The Research Process: An Introduction to Information Literacy Concepts and Skills (Embedded into the English Composition Class)
Information Literacy (IL) is considered a core competency by our accrediting body, WASC, and the university is expected to assess students on their competency in this area. IL is addressed throughout the curriculum with an introduction to concepts and skills taking place in a general education course. The English Composition (ENG1100) class has been targeted as the place where students will be introduced to IL concepts and begin to practice IL skills. Most students are required to take this class so it will expose a significant portion of our students to IL.
Students are required to research and write many papers at university, so it was agreed upon that the introduction to IL concepts and skills in ENG1100 would focus on the Research Process. The class is taught both face-to-face and online, but this project will focus on the face-to-face format. The IL section of ENG1100 is taught by a librarian during three sequential class sessions (150 minutes total). These three sessions are followed by an additional 1 to 3 class sessions in the library information commons so that students can practice what they have learned by going through the research process in order to complete their class assignment (a paper).
I have five learning outcomes for the three class sessions with ENG1100. All five are part of the research process, which is the focus of this instruction. Many of the students in this class are unaware that there is a basic process they can follow for their research assignments and that this will help them avoid a scatter shot approach that generally results in frustration. A few students have experience with the process and I encourage them to treat this as a review and to help and encourage their fellow students.
- Understand the importance of a well written topic statement.
- Identify keywords and synonyms.
- Identify and use appropriate information seeking tools for the topic.
- Critically evaluate the resources found.
- Cite resources used.
Each learning outcome is part of a sequence and assessment is formative.
- Students are given a topic phrase (video games) and asked to search a library database for three articles that have a similar focus. Students quickly realize that they have too many results and those results are not focused. Some class discussion transpires about the search results. Mostly I’m just looking to see that they are all searching and want to know what to do about the poor search results.
- Building on the failure to get a focused list of articles, I write a focused topic statement/research question (Are children who play violent video games more prone to violence?) on the whiteboard. Students are asked to identify keywords from this question and write them on a worksheet that will be turned in at the end of class. They are also asked to use an online thesaurus to identify and write down one appropriate synonym for each keyword. I then ask students to help me identify the keywords and I erase extraneous words from the research question on the whiteboard so that we are left with only the keywords/concepts. I then ask them for synonym suggestions for each keyword and write those on the whiteboard. There is a bit of class discussion as we do this and I reward those who make contributions and participate in the discussion with some kind of treat (candy, pens, etc.). I review the worksheets after class and provide written feedback.
- Students are asked to find a scholarly article using the keywords and/or synonyms identified and are given no guidance about where to look. Some use an internet search engine and some use the library database used in the earlier search for video games. Most students struggle to find a scholarly article either because they use an internet search engine or because they do not limit their database search to scholarly articles and/or don’t know how to recognize a scholarly article. We then discuss their search results, characteristics of a scholarly journal/article, and why scholarly journal articles are important for academic assignments. Next, I demonstrate how I use a library database to quickly find scholarly articles for this topic. Mostly I’m looking for participation at this point.
- Students are again asked to search for and find one scholarly article to support the research question. They are asked to answer questions on an article evaluation worksheet which I assess after class and on which I provide written feedback. I also provide immediate feedback at this point by circulating while students work and by answering questions at their point of need.
- Students are asked to include a citation for the article they evaluate on the worksheet in outcome number four. I review and provide feedback on this part of the worksheet.
Wrap up: Students take a brief online survey after the last class session giving them the opportunity to self-assess and provide me with feedback. Students also take a 50 point multiple choice quiz the week after the class sessions to test their recall of concepts and skills discussed in class.
I use a bit of behavioral (required attendance, assurance that they WILL be required to go through this process repeatedly in future classes, treats for participation), mostly cognitive (chunking and a sequential approach to the content), with a little bit of constructivism (letting students fail at a search and acquire some curiosity about how to be more successful).
- Online class guide (LibGuide) with infographics and videos to support the process in class as well as to serve as a back up for those who miss class http://libguides.hiu.edu/eng1100
- Infographic on the research process that I have created to use as a hook at the beginning https://s3.amazonaws.com/easel.ly/all_easels/206968/researchprocess/image.jpg
- Computer stations with an Internet connection so students can get hands-on experience searching
- Whiteboard and dry erase markers in several colors
- Worksheets students fill out to show their work and critical thinking (article evaluation)
- Online survey link
- 50 quiz
This course has been extremely helpful in describing instructional design as a process. I have done bits and pieces of the process somewhat intuitively, but have always felt a bit “lost at sea” not really knowing what I was or should be doing to effectively design a class or class session. Learning the names of things has helped my confidence greatly and will allow me to have the verbiage (keywords!) to seek out additional information, further my learning, and keep track of changes in this area. The readings for this class have been EXCELLENT. I did not have time to get to all of the optional (Critical Pedagogy) and supplemental readings, but I have created a bibliography of these readings so that I can work through them in the next month.
I have always struggled with using a constructivist approach in my instruction sessions, usually due to lack of time, but I do hope to find creative ways to use this approach more often. I have also struggled with including assessment (again, largely due to lack of time) and hope to get better at including this as well. I don’t believe we have talked about this much, but I learned from Char Booth (Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning) about the importance of reflection on instruction sessions and the teaching/learning that takes place in those sessions. I will continue to include some reflection time as part of the process as well.
I must admit that I did not spend enough time looking at peer blogs, but I have marked down a few that I will spend some time looking at now that class is over. I have learned from my peers that we tend to struggle with many of the same things such as lack of class time, desire to use a more constructivist approach (see Chinese proverb below) and include assessment.
“Tell me and I forget.
Show me and I remember.
Involve me and I understand.”
— Chinese proverb