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Designing Library Research Assignments Co-operating with Instructors to Create Successful Assignments OLA session 918, January 31, 2004.

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Presentation on theme: "Designing Library Research Assignments Co-operating with Instructors to Create Successful Assignments OLA session 918, January 31, 2004."— Presentation transcript:

1 Designing Library Research Assignments Co-operating with Instructors to Create Successful Assignments OLA session 918, January 31, 2004

2 STUDENT PERSPECTIVE ON TIME Hours in a week: 168 Student use of time: 5 courses, excluding labs (15 hrs/wk) class prep, 1 hr/wk per course (5 hrs/wk) works part-time (10 hrs/wk) 30 minute commute to campus (5hrs/wk) socializes 2hrs/day (14 hrs/wk) sleep 8hrs/night, meals 3hrs/day (77hrs/wk) misc 1hr/day (7hrs/wk) Total: 133 hours Amount of time left to complete assignments and study for exams: 35 hrs/wk = 1 hour/day per course.

3 ASSIGNMENT 2ND YEAR COURSE 10 page essay on a recent topic, with a Canadian focus. To be completed in 4 weeks. Assignment is handed out at end of class with little or no explanation. Student files it away without thoroughly reading it. Knows its about doing an essay.

4 SUGGESTIONS Read over the assignment with the class. Explain expectations, format, focus, etc. Explain that the search and research processes needed to prepare for the writing of the essay are key parts of the assignment. Keep the actual assignment brief. Add suggestions, guides and comments as supplementary material. Dont hand out a 10 page assignment for a 5 page essay.

5 ANXIOUS PROCRASTINATION Student postpones work on the assignment for 10 days because of 2 tests and 2 smaller assignments due earlier. Student also concerned about lack of research experience. Recognize that postponing happens, advise students how to do this wisely. - realistic assessment of time needed for a project. - preliminary search. Be aware that anxiety can lead to: - procrastination and disinterest, difficulty in planning, inability to think clearly, etc. Make students aware of the realities of research: - slow, erratic, inconvenient despite electronic resources; some services like Interlibrary Loan require time.

6 FINALLY GETTING DOWN TO WORK 2 1/2 weeks before the assignment is due, student reads the assignment thoroughly and goes to the library. Student does not ask for help in the library, because this is considered an exceptional practice, done only as a last resort.

7 THE LIBRARY SEARCH Student searches library catalogue using keywords. Does not consider: general encyclopedia, dictionaries or course readings as a starting point to define and review a topic. different synonyms for keywords. Boolean search techniques. Library of Congress subject headings. use of books versus periodical articles, etc. use of government material. use of the Internet.

8 STUDENTS RESULTS Student finds little relevant material. Two weeks (one half of the time) is gone and the student has accomplished very little. Prepare students by requiring them to take necessary library tutorials before an assignment or as part of an assignment. Make student aware that the research process is not a neatly compartmentalized process. They should be reading some materials while they are still searching for others.

9 CONSULTATION WITH THE FACULTY Student waits 2 days for scheduled office hours. Prof. recommends a journal article. Cites source as the journal of NATIVE STUDIES cites source verbally only; does not check what student writes down. Student gets impression that the cited article will solve all assignment problems; goes to library and searches for JOURNAL OF NATIVE STUDIES. Nothing found! Frustrated, student takes a day off to calm down.

10 BACK TO THE LIBRARY Next day, 10 days before due date, student goes to library, without the assignment, and asks for help. Students explanation of the assignment leaves out some key points. Journal reference from prof. is cited inaccurately, but eventually it and 9 other articles are found; 5 are in the library, 5 must be ordered on ILL, it will take at least 1 week to receive them. Student has enough resources for the paper 3 days before the due date; puts off looking at any of the material until then.

11 THE ESSAY Student finally reads material but has done no preliminary thinking about topic and so has not developed a focus or question to bring to the reading and to develop into a discussion for the essay. The 8 journal articles used give a very disparate view of the topic and so a coherent understanding of the topic is not achieved.

12 THE BIBLIOGRAPHY Only 3 of the 5 ILL articles arrive in time, so student adds the 5 books originally located to flesh out the bibliography, along with the 2 articles that never arrived. As no style manual was recommended, the citations in the bibliography are listed as they were found.

13 FINAL RESULTS The student gets a C-

14 From a Librarys perspective, what makes a good assignment? What librarians may want to show faculty in regards to communication problems in typical assignments…

15 Would Anarchy be a serious alternative to democracy? Why is Anarchy capitalized, but not democracy? Assignments need to be proof-read. Question is extremely broad: in what context is anarchy being compared to democracy? Indicators such as country, region or time period can help both students and Library staff save time in beginning research. Type of essay wanted (research? personal opinion?) is not stated. Without the limitations of type of essay, definitions (both provided by prof and/or required to be found by students), geography or time period, the instructor may get more of a philosophical or personal point of view in response. No due date, required length of essay, nor mark value are mentioned. These indicators help both students and library staff know what depth a user will likely have to go with this paper.

16 Would Anarchy be a serious alternative to democracy? No indication of use of library or types of resources to be used (i.e. Does the Library need to be used at all? If so, does the prof want the student to use books, articles or newspapers? How many? Should sources be scholarly, popular, propagandistic or a combination?) These indicators help students become aware of what they will have to use, and help library staff get users off on the right research track. They also allow the Library to propose alternative sources for research, especially if common ones are depleted. Without enough information, the Library has to interpret an assignment (dangerous!) or send it back to the instructor, via the student: frustrating for all!

17 If the UN and the US disagree on what action to take against Iraq, being that Canada has close socio- economic ties with the US, whom do we support? This question assumes some knowledge of a current situation: the war in Iraq. However, with any current, hot topic type of question, there tends to be a LOT of information available, via the press and the Web. The Library - and students - need indicators of what is acceptable for research.

18 If the UN and the US disagree on what action to take against Iraq, being that Canada has close socio- economic ties with the US, whom do we support? Information that instructors may want to include in a current events based assignment: Stated permission to use news resources such as the press and/or the Web. If students can use the Web, a reference to aids on assessing and citing Web resources would be useful. (If the assignment is known ahead of time, a Library tutorial on finding and assessing current info may be organized.) Acknowledgement of the difficulty of finding unbiased materials; should the point of view of resources be of a particular flavour? (i.e. American, Canadian, think tank, academic, personal or a mixture?) Reference to a similar, previous event: these tend to provide plenty of factual and analytical sources from which to do research and compare. (i.e. Can students look at the previous Gulf War and compare it to now?)

19 If the UN and the US disagree on what action to take against Iraq, being that Canada has close socio- economic ties with the US, whom do we support? Knowing the PURPOSE of an assignment - is there a stronger emphasis for students to learn FACTS or a PROCESS? - can help both the Library and the user.

20 Using at least five current, scholarly sources, outline some of the leading procedures used to create spatio-temporal land use maps. Specify the datasets needed to map the Regional Municipality of Waterloo and show how this data can be used to illustrate changes in land use patterns over time. This assignment will be worth 40% of your final grade. Have scholarly sources been defined for students? Acceptable sources should be outlined (i.e. books; government documents; regular or peer-reviewed journals) and students need to know how to find them. (If the assignment is known ahead of time, a Library tutorial on finding and assessing scholarly information should be organized. ) How current is current? On campus, who provides access to the needed data? If its the Library, we should be notified with the names of any particular data sets needed by the students and by the number of students needing the data. How accessible is this data? (Can it be used in the Library, in campus computing labs or at home? Do they need specific software or skill sets to use the data?) Even if not provided by the Library, it is helpful to know what data sets are needed, where students can find the data, and who can help them use it.

21 Using at least five current, scholarly sources, outline some of the leading procedures used to create spatio-temporal land use maps. Specify the datasets needed to map the Regional Municipality of Waterloo and show how this data can be used to illustrate changes in land use patterns over time. This assignment will be worth 40% of your final grade. Phrases such as show how… can be vague without concrete directions. Should students show the trends in words, tables or diagrams? Although a mark is indicated, no information is provided on how much each part of the assignment is worth, nor how much time or work is needed for each step. Instructors should be made aware that not all students are familiar with common assignment clichés (I.e. scholarly sources, show how, etc.). Sources (and people) needed for assignments should be verified or checked with beforehand, to ascertain that they are actually available. Wherever possible, the work process should be broken down into logical stated mark-weighted steps.

22 Infiltrating an academic library to better serve student research assignment needs Helping faculty understand what librarians can do to help, and how to make the most of services on offer.

23 FIRSTLY Ensure faculty really understand that faculty/librarian collaboration is fundamental to successful research assignments and that without it the research process and assignment quality will suffer. Faculty must appreciate existing problem areas before collaboration can begin in earnest!

24 Common barriers to collaboration Faculty misconceptions re student research skills: often assume research skills sufficient or can be easily learned. (Leckie,1996; Lubans, 1983) Existing faculty perceptions of librarians: often do not see us as equal partners in research or teaching process. (Ducas & Michaud-Oystryk, 2003; Feldman & Sciammarella,2000) Student perceptions of librarians and library: lack clear perception of reference function, experience considerable library anxiety but faculty dont necessarily realize this. (Keefer,1993; Leckie,1996; Mellon,1986)

25 Overcoming barriers to collaboration: A crucial first step Communicate with faculty re poor student research skills, student library anxiety, and role of information literacy. Take advantage of forums to convey this message: instructional development sessions, library led assignment research workshop etc. Point faculty to the relevant literature; develop a scenario to demonstrate problem areas; define and illustrate role of information literacy in higher education today (ACRL standards etc.); highlight key role of librarians and need for faculty/librarian collaboration.

26 Facilitating faculty infiltration Recognize key information literacy role offered in form of research assignments. Identify for ourselves all library services/resources which can help with assignment research. Invest energies in developing these services/resources. Assume little faculty knowledge of relevant services/resources. Identify media to convey the message Let infiltration begin!

27 Relevant teaching/assignment resources to bring to facultys attention One-on-One assignment consultation. Print or web-based guides with tips on collaborating with library to design effective assignments. Reference desk. Library instructional services: tours, general instructional sessions, special sessions on request, online tutorials, established course- integrated IL programs, IL concepts & definitions. Faculty workshops, faculty orientation events, etc. Library Web Site as invaluable gateway to key information: subject pathfinders, guides to finding specific types of information (news, book reviews, articles, biographies), guides for Internet usage, e- reference shelf, faculty or student library newsletters. Print User Guides on specific resources, or subject areas. And more …

28 Media to convey the message: Taking a proactive stance Faculty listservs/ . Library Web site: prominent Whats New area, library home page highlighting sources of help with research very clearly and effectively, dedicated area for different campus groups. Flyers/Print Guides. Campus newspaper: new developments and resources at library. Develop a library research assignment workshop for faculty and/or PhD students. Collaborate with instructional development to highlight librarys teaching role and benefits of faculty/librarian collaboration.

29 Thank you for Your Attention!


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