Monday, December 15, 2008

Partnering with Writing Centers and Teachable Moments

Recently I read two good articles in The Reference Librarian. The first one discussed the issue of teachable moments, looking for times when patrons might be willing to receive more information. Susan Avery notes that these "moments" cannot be planned or "anticipate[d]," are "dependent on the readiness of the recipient," and are "serendipitous." Librarians can give more help than required; we can share our expertise of the many information tools we encounter on a regular basis. Of course, Avery does acknowledge that librarians should be "sensitive to the needs of the patron." Frankly, some individuals could care less about conducting a database search more efficiently as they have other priorities and demands on their time. Therefore, librarians must make their own judgment calls, paying attention to receptivity, attitudes, perceived time constraints, information needs, etc. (117).

Along these lines, Avery suggests ideas that can be found in your standard library-science textbook on reference work:
1. Listen.
2. Be patient and flexible.
3. Look for body language cues.
4. Keep it short and to the point.
5. Let the students do the work.
For understanding the different setting in which a librarian might look for a "teachable moment," see the article.

Works Cited
Avery, Susan. "When Opportunity Knocks: Opening the Door Through Teachable Moments." The Reference Librarian 49.2 (2008): 109-18.

Rachel Cooke and Carol Bledsoe promote the idea of including the Writing Center within the campus library. Doing this would "provide opportunities for partnership" (119). This would be more convenient for the students, particularly those involved in the research and writing process. They discuss how librarians and writing tutors could provide help at each others' desks. Librarians could also train the writing tutors to do some basic research, which would benefit many students simultaneously as many tutors are actually students.

Much of the article revolves around five "challenges" encountered by reference librarians and writing tutors alike:
1. Guiding students through the sequence of the writing process (120).
2. Uncertainty about the assignment (121).
3. "The paper is due in an hour" (121).
4. When students request a librarian or writing tutor to do their research or edit their paper (122).
5. Students who say: "I can find everything on Google. I'll just cut and paste." This touches on the quantity and quality of sources as well as proper citation of these sources.

Let me make just one comment about challenge number one. The authors make a good point that librarians and tutors should not assume that the writing process is the same for everyone. Increasingly, college instructors require their students to write a paper without doing research--at least at the outset. Particularly with lower-division students, instructors find that they let the sources do the talking. Having students write their own thoughts first helps them know what they think; then they can analyze and evaluate what the sources say in comparison with their own ideas.

Therefore, once the students has written their own personal idea paper, then the instructor requires them to research in the area of their topic and write a paper that incorporates their own ideas while also considering the ideas of others. I repeat myself here, because this is something I want to remember. The idea seems to promote real learning and connecting it with real life. What do I know about X? Why do I think this way? What do others say about this topic in question? How do my ideas differ from someone else's? Do their ideas expose any gaps in my own logic? Will I change and adjust my own thinking on this? How?

Somewhat reminiscent of Hegel's model, an instructor who follows this kind of assignment encourages students to form a thesis, consider an antithesis, and then synthesize the two. Adopting this approach could facilitate higher orders of thinking for many students, since too often students revert back to their comfort zones of reporting what they find, rather than thinking about what they find in their research. These "comfort zones" hearken back to show-and-tell activities in the early stages of a child's education.

Cooke, Rachel and Carol Bledsoe. "Writing Centers and Libraries: One-Stop Shopping for Better Term Papers." The Reference Librarian 49.2 (2008): 119-27.


Writing a Research Paper said...

Many institutions limit access to their online information. Making this information available will be an asset to all.

Spencer said...

The site who just left a comment is an example of a paper mill. They will sell you term papers. Anyone who buys a "100% Non Plagiarized" paper from this site and turns it in for a grade is academically dishonest. I disagree with the following statement:
"Research Paper writing is the only game played by every individual, who has spent an academic career struggling to score a nice grade. Every Scholar, professor, doctor or any other professional went through a phase where he had to seek research paper writing help in order to complete a custom research paper whether it is a college research paper or any type of academic research writing."
It is true that nearly everyone needs help in learning how to write and organize their writing, but this statement implies that everyone has bought term papers in order to succeed in school. This is not true. Go to your writing center, talk with your instructor, plan ahead, and do the work. You cannot gain the necessary skills if you plagiarize the work of others. You are short changing yourself if you purchase online papers and hand them in as your own work.

This site claims to be created by someone who "post-graduated in 1997." It appears that this site is written by someone who speaks English as a second language. Note the misspelling of "collage research papers" and the awkward sentences: "Analyzing such great results, I decided to lets end up the social research writing services and cash my skills. I approached few of my professors and other senior academic researchers..."

Take a look at the following tutorial to learn more about academic honesty and how to avoid plagiarism: Academic Integrity Tutorial. Future employers want a skilled staff, not someone who has cut corners to get a good grade at the expense of a true education.