Last week, we read and discussed “Researched Writing” by Rebecca Moore Howard and Sandra Jamieson. This article discussed how the research paper may no longer be the best method to teach research skills. Instead, research projects or portfolio could be used in writing classes to teach the skills on a step-by-step basis. As I read this, I was reminded how integral one-on-one instruction can be especially when teaching material as complicated and individualized as research. I then started to wonder if Universities with MLIS programs could work to engage their graduate students as “research mentors” for entry level composition classes. These “mentors” could then be available to meet with students on a one-on-one basis and walk them through the research process based on the professor’s instruction. While reference librarians can fill this role, freshmen seem hesitant to engage with librarians. The graduate student may be viewed more as a peer as well reducing the intimidation. The mentor could lead the student through early stages of research based on the professor’s assignments then refer the student to reference librarians for finding their own sources and higher level research projects.
Sara, Claire, Paige, and I were able to attend the ALLA conference at the Grand Hotel in early April. We presented a poster about how storytelling has helped us in our library instruction based on the article “How Do They Conduct Class” by Ken Bain. In the poster, I included a story I used during Day 2 of my instruction. I was doing a polling exercise to have the students select a source for different scenarios. One scenario was based on an experience I had with my father. He decided to become a vegetarian about many years of being an enthusiastic grill master. I integrated this to ask the students what type of source they would send to their own parent considering a switch to a vegetarian diet. Many selected articles from medical journals, and I used my own father to explain that someone without medical expertise may not be able to understand these journals. Additionally. the articles are very long, so my very busy father would not have taken the time to read the article. Instead, a newspaper article or even a youtube video may have been better options.
Being able to present a poster at a conference was a great experience. This was my first library conference, and I appreciated the opportunity. We had many fellow conference goers express interest in our poster and ask interesting questions! While I was only able to attend our poster session due to my class schedule, it gave me a good idea of what to expect at future conferences. Furthermore, this opportunity gave me confidence to create my own poster presentation at some point in the next couple of years.
I enjoyed creating my asynchronous instruction tool on narrowing a research topic. I took my lesson plan from my day 1 instruction and reviewed it. I then took the slides I had created for that lesson plan and created them in PowToon. I made them more visually attractive since the slides will be a focal point of the tool whereas in the class they were simply a point of reference. After creating the slides, I worked on a script. I typed out a general script and then created a couple of additional slides to ensure the script and slides matched up. I recorded the voiceover one slide at a time. After the voiceover was complete, I was able to add it in PowToon and adjust the timing on the slide so the slides and voiceover would match up. This was an informative exercise to see how to translate an in-person instruction lesson plan to an asynchronous, online tool. I was able to create a tool I am proud of and would use!
Check out an online tool for helping you narrow your research topic: http://www.powtoon.com/show/cmHsdjQJEds/#/
After successfully completing my Day 1 classes, I felt more freedom to get creative with my Day 2 lesson plan. I began by giving a quick overview of what we had learned in the previous class to ensure we were all on the same page. I then did a polling activity to help the students recognize what sources are appropriate in which context. I briefly spoke on popular versus scholarly sources. Based on my experience from Day 1, I tried to ask more questions and keep the class more engaged during this section instead of lecturing at them. I believe further practice would have made that more smooth, but overall it seemed to work. The class was already pretty knowledgable about what is a scholarly source and what is a popular source. The final activity was multi-faceted and gave the students opportunity to work in groups and individually. They all used the same sources and ranked them so they could think about what sources have the most authority and where that comes from. They then worked individually to evaluate the source. After working online, everyone who had picked the same source got together to compare their answers. This gave the students the chance to teach each other and engage with each other instead of me talking at them.We then discussed all the sources as a group. I felt this activity was useful for the students and allowed them to engage with sources and get a better understanding of the context sources exist within and what makes a source credible.
Solo teaching an EN 102 class for day 1 of their library instruction was a great learning experience. I followed the outline used by many other Gorgas librarians and feel I was able to mend these tools and activities to my own teaching style. I do feel that I spent too much time talking for Day 1. If I redid my lesson plan, I would not make many dramatic changes but would work to engage students more instead of talking at them particularly when discussing the research process. Integrating a polling activity into this section of the lesson might have been effective at achieving that goal. I believe the highlight of my Day 1 lesson was a worksheet I created to allow the students to reflect on what they learned and practice it themselves. I created this worksheet in part because I was not sure how I would do with the timing of my lesson plan. I knew this worksheet gave me flexibility; if I finished too quickly the students would have time to go through this worksheet while in class. If I did not have enough time, the worksheet could be given to them as a tool to use individually when starting their worksheet.
One other note, my professor was very hands-on and encouraged his students to participate and made sure they were engaged. This was very helpful as the students look to the professor as he is the one they are familiar with and leads the class daily.
Co-teaching was a great way to get more comfortable with library instruction before teaching on my own. For all of my co-teaching sessions, the instruction librarian gave me a section to teach. I was then able to teach nearly all of the Day 1 and Day 2 lessons in pieces before taking responsibility for the whole lesson on my own. By basing each section on the librarian’s lesson plan, I was able to approach the material in different ways. In more than one instance, this approach was not one I would have typically envisioned, so it opened my mind to new teaching methods. I believe co-teaching can also be a good experience for the students. Very few instructors will be able to relate to 100% of the students 100% of the time. Therefore, splitting up the session gives two different perspectives, approaches, and personalities and breaks up the lesson. Students will hopefully relate to one of the two voices in the room and potentially feel more comfortable seeking that instructor out for ongoing research assistance.
I actually had a student approach me at the Information Desk for help with her paper. She remembered me from one of the classes I co-taught and then asked me my opinion on a source she was thinking to use for her annotated bibliography!
This post is a general reflection on instruction. I’ll follow up with a post on each of the following: co-teaching, Day 1, and Day 2.
I came in to this assistantship not knowing what to expect. I come from a family of teachers and have led plenty of training sessions for youth and adults. I’ve also taught summer school sessions in a community center on journalism and art. Therefore, the basic principles of leading students through a curriculum is not foreign to me. However, the goals for research instruction can be overwhelming. I know how important research skills can be, and I have helped high-school students with research in the past and been shocked by their lack of ability to complete even simple tasks such as finding an image and copying and pasting it. Therefore, it’s hard not to feel pressure to catch these students up while not boring the others. Lucky for me, Gorgas’s reference librarians are all experienced instructors. Seeing them teach, gave me a framework for lessons plans and a confidence level with the material. Furthermore, the reality is, we only have the time to give the students the tools. It is then on them to seek out additional help and give themselves time to become better skilled researchers.
In searching for articles about approaches to asynchronous on-line instruction, I discovered many of the articles and the research in the field focus on discussion boards and methods for student-interaction. It seems to me that such communication methods would offer little value to an online version of the one (or two) shot library instruction classes. In those classes, building rapport with the instructor and engaging the students are the challenge. I wonder if it would be helpful for the librarian to have a brief video introducing him/herself to go along with any asynchronous teaching tools that are created. This video could focus on the librarian’s background and research interests but also include some humor and personal information. This would make the librarian a real person and may make students more inclined to pay attention to the instructional information.