Thursday, January 22, 2009

Teaching Upper-division College Student in the Library

What do you teach college students who have already received multiple instruction sessions from librarians? By the time a student reaches their junior or senior year they may have already visited the library in three or four other classes. Many teacher of the basic English and Speech courses like to make sure their students gain a basic understanding of the Library and its resources. These general education classes provide a foundation for students. Likewise, the Library component of these courses only lays the groundwork on which the students can build, so they learn how to find a book in the catalog, how to find a book on the shelves, how to search for articles in the databases, and how to use the Library's website to its full advantage. Sometimes they develop some information-literacy skills, such as evaluating search results, understanding the difference between scholarly and popular periodicals, knowing how information is created, or how to search the internet more effectively.

If they know all this, then what do you teach an upper-division student? Beneath the umbrella of information literacy there are so many skills to help students develop, but there are also so many kinds of resources available that they should learn about. Lower-division coeds just need to know about the largest database, so they can conduct some general searches. Once a student begins studying within the realm of their major or discipline, then they need to learn more about the specialized databases.

For example, today I taught two mass communications classes. One class wanted to know about successful anti-drug campaigns. They want to know which techniques more effectively influence teens and college students from taking drugs. In fact they want to develop ideas for an ad campaign that speaks up against binge drinking, to encourage smart, responsible drinking--moderation in other words. EBSCOhost's Business Source Complete database contains lots of articles that could help them get started on this topic of advertising and public-service announcements. Academic Search Complete yields lots of results on the alcohol, binge drinking, and college student topics.

A colleague of mine taught with me in the second class; she made students aware of the folder concept within these databases. Once students conduct searches, they can save the most relevant articles to their folders and come back to the database where they will find those same articles. If they are working together in groups, they can share their passwords and usernames with others in the groups to see the articles they think to be most useful. Juniors and seniors seem to appreciate these little tips that they did not learn about in previous library workshops. We didn't mention the whole RSS-feed concept, but maybe we should have.

In the first class, at least one student expressed interest in the CQ Researcher database. She had never heard of it before. It seems that she liked the Bibliography section, but she also seemed pleased with the whole product in general. It really is a well-researched publication.

Upper-division students really appreciate the hands-on practice time. It's important to them. Especially for those who feel that they have heard it all before, they just want to get started on their project. I am convinced that students learn the material a lot better when they get a chance to get their hands dirty interacting with the resource in question. Often times they ask questions they did not know they had previously. When a librarian is there to answer their questions immediately they are more likely to think of a librarian later and ask for their expertise.

Librarians can conduct searches and save the best results in folder and share these folders with students who tend to appreciate this. In today's questions we also emphasized the importance of using the subject pages, which identify a few of the best databases, websites, and books for the majority of majors on campus. I also invited students to look at my delicious bookmarks, where I had tagged several websites that may be useful for them and their project: alcohol, drug_awareness, drugs, marketing, advertising, etc.

Junior and seniors know quite a bit, and many of them have accessed databases via the Library website. This one skill may be just one more reason why they have survived the first couple years of college. They are a bit more sophisticated then the freshmen and sophomores. Given the chance, they will engage in an intelligent conversation or class discussion. Chance are that they will not respond to questions that they consider to be too obvious.

Teaching the upper-division classes may require more preparation on the side of the librarian, because they may also need to know how to find more statistics and the answers to specific, complicated questions. Yet this demand for more in-depth preparation also yields more satisfaction as librarians get dig deeper and understand more aspects of the subject in question.

Upper-division students can also benefit with knowledge about how to find an article if they have the journal title. ISU students ought to use the A to Z Journal List; a search box can be found on the ISU Library homepage. If that does not help them, then they need to know how to request the item through the Inter-Library Loan department in the Library.

Yes, we did tell them about finding ads on YouTube and Google Video. We also taught them how to use LexisNexis Academic and introduced them to Mergent Online. Toward the end of the class period we did have students come take one of the books we had brought into the classroom to emphasize the importance of consulting books for statistics, specific information, strategies, etc.


james said...

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Spencer said...

The website link above, "write term paper," is an example of a paper mill. They will sell you term papers. Those who purchase these essays and turn them in as their own work are plagiarizing.

Academic dishonesty deprives students of learning the skills and subject matter that will help them succeed in life. If you need help, ask a librarian, go to a writing center, talk with your instructor, etc.

Colleges and universities take academic dishonesty very seriously. Students have failed assignments, failed courses, been expelled from their institutions, and been punished in other ways as well. Be honest. It is the best policy.

See website links here:

Spencer said...

James's website "write term paper" is riddled with awkward English anyway. How could you trust a site with such awful grammar and syntax? It really calls into question whether these people speak
English as their first language.

In fact, the Chronicle of Higher Education has documented that many writers for paper mills live in foreign countries such as India and the Philippines.

Spencer said...

Here's the citation for that Chronicle of Higher Education article I mentioned in the last comment:
"Cheating Goes Global as Essay Mills Multiply." By: Bartlett, Thomas. Chronicle of Higher Education, 3/20/2009, Vol. 55 Issue 28, pA1-A25, 5p