The Class #1
On Monday, I assisted my colleague (who is the librarian for Early Childhood, Elementary,
Middle, and Secondary Education) with instructing a library session for a social studies methods class for middle and secondary education majors. This was the same class I taught the previous week, as a solo instruction session. Previously, I taught on finding and using primary source materials for inquiry based learning. This week’s session was on teaching social studies with trade books. We’d collaboratively planned a lesson and activities ahead of time, but when we got to the class, many of the students had attended library sessions with my colleague in the recent past. Being as there were only seven students and the content was similar to what they’d already received, we ended up changing the structure of the session on the fly, as well as tweaking some of the content. The students remained fairly engaged and seemed to benefit from the resources we showed them.
Areas for improvement
This situation brings up the issue of not being aware of what content is being covered in what classes and by whom. It supports the need for curriculum mapping and a more structured approach to instruction support by librarians, especially in disciplines such as education, where librarian involvement is happening on an ever increasing basis at my institution.
For having to change the entire approach in the moment, I thought the class went well. Last week, when I presented on locating and using primary sources, I’d used an exit ticket prompt to figure out if students had lingering questions. I was able to follow up on some of those during this session, which was good.
The Class #2
Wednesday, I was teaching for my semester-length class. This week’s class was focused on
source evaluation. I borrowed an idea from The Collective and tweaked it, to focus on evaluating sources. I started the activity by demonstrating (thinking aloud, screenshots, etc.) how to work through evaluating a magazine article I found online, using the CRAAP test. Then I had the class work through a (biased) newspaper article along with me, again using the CRAAP test, talking through why and how it could possibly used (or not) in research. Finally, I had them go to the web/library databases on their own. I split the class into groups. Each group was working with a different assigned database or website. I’d pre-listed the research topic, along with the hypothetical information needs. Each group had to located one article/webpage on the topic, identify how it could be used to support the research topic, and evaluate it using the CRAAP test. Afterwards, each group had the opportunity to share their discoveries.
Areas for improvement
There was one group that missed the “how would you use this in your research” (BEAM model) question, but the activity went extremely well overall. I was roaming around the room during the class session, answering questions, so I was able to provide clarity for those who needed it. I would definitely use this activity again. I had the students submit exit tickets at the end of the class and many of them said it helped them to understand how to evaluate sources better and some said they would use it to help them with research in other classes, so I count it as a win!
The Class #3
On Thursday, I co-taught a political science (urban government) class with my colleague, who is the librarian for Political Science. We worked collaboratively to revamp the instruction session, to include more hands-on activities. One of the things I proposed was
to create a Google Form document to have students use while exploring the resources in their course gateway. We decided to have the students work in groups to investigate resources from the gateway, using the form to answer questions about the resources as well as a sample urban city (Baltimore). The form was set up with multiple levels. When students selected their group topic, they were pushed through to different part of the form, with questions specific to their in-class assignment. When I attended a session on problem-based learning at The Collective last week, one of the presenters discussed having students create hand-drawn infographics to demonstrate their learning (and thought process about the concept they’d learned), so we adapted that for use in our instruction as well. The student groups, once they completed the form, were tasked with preparing a quick three minute presentation, to share with the rest of their class, so that everyone could get a snippet of feedback on the resources they didn’t get to play with in class. We also decided we wanted to have some way to designate a prize for the best presentation. I suggested that students be able to vote on their teammates’ presentations with a point system and the group with the highest score would win.
We tried all the ideas we had, all at once. For a pilot session, I thought it went extremely well. We split the class into seven groups of three (some students were absent, there were supposed to be 28 students). Each group was assigned a topic to research, with specific resources being given to work with. Using the Google Forms doc, they worked collaboratively to answer the questions. I’d developed the questions based on what I thought might be useful to illustrate the type of information contained in each source. I’d also included screenshots, at the suggestion of my colleague, for the resources that may be less user friendly. The students had 20 minutes to work in groups, after which they were given an additional time to put together a brief presentation. This included using markers and paper to create infographics/visual aids. Each group was allotted three minutes to present, after which the class voted on their presentation.
Areas for improvement
Things to thing about for future instruction of this session or some variation on it include:
- timing with transitions (what to do with students who finish first?)
- timing with presentations and voting
- grouping students on same side of tables (class management–some groups were on opposite sides of the table, which was an oversight on my part)
- more explicit labeling of sections in Google form (major policy issue vs. in-depth policy issue. Maybe including numbers for each numbered section, as well).
It would also be helpful to remember which group was which for presentation scoring purposes. Maybe ask students to hand me their topic assignment page, since it was on there. Overall, it was a positive teaching experience and hopefully a positive learning experience. The professor commented that he liked the new format, because it was fun. Hopefully a more engaging session will prove to make a difference when it comes time for the students to do the project.
The Class #4
Also on Thur, I co-taught an ethics course with my education librarian colleague. The general format of the instruction session was similar to another research-based class I taught last week. The focus of both sessions were on developing keywords, database research strategies, and a mini APA citation workshop. I had the opportunity to try another teaching strategy I learned as a result of The Collective. Keyword Taboo involves having a student describe their research focus. As they’re doing that, you (the instructor) jot down keywords (main ideas). Next, you have the class help you to brainstorm other
descriptors/keywords for the topic at hand, but they cannot use any of the words previously recorded on the board. I amended the activity a bit to form what I called word clouds. The word clouds were potential synonyms that could be swapped in a search engine. (I drew circles around the banks of words to illustrate the cloud part.) I mentioned that when we think of synonyms and get ready to move those keywords into the database, it’s important to keep concepts from each word cloud separate, unless there is overlap in topic. For example, the student mentioned wanting to research diversity and religion, with a focus on comparing non-extremists versus extremists. Because some of her examples (KKK and ISIS) had some potential overlap with related terms to extremists (ex. terrorists, guerilla), those could potentially be combined. I also mentioned that not all words in the cloud had to be used in one search: (religion OR faith OR beliefs) AND (extremists OR terrorists) vs. (religion OR faith OR beliefs) AND (KKK OR Ku Klux Klan). Additionally, synonyms can be left out if they don’t fit into the context of the broader research topic (ex. different as a synonym for diversity). The professor was sitting in the back giving me air fist bumps while I was teaching, so I assume we were touching on all the points he wanted us to touch on. The students also seemed to grasp the concepts. Their subsequent searches were yielding good results. My colleague and I walked around to provide one-on-one consultations with students who were struggling or needed another brain to bounce ideas off of.
Areas for improvement
An adjustment I would make in the future would be a smoother transition to the APA citation workshop. The ending was a little muddled in my opinion. It could have used a more blatant verbal transition. I think we should have said we were going to correct a citation together as a class (which is what it turned into, but that wasn’t immediately obvious) and then had the students work within their own search results to correct a citation from an article of their choice and submit it to a Google doc or some similar tool, while walking around to provide additional instruction. The timing may have prevented the last piece from happening, but if time permitted, it would be a good idea.
So that was my week…
In short, this was a very busy week, but I’m glad I got a chance to implement some of my learning activity ideas. And I apologize if I mentioned The Collective in every sentence. I just got so many good ideas from session leaders and fellow attendees! I’ll delve into my conference experience more in the next blog post.