I’m doing a workshop soon for some grad students who are teaching assistants for a large, introductory, first-year course at my university. I did a research workshop for them in past semesters, and this semester, the faculty member in charge of the TA’s suggested we build on previous workshops, possibly having a conversation around the theme “Misconceptions and Mistakes Regarding Library Research.” The goal of me working with them is, rather than doing a million one-shots, I can work with the teaching assistants themselves to help them build students’ information literacy skills.
Now, on the one hand, the theme is obvious: everything I do, really, relates, in some sense, to misconceptions and mistakes regarding research that students may have. For example, I’ve built information literacy learning outcomes for our program, and in some sense, they’re all organized around this theme, e.g., I think first year-students often choose topics that are too broad or generic, or don’t arise from an authentic place, because they learned in high school that that’s what research is; they have what I’ve called a “Google mindset” toward research”: they think that you can do one search for “walkability built environment happiness” and get all ten articles you need; they don’t understand that a major reason you use sources is to provide evidence for each claim you make; and so forth. Each one of these “mistakes or misconceptions” is something I’ve built a learning outcome around, because I think they’re major, and pervasive.
But, on the other hand, I think this is actually a really interesting way to frame a workshop like this. I told the instructor as much, and said that I have some things I can bring to the table with this, for sure. I also suggested that he query what the TA”s have to say about this, pass their takes along to me, and maybe I’ll be able to prepare some “answers” for them that they can use to work with students w/r/t the misconceptions with research they see. So, ultimately, I think it’s maybe a really interesting way to think about what we do, how to collaborate with faculty and TA’s, and how to approach IL instruction.
So, here’s a question:
If you were going to point out common misconceptions students have, and mistakes students (particularly students in their first year) might make, what, dear readers, would you say? What skills might you target to work on with the TA’s?
A world war was announced days ago
But they didn’t know, the lazy sunbathers
The lazy sunbathers
The sun burns through, to the planet’s core
And it isn’t enough, they want more
Nothing appears to be between the ears of the lazy sunbathers
Too jaded to question stagnation
-Morrissey, “The Lazy Sunbathers”
The popular notion that you learn better when you receive instruction in a form consistent with your preferred learning style, for example as an auditory or visual learner, is not supported by the empirical research.
Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel, Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning
The fact is that much of what has passed for knowledge in previous generations is still valid and useful.What is true is that there is an increasing amount of new information becoming available, some of it trustworthy, some not. To adequately deal with this stream of new information that increases in size and tempo daily, one must be able to search, find, evaluate, select, process, organize, and present information. However, as Hannafin and Hill (2007) warned, “while technology has been lauded for potentially democratizing access to informaion, educational use remains fraught with issues of literacy, misinterpretation, and propagandizing” (p. 526).The set of activities and/or skills needed to adequately deal with this information generation and dissemination is frequently referred to as information literacy or—when information and communication technologies also play a key role— digital literacy activities/skills (Bawden, 2001; Brand- Gruwel & Gerjets, 2008; Brand-Gruwel, Wopereis, & Walraven,2009;Eisenberg&Berkowitz,1990;Jones-Kavalier& Flannigan, 2006; Moore, 1995; Wolf, Brush, & Saye, 2003). This is often seen as one of the core 21st-century skills propagated in much school policy (Anderman, Sinatra, & Gray, 2012; Dede, 2010; European Commission, 2002; Voogt & Pareja Roblin, 2010).Although students are often thought of as being competent or even expert in information problem solving (i.e., that they are information and digitally literate) because they areseen searching the web daily, research reveals that solving information problems is for most students a major if not insurmountable cognitive endeavor. Searching, finding, and processing information is a complex cognitive process that requires identifying information needs, locating corresponding information sources, extracting and organizing relevant information from each source, and synthesizing information from a variety of sources. According to Miller and Bartlett (2012), effective Internet use requires distinguishing good information from bad. They noted, however, that learners are not astute Internet users. Learners not only have problems finding the information that they are seeking but also often trust the first thing they see, making them prone to “the pitfalls of ignorance, falsehoods, cons and scams” (p. 35). Many researchers (e.g., Bilal, 2000; Large & Beheshti, 2000; MaKinster, Beghetto, & Plucker, 2002; Wallace, Kupperman, Krajcik, & Soloway, 2000) have demonstrated thatyoung children, teenagers, and adults are not capable of effectively choosing proper search terms, selecting the most relevant websites, and questioning the validity of sources. Furthermore, research of Brand-Gruwel, Wopereis, and Vermetten (2005); Branch (2001); Gross and Latham (2007); and Lazonder (2000) revealed that students lack regulatory skills and have difficulties defining the information problem; identifying what they do not know. Taking all these research results into account, it can be concluded that students must learn to solve information-based problems and must learn transferable search and evaluation strategies […]The fact that students make use of many electronic devices and are called digital natives, does not make them good users of the media that they have at their disposal. They can Google but lack the information skills to effectively find the information they need, and they also do not have the knowledge to adequately determine the relevance or truth of what they have found (Walraven, Brand-Gruwel, & Boshuizen, 2008).-Kirschner P, van Merriënboer J. Do Learners Really Know Best? Urban Legends in Education. Educational Psychologist. July 2013;48(3):169-183.
Dani and I have written quite a bit – and have had some truly excellent guest posts – about what library school students might do to maximize their job experience in library school to prepare for the academic job market. Since it’s about time to choose where to go to library school, I thought it might be interesting to think about things that you might want to look for in a library school itself if you’re fortunate enough to have options. My decision came down to two different schools, and ultimately more or less came down to the fact that one would be much closer to my girlfriend, who still had a year of her program to finish at the time. But the fact is, I really had no idea what to look for in a library school. So, here are a few thoughts on what you might look for in a library school if you’re making that decision. Obviously (as always), this is just one person’s take on the matter, and I only know my own experience and career path, so you should talk to as many academic instruction librarians as possible. That being said, here’s some thoughts on things you might look out for if you have an interest in becoming an instruction librarian after library school.