Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Objective: Help Freshmen Feel Comfortable w/Library Things

Today I will be teaching the First-Year Seminar [FYS] students again. In fact, I will teach the same section that I taught on Monday. We talked about plagiarism and academic honesty. This was the class where a student challenged me for plagiarizing the PowerPoint Presentation. Yesterday I taught a different group of students and led them in a discussion on academic integrity. One of my colleagues attended the session, and today she came and talked with me about how surprised she was at how rude the students acted in the class. At one point I had to say, "We will wait until the students in the back finish talking before going on with the discussion." I feel that doing this causes those students who are disruptive to understand that their peers do not appreciate having to wait for them or having them be disruptive so much.

One student in the front of the class took me off guard. He vocalized his ideas so loudly at times that it took me aback and I did not know how to respond to this behavior. I would almost say he was a bit aggressive and did not believe in the value of academic honesty. What do you do when students undermine your ideas by their attitude and comments? I think of my recent involvement in creating the Banned and Challenged Books Display. One of the quotations I read said something like, "The way to fight a bad idea is to present a better one," meaning that to repress or censor an idea really does not solve the problem.

Today I will be showing the catalog, inviting students to find a book on the shelves, and demonstrating how to use the EBSCOHost Academic Search Complete database. There's always so much to teach students. About a month ago I updated the worksheet, outline, and objectives for FYS. In our library instruction meeting we determined our objectives for the FYS sessions. The overarching objective is to help all students become comfortable using the library, especially the at-risk freshmen. We believe that pairing the students into groups of two or three would be useful in making it a more positive and stress-free experience.

More specifically, we want students to be inclined to ask for help at the Reference Desk or through our Ask-A-Librarian form. We want them to be able to search the library catalog effectively and be able to locate a book on the shelves. Sending the students out to find a book in the stacks will take time; however, if students look with another student we are hoping that it will take less time. Once they return from retrieving a book we will show them the database searching. Hopefully, there will be time to do this. Students will be completing exercises on a worksheet, so first they will conduct a few basic searches in the library catalog. I need to remember and give them some book jackets to search for a book. I've forgotten to do this in the past. Time management will be a factor. I want to include some Affluenza searches.

I better go and practice a few of the searches before heading up to the classroom.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

First-Year Seminar: Plagiarism Discussion

Yesterday I taught the First-Year Seminar [FYS] students for the first time. One of my colleagues actually co-teaches this class with another faculty member on campus. Well, I felt pretty nervous, and it did not help that my throat kept going super dry. Basically, we have an outline that library instructors can choose to follow for each of the two sessions we have with a FYS class. In the first part we discuss academic honesty and academic dishonesty, focusing on avoiding plagiarism. Someone had already created a PowerPoint presentation to help lead a discussion on the topic. Most of the slides pop up with a question, and then the librarian lets the students answer that question. I had heard that many of the students do not participate, which should not be too surprising. With that in mind I wanted to find a method or technique that would elicit more responses. I remembered something from working in the Center for Teaching at the University of Iowa--the pair and share technique. This means students work in twos or threes to discuss the question, then they share with the rest of the class. I decided to have students write down their answers first, then pair, then share. I thought it worked rather well.

The class began at noon, yet students were mostly full of energy. This class talked a lot among themselves [not always about the topic at hand], but they did well in participating along the way. One student seemed rather confrontational in the sense that he challenged me on a couple of occasions. He accused me of plagiarizing the PowerPoint presentation, which did catch me off-guard. Fortunately, my colleague spoke up and said it was not plagiarizing and invited me to tell him why. I said that the presentation had been created by another library employee, and that I represented the library in using it. Another student also spoke up by saying that I never claimed I had created it. She mentioned that one of the slides had said someone else had created it, although when I looked at the PPt presentation again I did not see that anywhere. The confrontational student was not mean-spirited, just full of energy and wanting to impress (I assume) his classmates. It seems that some students feel they know it already and feel put-out to attend something so basic as a discussion on plagiarism. Truly, many students probably do know about plagiarism and academic honesty, but I believe they can still learn something if they listen and desire to learn something.

After bringing back the class from a group discussion, I let one of the students answer. She spoke softly, and the "confrontational" student kept on talking. I let the student finish her thought and waited for the "confrontational" student to stop talking. When I had his attention I politely [and shakily as I was nervous. I hope I was not rude or demeaning.] said "I believe your classmates would appreciate it if you would listen to them while they are talking." He piped down, and the rest of the class period he listened attentively to the comments of others. He was one of the brightest in the classroom if you ask me. He also offered an answer to the question: "What is academic dishonesty?" He chimed in that skipping class could be a form of academic dishonesty to which I added, "yes, if you want to gain an education and you skip class then you are being dishonest with yourself." My colleague later asked who had given this answer and told him that he would give him credit for that answer.

I don't think that the student held a grudge against me. If anything, I think he gained some respect from me. Perhaps that is wishful thinking, but his countenance/appearance did not suggest he had any negative feelings for me. It can me scary to play the part of the teacher in stepping up and asking for some order in a classroom, especially if you are a new instructor. True, I have had many teaching experiences in the past, but I do not know if I asserted myself in similar ways in the past. I hope this experience remains a positive one in my mind and that I assert myself in positive ways in the future classes I teach.