Bias in Your Search Results Lesson @ CCLI 2019

In early May, I presented a lightning talk at the California Conference on Library Instruction about a lesson I designed for an upper-division Critical Race and Ethnic Studies course at UC Merced. I’m a little shy about sharing instructional materials, so this was actually the first time I shared a lesson plan and activity I’ve designed for a class with folks who aren’t my colleagues. I first designed the lesson in Spring 2018, and I’ve tweaked it a few times since then.

As promised at the conference, I got my act together and put up my lesson plan and materials on Project CORA. Let me know if I have typos or broken links. Of course, if you end up using or adapting this, I’d love to know, as well.

Language

I’m a member of the California chapter of ACRL, CARL, but I’m not very active, mostly because I got involved with National first. I’ve really been impressed with Talitha Matlin‘s leadership. The Fall CARL Newsletter was just released, and her presidential message really hit home with me.

In the message, she asks:

What are some words or phrases you’ve been trying to change in your vocabulary?

As a large state with almost 400 institutes of higher education, we play a large role in shaping the discourse surrounding libraries and library work. I realize that some people may roll their eyes at the idea of spending so much time agonizing over language choice. However, using words that demonstrate confidence and do not diminish the important roles we play in our institutions is one step we can all take. We may not all arrive at the same words, but I hope we are all able to speak about our work in ways that feel authentic and affirming.

Her message left me with my mouth hanging open.

I have been doing this lately when it comes to my work as an instruction librarian. It really started with the day a well-meaning writing instructor commented, in reference to my handwriting, that I should have been a teacher as I was writing the URL to the class research guide and the learning outcomes! Ever since then, when someone says presentation, I offer lesson. I don’t correct people outright, but, rather, I use the adjusted language somewhere in my response. When accepting research instruction requests, I’ll write or say, “Let’s meet to discuss learning outcomes…” or “What learning outcomes would you like for me to design my lesson around? In looking at the assignment…[offer my two cents].”

Sometimes instructors also realize the inherent problem of calling research instruction “presentations” or “lectures” on their own. Recently, I was discussing a class with an instructor over the phone, and she hesitated using the word presentation.

Anytime I find myself wanting to write or say library instruction session, I revise it to research instruction or research lesson.

Now that I’m also more organized–and I admit that I mostly got my act together to prove a point–I have been sending a Google Doc with the lesson plan, titled as such, in advance. (It’s not that I didn’t have plans before; I just rarely shared them after getting in touch with instructors about their upcoming classes.) I don’t actually think folks take a look at my plans, but, if they do, it shows evidence that I plan for checks for understanding and learning activities. Even if things change up in the classroom, it shows that I have been thinking about how to teach both concepts and procedures in a way that maximizes the tiny amount of time I have with students.

Making these changes with language and involving the instructor into my process (it’s not always as collaborative as one might like) has helped my confidence. I am more honest about what can and can’t be done in a single lesson, and I’m a bit more bold in offering suggestions. It’s as though I believe that I’m a real educator now!

I haven’t implemented this yet, but, in September, there was a post on JoVE’s librarian blog called “How Librarians Can Really Explain What Their Jobs Are Like” that advises that when you are asked what you do for a living, resist the urge to use the word librarian at the beginning of your response. Brandy King writes:

These days, instead of starting with “I’m a librarian,” I first talk about the difference my work makes and then end by saying “I’m a librarian.”

How smart is this? This has forever changed how I will be addressing this question.

Integrating Intersectionality into Library Instruction & Programming

I’ve had a very busy summer in terms of conferences. I came back from ALA Annual 2018, and right as I was finally getting caught up at work, I was off to Library Instruction West 2018 at Colorado Mesa University. To present! I’ve not been very active in terms of presenting, and this has everything to do with imposter syndrome and having difficulty coming up with a topic (the irony considering how much I like teaching about this), but I took the plunge and was so pleased to have been selected as a presenter.

I worked with Christal Young, Reference and Instruction Librarian at the University of Southern California, to lead a discussion about incorporating intersectional themes in instruction and outreach work. The abstract reads:

Incorporating critical librarianship into daily practice may initially seem daunting due to varying demands and constraints. Given these challenges, how can we help first-year students develop more complex understandings of social issues that they may be researching and writing about in their composition courses? How do we reach first-year students who may have overlapping identities find resources and support during their time at the university? Join two academic librarians who will introduce the efforts they have made to incorporate intersectional themes into instruction and educational programming on their respective campuses. Librarians attending this roundtable discussion will brainstorm and share ideas for engaging in first-year instruction and outreach efforts that promote intersectionality.

We do plan to add on to the initial guide we put together throughout the year.

I was happy to receive nice feedback about our talk while at the conference, and I was also surprised to see it circulate on Twitter a bit via the ACRL Instruction Section and individual librarians. (Thank you!)

I hope our librarian colleagues find our slides and guide helpful.

I will write more about the other presentations and workshops I attended in another post. I really enjoyed this conference, and I learned a lot from my colleagues.

 

Thing 22: Online Teaching

On Friday, my colleagues and I shared what we learned from the Things in the Pedagogy track of the 23 Framework Things. I was assigned Thing 22: Online Teaching. I selected to complete Option 3, though I didn’t do the activity:

Post a brief comment below describing the outline for an online learning object (lesson) using the steps in the book to guide you. What part of the Framework will you focus on? Create an outcome statement, and select one of the common instructional design program activities (p.29) to assess the student’s competency.

However, I do think that I’d be interested in developing something that helps students learn how to approach selecting a database. I imagine including research problem scenarios in which students would need to match up the problem to an appropriate database based on the description. In the notes I posted to my colleagues (see below), I refer to this briefly as we are working on developing content for a new GE course.

Here are my notes.

This module was presented by the steering committee of the New Literacies Alliance, which is a group of librarians from a variety of institutions working to design a common research instruction curriculum based on the ACRL Framework. The lessons they have created tie to particular knowledge practices and dispositions and are licensed under Creative Commons. Many appear in the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy Sandbox. If you have looked at the Sandbox, many of the SoftChalk online modules, such as the Citations tutorial, were designed by librarians involved with the NLA.

For this module, I read Chapter 3 and Appendix E of Creating and Sharing Online Library Instruction: A How to Do it Manual for Librarians (2017) written by three NLA librarians, Joelle Pitts, Sara K. Kearns, and Heather Collins. The chapter outlines how to create learning objects using McTighe’s and Wiggins’ backward design curriculum planning model.

  1. Identify desired results.
    • What should students be able to do at the end of the instruction?
      • Select components of the Framework to teach.
  2. Determine assessment evidence.
    • How will we know if students have achieved the desired result?
      • Choose a Bloom’s Taxonomy level and verb
      • Outline an activity the students will complete to demonstrate desired results
      • Write a learning outcome.
  3. Plan learning experiences and instruction.
    • How can we support learners as they come to understand important ideas and processes?
      • Create redundant digital learning objects to support the learning outcome.
      • Create assessment activity.

Identify Desired Results

  • Learning objects should be kept to 8-15 minutes.
  • The knowledge dispositions or practices you select will need to be modified because many of them are “too big” to cover in one object.
  • Highlight one major frame in the outcome, even though there may be practices from different though related frames at play.
  • Choose a level of expertise [novice, beginner, competent, proficient, expert (Dreyfus & Dreyfus, 1980)].

Determine Assessment Evidence

  • Choose a Bloom’s Taxonomy level and verb
    • “The higher the Bloom’s Taxonomy level, the more difficult it is to design online learning objects and activities, especially if automated grading is desired” (p. 26).
      • This makes me feel a lot better about what can be achieved for modules we develop that are intended for instructors to assign to their students (WRI 01); these would be good for more concrete skills, such as selecting an appropriate/relevant database, etc. It does make me think about the SPRK courses, as well, mostly because two out of my three areas involve databases.
    • Write an outcome
      • The student will + Bloom’s Taxonomy verb + evidence + in order to + desired results = outcome
      • Bloom’s Taxonomy list on p. 27
      • Learning outcome formula checklist on p. 28
      • Common types of instructional design program activities on p. 29

 Plan Learning Experiences

  • NLA has a storyboard template to serve as a guide for developing online learning objects (see Appendix D in the book as this was not included in the PDFs)
    • Introduction, background info
    • Relevancy to students’ lives
    • State the problem and possible solutions
    • Lesson climax activity
    • Assessment
  • Have a peer review your learning object (see the Learning Object Rubric, Appendix E, p. 119)

Critical Reading for Learning & Social Change

ACRL’s Instruction Section’s Discussion Group Steering Committee held its annual virtual discussion forum on June 6, titled “Critical Reading for Learning and Social Change.” The panelists included Anne Graf (Trinity University), Rosemary Green (Shenandoah University), and Stephanie Otis (University of North Carolina at Charlotte).

While I watched the webinar live, I needed to re-watch the recording. You can find the webinar description, recording, chat transcript, and some accompanying materials, including a reading list and a handout with reading tips, at the IS website: acrl.ala.org/IS/annual-virtual-discussion-forum-recording

Towards the end of the presentation, Graf made a statement that really stood out to me: “Reading is done in private, which is why we don’t pay attention to it.” I think this is a fair assessment. As a librarian who teaches mostly in a one-shot landscape, time is limited. Most of what we offer when we mention how to read scholarly articles is a short game plan. I realize that a lot can be done just by showing what Otis calls the physicality of reading. I have never shown students that reading, for me, looks like a marked up print-out with underlines and notes. Graf also notes that she will ask professors how they read, which I think is great. Again and again, I am reminded that modeling helps show students skills that we take for granted. Graf also mentions that one assumption she had been making as a librarian is that teachers teach reading and librarians teach evaluation, but these are not separate acts, and perhaps we do need to do more to close this gap, especially as reading takes a lot more time than students think. (The handout that Otis offers shows that shows that students should read three times…)

This webinar provided some strategies that can help students become aware of their own reading practice. One exercise is to have students reflect on what it means to read academically in a journal prompt. Green, who works mostly with graduate students, says that responses typically range from “reading with purpose, connecting to what one already knows, and reading to reflect.” She also has students complete the Metacognitive Awareness of Reading Strategies Inventory (MARSI), which is about 30 questions. The inventory helps students realize what they are already doing while also cluing them into other strategies. Similarly, Graf has first-year students simply make a list of what they do as readers.

UC Merced’s Bright Success Center (BSC) typically offers a “How to Read Your Textbook” workshop every semester. I do wonder if there is metacognitive component to the workshop. Last year, I had thought to reach out to my contact in the BSC about offering workshops beyond reading for textbooks, which is important, but there are other kinds of materials students have to read while in college. I am feeling much more motivated to reach out since I have something more concrete. If they already do something similar, I would like to observe the workshop to learn what students already know, what they do, etc. It may be able to help inform some of my own teaching in the research classroom.

I seem to have paid the most attention to Graf’s strategies since she teaches in the environment that most closely resembles my own. She also shared an exercise that I think many of us have probably done in some variation. Rather than telling students what to look for, she has students make those connections on their own first. I have done an exercise where students make their own criteria and then apply it to an article, but this is a little different. First, she has all the students find the full-text of an article based on a citation (to get some searching out of the way) and then quickly decide on the source’s quality and appropriateness for their class assignment via a vote on a 1-5 scale. She doesn’t use any polling software for this, but I would be inclined to use it so that students would feel more comfortable sharing what they think. She then engages the class in a Q&A session about things they notice about the article and what else they may need to look at or consider. The conversation generally turns into a realization that students need to spend more time reading the article to determine its relevancy.  The total exercise takes about 10 minutes. She sometimes then has students vote again.

While I didn’t look through the chat transcript, resources that folks shared in the chat include:

 

5 Immersive Things

Hello. It’s been a while. If you recall, in the spring, I found out that I was accepted into ACRL’s Immersion program, which was held at the end of July at Champlain College in beautiful Burlington, Vermont.

The bad: traveling.

I hadn’t ever been to New England before, so I wasn’t quite prepared for traveling here. I had an absolutely crazy experience traveling both to and from VT. It involved switching airports (Dulles to Reagan) and airlines on the way there after a flight cancellation. I ended up sharing a hotel room with a librarian from Oregon State University who happened to be on the same cancelled flight. If I remember correctly, the new flight was also delayed. On the way home, the flight was delayed, which meant I wasn’t going to make my connection. I ended up staying overnight but had some treats with a new librarian friend from American University to help cure my travel woes. I was down to wearing exercise pants and a t-shirt. (I also broke a pair of sandals during my week, too!) With all my extra time, I ended up reading three books. I was so happy when my husband picked me up at the airport in Sacramento.

The good: friends and learning.

I met some new librarian friends, learned new theories and teaching ideas, and then I learned that I know more than I thought, too. I have more to learn from the resources mentioned throughout the program. I haven’t cracked open that binder in a while.

Below are five things Immersion helped cement in my mind, though they aren’t necessarily earth-shattering.

  • We have assumptions about teaching and learning that are counter-productive.
    • Ex: Curricular integration of IL is the gold standard—> we tend to view one-shot workshops as sub-par learning experiences.
      • I never thought about this before. I personally view one-shots as sub-par, but learning can and does happen in single lessons. I’m not sure if this helps, though. I put a lot of pressure on myself because I think of the teaching I do as the one and only opportunity I have to show the value of librarians to students.
      • Pick one place to be “transformational” in.
        • This has to do with the GeST windows model. During Immersion, we were taught not to think of any window as better than another, but my colleagues didn’t necessarily read it that way. I need to do some re-reading.
    • Ex: Teaching is a calling—> we become overly critical.
      • Teaching is hard. Teaching is even harder when you’re a guest teacher. As a librarian, I don’t have the same rapport with students the way the classroom instructor does, and I don’t have the benefit of knowing what has really been done in or out of class to prepare for research instruction.
  • Discussion is not always discussion.
    • Is it really “serial questioning”?
      • Social constructivism: discovery-based, student-focused, authentic, collaborative, cooperation in small groups, etc.
      • This explains why I didn’t enjoy “class discussions” in college. They were never really discussions.
  • Assessment helps you design your class.
    • What do you want students to be able to do? How will they show you?
      • Plan activities accordingly.
  • Activity does not equal active learning.
    • Active learning requires that students apply/reflect.
  • Negotiate for 2-3 measurable learning outcomes.
    • Sometimes faculty can make decisions if you provide a list of suggestions/possibilities.
      • I like this strategy because it shows faculty how much variety exists and that not everything can be accomplished in one session.
      • It really makes me think that instruction menus are more useful as negotiation tools for librarians than as a guide for instructors. I like having a menu as a reference for myself.

I wasn’t quite willing to put this in my list above because I have a lot to mull over about it, but a question I wrote down in my notes is, “What are we asking students to give up?” This hit home to me even more when one of the Immersion instructors asked me why the pre-assignment I was working on for a potential class needed to be in Credo Reference. “If you really want them to do it, why not Wikipedia?” I mean, really, why not? It was pretty liberating. I also brought up this question to my colleagues post-Immersion, and it reminded them of the C&RL News article “Library Instruction for First-Year Students: Following the Students’ Path,” in which the author shares that she started using Google Scholar in instruction sessions. The author uses the term “desire lines”; library folks will quickly see the UX practice here. I really think this is something to think about a little more, and I’d love to do something related to this question of what we’re asking students to give up when we teach research skills and concepts. (If you’re reading this, and you’d like to partner on something, shoot me a message!)

UC Merced Assessment as Research Symposium

My instruction colleagues and I presented a poster at the UC Merced Assessment as Research Symposium earlier this month, “Assessing the Value of Library Instruction Using Qualtrics Survey Software.

Assesing the Value of Library Instruction Using Qualtrics Survey Software

Here is our abstract:

In fall 2016, the library created two online exit surveys (Option A and Option B) in Qualtrics, an online survey tool, and used the surveys to collect student feedback after library instruction sessions. Library instructors selected a survey to use after each session. Option B survey questions were designed to elicit responses regarding students’ attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction levels, per Keller’s ARCS Model of Motivational Design Theory. Option A surveys used similar questions but also asked about students’ comfort level with library instructors. Results from both surveys indicated that students find value in learning about databases and specific search strategies. Option A survey results indicated that over 95 percent of students felt comfortable contacting their library instructor later in the semester. Option B survey results indicated that over 96 percent of students agreed or strongly agreed that participating in a library instruction session increased their research confidence. The evidence suggests that library instruction sessions are beneficial for students and that library instructors are approachable.  Though online exit surveys in general and Qualtrics more specifically may present challenges, there are also benefits for educators.  The library offers recommendations for individuals and programs interested in using this lightweight form of assessment.

I served as lead on the project since I crunched the numbers and interpreted the data from this fall’s instruction surveys. Over the summer I had also crunched and interpreted data from the spring surveys. It’s a time-consuming project, but I have come to enjoy working on it. I anticipate crunching the numbers from this spring’s surveys as well.

A special thank you to our Library Communications Coordinator Breanna Wright for designing our poster. I did a rough sketch using columns in Word with the information we needed and provided redacted Excel data, including charts, and she made it beautiful. We got lots of nice compliments on the design.