A few weeks ago, about 30 staff from across the UT Libraries got together to give TLS input to help us plan the classroom teaching series. This is a series of workshops to be held this spring and next fall to support people as classroom teachers in all types of classrooms, from the traditional auditorium classroom to the technology-rich active learning classrooms we are planning for the Learning Commons. The common theme of the input was active learning. In fact, our first workshop on March 10 from 1-2pm will be about getting started with active learning for people new to it and those who want a refresher. If you are interested, you can RSVP here and also see and RSVP for other workshops planned for the spring.
I thought I would get the conversation started by asking you to share what you do and sharing something I am doing. First, you! Please take a moment to fill out this GoogleForm with something you do in class that you think works well. If you want to share more than one thing, fill it out multiple times. I’ll compile the results and share them so we can begin to build a bank of activities we can all use. Since most of what we do in TLS is focused on the non-major freshman, it would be especially fantastic to get examples of what you like to do with your majors and your upper division students. So, let me just thank you in advance for sharing!
Ok, now me. Today I had a class of freshmen who had to use 10-12 peer-reviewed articles for their research paper. Although they’ve read a few for their course this semester, they didn’t know it and hadn’t discussed what one is and why people write and read them. I decided to start out with an activity where they would discover for themselves what a peer-reviewed article is and why all their professors want them to read them. That would inform everything else in the class from brainstorming keywords to choosing a database and searching. Here was my plan:
– Select one popular and one scholarly source on the same topic and link them from the SubjectsPlus course guide as Article 1 and Article 2. (It would also be great to find a scholarly article and then a popular one reporting about the scholarly article, but that didn’t work out for this class topic.)
– Break the students into groups and ask them to review both articles and answer a series of questions. You could do this in a GoogleForm or give them these questions in paper. Give them about 15-20 minutes to do this.
– Have groups report out and use what they say to facilitate a conversation about the differences between scholarly and popular sources and when you might want to use one or the other. As you take notes on what they say on a white board or a document on your computer, you could build a popular versus scholarly grid.
Due to the power outage causing us to get a late start, I wasn’t able to do this full exercise as planned but I did have them look at the scholarly article and, as a group, we figured out the characteristics together and I wrote them on the board. This worked pretty well and one girl even took a picture of the board. That never happens and it made me really happy.
I hope you will take a moment to share what you do or try out the above exercise in full and let me know how it went.
Anne-Marie Deitering & Kate Gronemyer. (2011). Beyond peer-reviewed articles: Using blogs to enrich students’ understanding of scholarly work. portal: Libraries and the Academy 11(1), 489-503. Retrieved January 22, 2011 from Project MUSE database.
If I could hug an article, this one would get a big ol’ bear hug. I love the message, the ideas, the simplicity and the casual call-to-action embedded within.
Deitering and Gronemyer work closely with Oregon State University’s 200-level composition course (WR 222), much like our own Rhetoric 306/309. In the process of teaching library instruction classes to this population, they struggled with a way to help students effectively use peer-reviewed articles to write research papers or find evidence to support an argument.
As in other RIOT articles that we have discussed, the cognitive development plays a large role in finding, evaluating and using this information effectively. When it comes to mental models, generally students enter college with rigid ideas of absolute truths and exit with a more flexible understanding that knowledge is in flux. Deitering and Gronemyer cite the Reflective Judgement Model in particular because, “
[i]t is particularly useful in the context of information literacy instruction because it specifically examines how students understand the knowledge creation process and how they understand the value of expert or authoritative information. The model divides development into seven stages, grouped into three periods: pre-reflective thinking, quasi-reflective thinking, and reflective thinking. Pre-reflective thinkers still see knowledge as revealed and truths as absolute, while fully reflective thinkers know that knowledge is constructed and that there are problems for which there are no obvious solutions.
The ability to manage uncertainty within the massive streams of information that students consume is also, as Deitering and Gronemyer point out, a characteristic of an information literate person.
However, with a rigid understanding of what is right and wrong, the ability to actually use and interpret that scholarly information as evidence is incredibly difficult for undergraduates. It is even more difficult when they are introduced to this information without a context for the rules governing the process or how this information is used among the scholars with that field.
The latter point is one that I have never heard addressed in the literature before and because the authors make several good points about it, I’ll note them below:
- Disciplines have shared standards that govern the process of creating new information.
- The validation of research is crucial to building an archive of knowledge within a discipline.
- Scholars never write to prove what is already accepted within that archive. Instead they use the archive to back up what their new research details.
Deitering and Gronemyer decide that for students to truly understand the place peer-reviewed articles in context, they must know that:
- Research that inspires more research, more questions, and more inquiry is the best kind of research. Scholars are not trying to write the last word on their topics; to them, there is always another question to answer.
- Relying on the ideas and the work of others makes an argument stronger, not weaker.
By incorporating the above ideas into a discussion of research, librarians or professors can show the importance and necessity behind disciplinary dialog. In fact, comparing different disciplinary models of publishing can also highlight the different information literacy skills that are intrinsically tied to a particular discipline.
We all understand the idea that asking students to read a peer-reviewed article without context is mostly bad pedagogy (and you aren’t going to win any five star Rate-My-Professor reviews). One of the authors cited in the article, Gerald Graff, differs by saying the real cause of the inability for undergraduates to comprehend scholarly literature is that it never specifically states why their research or their conclusions matter because to scholars, it’s all very obvious:
Graff further suggests that students not only fail to understand the significance of academic arguments but also (and more fundamentally) their purpose. They assume that academic authors want to win, or prevail, as one would in a debate. To students, winning an argument means that the argument is over. Academics engaged in normal science expect the argument will continue. This does not mean that they do not want to be convincing but that they want their contributions to the conversation to spark more ideas, more connections to other issues, and most of all, more research. Students often believe that a conclusion that is challenged or disputed is weak; scholars believe that conclusions so obvious that no one will argue with them are not worthy of publication; “claims that are arguable and solicit disagreement are a sign of an argument’s viability, not its failure.” In other words, where students see weakness, academics see impact.
On the contrary, what many of the students are accustomed to, across the disciplines, are the (supposedly) unbiased, “emotionless” textbook content that presents itself as an authoritative source, yet how often do we ask students to check the references in their textbooks or google the authors of specific chapters?
Deitering and Gronemyer suggest introducing students to blogs where scholars engage in these casual, yet extremely valuable conversations that contribute to their own research and publication processes. The authors note in particular group discipline-specific blogs like Crooked Timber, Cliopatria or Cocktail Party Physics. This group of scholars will comment on each other’s work, while also fielding comments from the general public. Another blog, Wicked Anomie written by a graduate student, provides insight into the scholarly communication process while also addressing how to teach this type of content using her personal narrative. The authors also discuss specific tools like Google Blog search, Technorati, and also discipline-specific blogging sites that direct librarians to particular portals of blog content.
Using blogs in an instruction class may not be anything new, but the way in which the authors ask us to interpret and explain blogs in the context of scholarly communication is quite thought-provoking because:
- it provides context for the subject matter, while showing a real-time conversation about that piece.
- it shows that their voice does matter to a conversation (for example, one commenter on a scholarly blog was able to prove that research was plagiarized),
- it will connect freely accessible content with proprietary journals that may not be available to students after they graduate.
So, now that blogs have been around the block for a while and their newness has rubbed off, what are you doing (or thinking about doing) with blogs that could incorporate the type of discussions mentioned in the article?
A colleague sent round this interesting blog post the other day–>
Anderson, Kent. Improving Peer Review: Let’s Provide An Ingredients List for Our Readers. The Scholarly Kitchen, March 30, 2010.
Anderson wants articles to include more information about the process of peer review–reviewers’ credentials, number of revisions, etc., to help readers distinguish more rigorously reviewed work from less rigorously reviewed work. He writes
“Here are some potential categories I’d like to see:
- Number of outside reviewers
- Degree of blindedness (names and institutions eliminated from the manuscript, for instance)
- Number of review cycles needed before publication
- Duration of the peer review portion of editorial review
- Other review elements included (technical reviews, patent reviews, etc.)
- Editorial board review
- Editorial advisers review
- Statistical review
- Safety review
- Ethics and informed consent review”
While it might inform practioners, would this information help students evaluate material?
What about this sort of information (from Mosby’s Nursing Consult)?
“Levels of Evidence
Studies are ranked according to the following criteria:
Level I All relevant randomized controlled trials (RCTs)
Level II At least one well-designed RCT
Level III Well-designed controlled trials without randomization
Level IV Well-designed case-controlled or cohort studies
Level V Descriptive or qualitative studies
Level VI Single descriptive or qualitative study
Level VII Authority opinion or expert committee reports”
How useful will such guidelines be for students who lack subject expertise? Debra Rollins’ recent post on ILI-L, on the thread “evaluating resources,” considers who should best deliver this aspect of IL instruction.