Thursday, February 9, 2012

Polldaddy Results for English Composition Workshop in the Library

In a recent library workshop, only half of the students said they had ever looked a book up in a library catalog.  Five of the 14 polled, said they check out library books all of the time.  This workshop was for a group of English 1101 students, and most of them are traditional freshmen. 

When asked if they had ever used a database to look for articles before, 69% said they had never done this.  My perception is that once undergraduate students learn how to find articles, that is all they use.  They like the ease of access; they can conduct research in their pajamas at home.  Unfortunately, it seems that no matter what happens in the library instruction room, some students will still go back to Google for all of their research needs.  As a librarian, I think of Google research for academic sources to be a clumsy tool.  Perhaps I am overly enamored with the slick look of the EBSCOhost databases; we have Academic Search Complete as our default database on our home page (See the Quick Articles tab.)  It does provide quick and easy acces to scholarly sources.  The features in their interface make it easier to narrow results down to something useful--a set of understandable results.

The short survey I created for the English 1101 class gave me sense for who I was working with.  Being able to see the results in real time (I just had to refresh the results in Polldaddy periodically).  Of the 13 that answered the question, only two said they had already received library instruction of some sort.  Sometimes it is nice to be the first librarian to have contact with a class.

I like to ask what students want to learn.  This seems to get them thinking about their responsibility to pay attention and participate, at least I hope it does.  Plus, it gives me an idea what they think is important for them to get out of the day's instruction.  More than one student expressed interest in finding a book or learning about cool books that we have.

Considering that an English 1101 class may have a lot of students in which this may be their first time in a college library, I ask them if they have ever found a book on the library shelves before.  Seven out of 13 confessed that they had never done this before.  This knowledge justifies my idea that we need to let everyone in the class have this opportunity, so I can make it a priority for the class.  Success with this one activity may increase their confidence, willingness to listen, and learning in the class. 

As a student and a person, I like when teachers seek to understand me and my level of understanding.  The learning experience improves when the teaching is directed to meet the immediate needs of the students.  One of the biggest challenges, then, is to teach so that those with the lowest level of understanding learn something without being frustrated, and those with the highest level of understanding take away something new without being bored the entire time.  This is tough.  Seeking input or feedback with a survey or poll at the beginning of class may be a good way to gauge the kinds of participants in the class.  The anonymous gathering of information, via the online survey systems, can prevent students from being put on the spot. 


lizabaker said...

Workshop in the Library? I don't think that would be effective for an english composition class.

Spencer said...

Lizabaker, why do you think that?