually that students either lack key component skills, lack experience integrating the use of key component skills that they’ve learned individually, and/or are unable to transfer the key component skills to a new context.

-All of this points to a failure to develop mastery.  The principle of learning for this chapter is stated as:

“To develop mastery, students must acquire component skills, practice integrating them, and know when to apply what they have learned.”

Research is highlighted in four areas:

Expertise  –
moving along a continuum from
unconscious competence (not knowing what you don’t know)
conscious incompetence (knowing you don’t know and what you need to learn)
conscious competence (knowing a lot, but still having to think about integrating your knowledge — think about driver’s ed)
unconscious competence (knowledge and skills become instinctive and you no longer consciously consider what you know or do)

Component Skills


and Application

I’ll outline more of this research and the related strategies when we meet, but please begin thinking about our role in helping students develop mastery in information literacy and research skills.  Are we effectively teaching students to integrate key component skills?  What are those key component skills? How often are we functioning at the unconscious competence level of expertise and failing to really identify the key component skills that our non-expert students need to learn to complete an assignment?  And perhaps the problem most unique to our teaching situations:  when those necessary skills fall both in our domain and the faculty member’s, how do we build stronger bridges for collaborating on the integration of those skills in assignments and activities?

All RIOT: communicating value with dwindling time

I’ve been looking at articles about communicating value, faculty librarian collaboration, outreach, etc. until I want to barf. I can’t find anything that grabs me and swings me around, so I am going to pose some thoughts about communicating value. Sorry to not have an article.

First, a positive thought. Luis Carcamo-Huechante was overjoyed with the results of his UGS class “The Art of Human Rights.” He had three different library sessions, including Krystal and myself doing an instruction session, Christian Kelleher at the Benson doing a session on how (and why) one would want to use an archive, and T-Kay did one on how the libraries is approaching archiving fragile human rights materials. He said that students responded positively to all of the sessions, and is hoping to repeat the class in the future. He came by a couple of weeks ago and was adamant that the course would not have worked without the contributions of the libraries.

Next, a frustration. The value of the Benson is not difficult to communicate to most faculty. However, what they value (usually the archives), and how they want their students to use the Benson (usually the archives) isn’t always the best use of the library or their students’ time . I constantly have these poor undergrads coming in and needing to find primary resources in the archives on their topics. Usually topics  like immigration along the Texas border, or Mayan astronomy.  More often than not we end up finding the primary source online, or in our regular collection, and I fear how a professor will react to that.

Finally, I would like to a few minutes discussing continuing to communicate value in the face of dwindling time/resources/ability to collaborate on multiple levels, including instruction.

All RIOT: If we pay them, will they come?

In my search for innovative faculty collaboration models and mind-blowing secrets of success, one thing became clear. We (librarians) are usually the ones seeking collaboration. When I couldn’t find anything I wanted to RIOT on in the library literature, I turned to a multi-disciplinary database only to find more of the same. With this in mind, how do we convince faculty members that we are worth collaborating with, and how far are we willing to go?

Miller, I. (2010). Turning the tables: A faculty-centered approach to integrating information literacy. Reference Service Review, 38(4), 647-662.

In this case study, librarians secured a grant to invite faculty members from two departments per year to participate in a workshop designed to help them write departmental information literacy standards, and to formulate assignments and assessments to integrate them into their curricula.

Faculty participants were given copies of the ACRL information literacy standards (both general and discipline-specific), but were instructed to develop their own standards and learning outcomes for information literacy. The authors reported success (especially in the second year of the program), and recommended (amont other things) paying participating faculty and giving them ownership in such collaborations.

I was particularly interested in what didn’t work. They found that even though they were being paid, faculty failed to read chosen workshop readings, and therefore failed to hold fruitful discussions of information literacy. Assessment planning also failed, in part due to the lack of reading. Faculty members were very interested in the technological skills that librarians had to offer, but it sounds like they were less interested in techniques that we believe lead to student learning such as scaffolding skills from one course to the next. They had trouble understanding the concept of sequencing learning outcomes throughout the degree program.

What do we take from this? While I think that we have room for innovation in collaboration models, I think we need to be careful not to water down our expertise in an attempt to appeal to busy faculty members. How can we invite collaboration while still upholding the standards developed by our profession and making sure that students get the best of what we have to offer?

The Timing of the Research Question: First-Year Writing Faculty and Instruction Librarians’ Differing Perspectives

Jennifer E. Nutefall, & Phyllis Mentzell Ryder. (2010). The Timing of the Research Question: First-Year Writing Faculty and Instruction Librarians’ Differing Perspectives. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 10(4), 437-449.

[In case this sounds familiar, this article draws on the same research that the authors published in an article Michele discussed in an earlier RIOT, but from a different perspective.]

The study reported in this article used an extremely small and focused sample, but I’m hoping we can use it as a jumping off point for discussing librarian and faculty expectations across our different disciplines as well as our own expectations regarding the timing of the research question.

The authors interviewed four faculty members who taught within the first-year writing program at George Washington University and three instruction librarians who supported the program in 2005.  The faculty/librarian collaboration in this program is written into the program description:  “Each semester, faculty and librarians are partnered according to interest and research expertise, and ongoing partnerships are supported. Faculty and librarians are encouraged to collaborate on all stages of the course including choosing course texts, devising effective research assignments, and planning and teaching information literacy sessions.”  The transcripts of these interviews were then coded to facilitate discovery of common themes in the discussions between the two populations.

Participants agreed on some basic tenets of a good research question:

1) It should be complex and not have an immediately obvious answer.

2) It should be worth answering with consideration of its meaning and value to the intended audience.

3) It should be interesting to the student.

The point of disagreement arose when the timing of the research question was discussed, with varying opinions about whether the research question should actually be a question and when that question should be formulated.  The authors write, “Faculty members talked about the process of narrowing down a topic to a question and how this can occur over the better part of the semester. On the other hand, the librarians stated that a student’s topic needs to be narrowed down as one of the initial steps.”

Examples from the transcript highlighting these differing opinions are shared, with both faculty and librarians describing their work with students to help them reach a research question.  Faculty reported that they tell students they probably won’t know their actual research question ’til the end of the semester, while several of the librarians insisted that students needed to narrow their focus at the beginning of the semester.  While faculty seemed to embrace the idea that students would be inundated with relevant information that would lead to a more nuanced understanding of their topic, the librarians were concerned with students reaching a level of focus that would allow them to examine a smaller set of sources.

If you only read one part of this article, jump to the Discussion, which includes two contrasting faculty and librarian quotes that really get to heart of the difference in approaches.

From my perspective, this is really about the faculty and the librarians wanting the students to approach research like either a faculty member or a librarian — and the authors reach the same conclusion.  The faculty members wanted to be immersed in information, taking the time to learn more and generate questions from that point of immersion, using prior knowledge to focus and narrow these questions.  This is the professional scholar’s job and an expectation of how they will spend their time.

The librarian wants the student to start from a clear point of inquiry where keywords can be brainstormed and information can be searched and synthesized into an answer to the research question for a particular audience.  Again, this is the professional librarian’s job — to take the question and find the relevant information, with a reference interview often helping to clarify the question to facilitate this approach.  And, to oversimplify matters, the librarians  support the faculty member’s research process, providing information to answer the questions that happen along the way, but librarians aren’t there during the immersive experience that generates those questions. It doesn’t surprise me that this becomes a point of conflict when both faculty and librarians are attempting to support the same students towards the same goal in a semester-long course.

But taking this conclusion out of the environment of a semester-long collaboration and translating it the administration of an instruction program built mostly on one-shots, you can see the same point of conflict causing frustrations.  It explains why a faculty member might not think it’s important for students to have their topics when they arrive at the beginning of the semester.  It explains why drafting an outline for a session to demonstrate a research process can feel so artificial for courses where students are given the freedom to develop a topic that interests them over the course of the semester.  And it explains why we sometimes run into research assignments where the faculty member hasn’t considered whether or not the information is going to exist for students to successfully answer the research questions they’re likely to generate based on the prompt — we expect people to look into the future and envision the information they need from the start.

The following questions come to mind:

1) Is this situation unique to writing faculty and courses or is it to be expected from across disciplines?

2) How can we provide better support for the exploratory stage of the research process being encouraged by faculty?

3) The conclusions states, “The authors’ recommendation is for faculty and librarians who teach collaboratively to meet and explicitly discuss their expectations for when students will arrive at their research question, what that question might look like, and what roles the faculty and librarian will play in guiding them to a research focus.” What would this conversation look like when translated to a one-shot collaboration?