This is one of my favorite hashtags ever. I told a colleague before – there’s a great undergraduate learning experience buried in here somewhere, but mostly… it’s just funny.
So it is probably not shocking that sometimes I can’t express myself in one tweet.
(It is probably more shocking that I ever can)
imagine getting to ask some of the smartest women you know to come and talk to you and your friends about things you really care about. 1/2—
(@amlibrarian) October 26, 2012
I was talking about the ACRL-OR/WA Fall Conference, which was hosted this year by ACRL-OR at the Menucha Retreat in the Columbia Gorge, and about which I went on in this post.
(View from Menucha)
Jim Holmes from Reed College did an amazing job running technology at the conference – and captured all of the amazing women noted above while he was doing so. The results are available now. If you weren’t able to join us (or even if you were) –
Barbara Fister gave an inspiring and thoughtful opening keynote. Ignore the fangirl giving the introduction.
Rachel Bridgewater put together a two hour program called Fair Use as Advocacy Laboratory, integrating a remote talk from Brandon Butler at ARL (who was also fantastic)
And Char Booth wrapped up the conference with a closing keynote that built on and wrapped around the themes of the previous two programs. It was like magic.
Thanks again to everyone who put so much work into this conference, which means every single member of the ACRL-OR Board. Interested in being a part of the next one? ACRL-OR elections will be happening in the next few months. Watch the ACRL-OR blog for the announcement.
Impact factor. No, not that impact factor – impact factor for news. What would that look like? In particular, what would that look like beyond “was it seen?”
The New York Times is hosting a Knight-Mozilla fellow to tackle that question. I read today on Twitter that that fellow is going to be Brian Abelson.
I took a look back at the job description to see what “impact factor” looks like in the mind of someone not immersed in academia, and found this language, which could apply just as well to research (or to teaching, really, but this is not a learning assessment post):
What’s interesting is the implication here that the obvious solution is the data, particularly the immense amount of it now available:
But the math changes in the digital environment. We are awash in metrics, and we have the ability to engage with readers at scale in ways that would have been impossible (or impossibly expensive) in an analog world.
No, I am not doing NaNoWriMo, DigiWriMo or AcWriMo this year. Given my heavy reviser writing style, I’m not sure that a project that is focused so much on getting words on the page would work for me – getting words on the page is never my issue. Getting words on the page that I want to keep on the page – that’s a different story.
But more than that, I think of these as projects kind of like those fitness bootcamps – intended to kickstart you into figuring out new habits and workflows. I might be wrong about that – see above re: never done any of these before – but that’s how these projects make sense to me.
And so they don’t seem appropriate for just doing what I would be doing anyway. And I have a ton of writing to do this month, but it’s writing with hard deadlines that are in December, so it doesn’t really matter if this is NaNo- or Ac- or Digi-i month – I’m going to need to be writing a lot of words anyway.
But still, all of the project posts I’ve been seeing have me thinking about process, and about being more proactive about setting time aside. So here’s the heavily revised and rewritten version of Chapter 6 of The Academic Writer as it exists after 3 hours of focus today.
Of course, given the heavy-reviser-ness of my writing style* there is little to know chance that the manuscript I turn in in December will bear much relation at all to what’s up there on the wall. But at least now I have a starting point to start writing – so I can figure out what I really have to say, and how to say it.
*Meta alert. I learned about composition styles, including heavy revisers, in an earlier version of a textbook by Lisa Ede, which is now… The Academic Writer.
In our strategic planning meetings there has been some pushback against the phrase (not the idea) of lifelong learning – the feeling exists that we’ve been using this phrase so long in libraries that it’s starting to lose some meaning.
I saw a couple of things today that got me thinking about this phrase more concretely – not just in terms of what it should mean, but also in terms of what it really means for a university (or a university library) to support it.
First, Karen muses on Coursera, not from an “OMG the future of higher ed” and not from an “OMG the sky is falling” perspective — but from the perspective of someone actually taking one of the courses as a, yes, lifelong learner:
It’s funny, we pretty much give up on learning things once we graduate and get jobs. Or at least, there’s no further cultural support for continuing to take classes unless they’re Crossfit or cooking. When really, taking classes is one of the most awesome things in the world.
Then, a little bit later you’d think I was reading thoughts from Ta-Nehisi Coates about football fandom at The Atlantic, but really, I’m reading about lifelong learning again.
I’ll be pulling together a bibliography of sources which I hope to consult while pulling together this piece. I started with Clifford Geertz’s “Notes On The Balinese Cockfight.” This is the sort of thing that normal educated people read in undergrad. But again, I would not have been ready for this at 18. I am delighted to take it in at 36, an age where my tastes are a little broader, and my excitement flames high.
I did read this article as an undergrad and while I remember it, and I’m pretty sure I liked it, I didn’t get as much out of it as I got out of other texts and conversations. I understand that one of the reasons why I was required to read lots of stuff as an undergrad was that every piece isn’t going to have that impact on you at the moment when it’s assigned and the best way to ensure that students do get those life- and perspective-changing moments is to make sure they read lots and lots and lots of potentially transformative stuff.
But it got me thinking – how great would it be if there was a way we could revisit some of the stuff we read as undergrads, to think about it again with all of the experience and perspective we could bring to it now?
Those of us who think and write about learning think and write about the importance of reflection, and metacognition, on the learning process. On my campus we talk about figuring out how to get students to reflect on their gen ed experience, to reflect on their major experience, to reflect on all of the different learning experiences they have in college — because that reflection is essential to the learning process.
So much of what we try and teach and do in higher education is create a framework for lifelong learning – so many people say to me that they didn’t really understand the point of a particular course, or assignment or even whole field of study until long after they left school. That’s one of the things that makes assessment in higher education so tough. It makes me wonder how much the conversations recently about how higher education must change – should be focusing less on today’s students and more on what we could be doing for yesterday’s.
We live in interesting times. From experts, pundits, and next-door neighbors, we hear that the future of academic libraries is uncertain, that the future of higher education itself is uncertain, and that libraries in general are in crisis. Faced with this narrative, it is tempting to change who we are and what we do in order to remain relevant, and to demonstrate our value to our schools and communities.
We must realize, however, that it is precisely who we are – and who we have always been – that makes us even more relevant and valuable in the face of changing times. We are committed to creating informed, literate citizens; to advocating for free speech and access to knowledge; and to creating spaces where intellectual curiosity and individual expression are welcomed and fostered. Our tools, techniques, and buildings may have changed, but our core identity remains – and remains vital to our communities. We must not change who we are; we need only change how we communicate our value.
Join us for two days of conversation about the value and importance of academic libraries in these interesting times. You’ll leave energized, inspired, and with some good ideas about new ways to share your library’s story.
So this summer has been all kinds of crowded in terms of my schedule, but one of the best pieces has been working with the executive board of the Oregon chapter of ACRL to plan the fall conference we host every other year (trading off with our friends in ACRL-WA).
Things are finally coming together (largely because the Board is just an awesome group of people to work with) and I’m getting so excited for the final result.
We have a title! Libraries Out Loud: New Narratives of Enduring Change
(Two people who, if you asked me “name 10 people you would choose to provoke your thoughts” would totally be right up at the top half of the list).
Local copyright maven Rachel Bridgewater is going to lead everyone in a meaty, substantive discussion and activity about the Code for Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries, and we’re going to be (virtually) joined in that by the people from ARL and the Center for Social Media who put that document together).
There will be poster sessions, and lightning talks and a party- and it all happens in one of the most beautiful places on earth, the Columbia River Gorge.
October 25-26, 2012. Registration opens soon!
(Photo by flickr user Nietnagel)
I have more writing to do right now than I have time, so it has of course become vitally important to write this blog post that has been buzzing at the back of my brain RIGHT NOW.
My life as a parent isn’t a big topic of conversation on this blog, but a little background is needed here. One of the reasons I don’t talk much about my family in this space is because one of the complexities of adoption is learning how to talk about your experiences while respecting the fact that your child has her own story and her own experiences and only she gets to decide when and where and how to share that story. Part of this journey is her story alone, part of it is ours. And some of it is mine and Shaun’s – and this post is coming from that part.
So one of the things that happens when you navigate the adoption process is that you take way more classes and trainings about parenting than you probably otherwise would. Some of these are to really learn things and some are to show how interested and committed you are to being a good parent.
This wasn’t an awful thing – if you’re like me (and like Shaun) you can find something to chew on in almost any class and these classes were full of enough brain development data and learning theory and interesting personalities that even when the classes didn’t totally work, the after-class conversations were pretty awesome.
Still, two almost identical Love and Logic classes was a lot, even for us. Like many self-help-y or how-to-y type things that develop huge and devoted followings – L&L is based on some fairly simple ideas which are then applied in many ways. In parenting-class world that means many, many sessions reinforcing the same basic concepts. In taking-the-same-class-twice parenting class world, well…. this is a long intro to explain why my brain has had many hours to connect those simple concepts to many things.
In other words, the idea is that kids learn best when they have to face the authentic, real, organic consequences of their choices. Artificial consequences that aren’t connected to the choice the kid made (most routine punishments fit in this category — taking away TV privileges for breaking a window = consequences that are probably unrelated to the bad choice) just seem arbitrary and capricious and the kid ends up blaming you (or whoever imposed the consequence) instead of their own bad choices — which does nothing to teach them not to make bad choices in the first place.
Here’s the basic L&L mantra:
- Give your child a task you know they can handle.
- Hope they mess up.*
- Let empathy + natural consequences do the teaching.
- When the opportunity arises let them try again.
*Note: the debater in me never came to terms with the “hope they mess up” part. There were parents in my classes who really hated this line and who also hadn’t quite grasped the “learning comes from mistakes” piece. I did grasp that part – that’s the part of this I like — but that doesn’t mean you have to actively hope they mess up. I mean, take it to its logical conclusion. If my kid never, ever, ever messes up — there’s no bad outcome. Yes, they may not have learned from mistakes, but those mistakes also never happened so she either learned some other way or didn’t need that learning. So I debate-proved to myself that I don’t have to actively hope she makes mistakes, I just have to be sure I see the value when she does.**
**Second Note: Seriously, we spent NINETY minutes on this concept in one class session. It is not my fault I thought about it this much.
Like many of the simple ideas that turn into Something Big, this is a fairly compelling argument. This was one of the pieces of Love and Logic that worked for me pretty well, which isn’t to say it all did – I have some real problems with some of the other concepts connected to this that I can go on about at length, but won’t here.
And while natural consequences is a L&L cornerstone, it’s by no means limited to that set of books and workshops — this is a concept with legs, that comes up over and over, generally as part of a larger idea that lecturing doesn’t work.
And I’ve been thinking about it in terms of library instruction. And not just because we have an knee-jerk anti-lecture response at this point too.
I’ve been thinking about it because I think it highlights that we spend a LOT of our time “lecturing” – even if we do it with clickers. Because lecturing in this context doesn’t mean just “talking,” “broadcasting” or other words that essentially mean “one-way communication” — which is generally what we mean by “lecturing” in the classroom context.
No, in this context, “lecturing” means explaining the consequences of bad choices instead of demonstrating them. And I think we do that a lot.
Not in the steps — we do a good job of letting our students discover the consequences of choosing the wrong database, or choosing the wrong search terms — within the parameters we set up and the assumptions we’re making about what they need to know we have developed lots of ways to help them discover and learn for themselves.
No, I’m talking about in the big picture — in the WHY should they do these things at all part — that’s where we’re lecturing. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen someone raise this type of question on ILI-L –
“how can I convince my students that they really need to be using these sources?”
“how can I convince my students that there will be consequences if they don’t cite properly?”
And what’s the subtext here? It’s — how can I convince my students not to make mistakes?
Because here’s the thing — our teaching in libraries is more similar to the type of teaching parents do than I ever thought it was. Yes, parents can impose plenty of consequences themselves on the day to day level — ”no tv until you finish your homework” but the ultimate goal for most parents goes beyond finishing the homework tonight – they’re looking to raise up kids who can learn stuff, and who are organized to get stuff done and who can go off to college or out into the world and meet deadlines and achieve goals, and am I right?
And library instructors can impose some consequences when the students are actually in the library class – that’s basic classroom management stuff. Yes, some are better at it than others and we never have the power that the grade book or the parental relationship gives – but we are in a position of some power in that context. But that in-class power, that’s not the real goal. We’re looking to teach skills and concepts that students can take with them out in to the “real world” and use to be successful and get stuff done — just like parents.
And this is also a reason why it’s not like regular classroom teaching. The regular classroom has a more immediate set of primary goals than lifelong learning. Yes, I suspect that many, many teachers have life long learning as a goal — I certainly did when I taught history. But the fact that that was a primary goal for me was also a big reason why I stopped teaching history and went into libraries.
I expect that most teachers would prefer that their students cite sources properly in all of their classes. They have a commitment to producing good students in the major, and good graduates of the institution, but that doesn’t have to be their primary goal in a classroom interaction. In my own class, I can say “two points off your grade for every MLA formatting mistake” and then I can MAKE THAT BE TRUE.* I might hope that the impact of that is that they use MLA perfectly in their next class, but mainly, I don’t want to struggle through improperly formatted citations in the papers I have to grade.
*Note: I do not ever do this.
So what are we doing when we say “how can I convince my students…. “? We’re talking about consequences that we have no control over — we’re talking about those life consequences. We’re talking about all of those things that we know because we have more life experience (and more college experience) and if they would just LISTEN to us they could avoid those mistakes. But here’s the thing – I think maybe we should be letting those happen.
And I think this not just because I think it would be good for the learning — I also think this because of what it would mean for us.
Take First Year Student X – coming into OSU with a gaudy 4.0 GPA from a decent high school, has never had any trouble at all getting A’s on her research papers using her favorite library sources — books and the online Encyclopedia Britannica. She’s never read an academic journal and she thinks of “peer review” as trading papers with a classmate and making comments.
How much energy do I have to spend to “convince” her that she needs to use peer-reviewed sources in her college research papers?
Alternatively, what happens if this highly motivated, intelligent student turns in a paper sourced from the encyclopedia, her textbook, and some 15 year old monographs from the library’s stacks? Probably two options — she gets negative feedback on her sources by her instructor or she doesn’t.
if she does? She’s going to learn from her mistakes. And I can help her get where she needs to be much more effectively. If she doesn’t – then no amount of energy spent by a librarian to convince her that she REALLY needs to use different sources will make a difference.
Now see my first extra note above and don’t get me wrong – I don’t actually want my students to make mistakes. I would prefer they make the choices I would prefer they make. I think using a variety of interesting sources, including those that represent more than opinion or anecdote, is important and I want students to do that. I’m all for giving those students who are ready to learn to do things in a new way the information they need to do so. What I am saying is that I think we’re spending a lot of energy in library instruction trying to ensure that all of our students won’t make mistakes when they do research — and that that’s counterproductive.
See, the thing that is the same about parenting is this – it makes a lot of sense to choose those places where your energy is best spent – and it’s just rarely best spent trying to convince your kid that consequences exist when he has never experienced them for himself. To do this, you have to do a lot of thinking for him and spend a lot of time imposing rules and consequences he’s going to think are arbitrary. And if you’re going to do that, shouldn’t you wait for a real life-or-death health and safety issue? Especially when it is so much easier and so much more authentic to convince him that consequences exist after he has experienced them.
And the thing that is different than parenting is this – with the slight exception of natural adult-related authority and good classroom management skills, for us the whole ballgame is what our students do with our teaching after they leave us – whether we’re talking about transcendent information literacy teaching that leads to powerful reflective thinkers and lifelong learners — or just about skills that they can apply to do well on that paper that’s due next week — success or failure for us is hardly ever about what happens when they are in a room with us. Some of the teaching parents do really is about making life at home, life in the family, better – in library instruction it’s always about making something, somewhere else better.
So I think we need to re-think our relationship to that somewhere else – connect our focus as teachers to what they’re learning, naturally and authentically out there — and not try and teach in advance in the classroom those things that life will teach them better. And if they’re not learning what they need to from natural consequences, from authentic feedback and meaningful responses to their work — then we need to be working on that level, with their teachers and employers and mentors.
Integrating Information Literacy into the First Year
July 23, 2012
Broader Context – Changes in Higher Education
About FYE Programs
North Carolina State University
Examples of Articulated Information Literacy Outcomes in FY Programs
Other Collaboration Examples
Working with Parents
Models – web presence
- UIUC – Library Orientation for Parents – (A guide to refer to when your student calls for help)
- St. Louis University – Resources for Parents page
- University of Redlands – Some things parents should know about Armacost Library
- Barton College – Parent Introduction to Willis N. Hackney Library
Collaborating with Advisors
- Margaret H. Burger. Take my advice: Collaboration between librarian and academic advisors (PPT)
- Florida State University – Advising First in Strozler Library
Mary Kelleher and Sara Laidlaw (2009). A Natural Fit: The Academic Librarian Advising in the First-Year Experience. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 16:2-3, pp. 153-163. DOI:10.1080/10691310902976469
Examples of the Kind of Data You Might Find on Your Campus
Student Development Theory – Cognitive Models
One thing that I maybe haven’t made clear is that this book isn’t intended to be an exhaustive treatment of this, or any, phenomenon — it’s a parenting book, designed to give advice to parents with kids heading off to college.
Some of my wishes for what might show up in these pages, therefore, should be read as unreasonable.
So, on to Chapter 3. Can College Kids Grow Up on an Electronic Tether?
This is the chapter that should be getting into where we might see connections between this research and the big body of student development research that exists out there. The authors point out at start that there has been very little research on this specific phenomenon, but there is certainly a lot that we “know” about how students have developed in the past – and I am sure that research informed the present study.
Research question: What happens to the independence of college students who are in constant contact with their parents?
Method: To get at this question, they designed the surveys to also capture information about:
- students’ psychological development
- parental involvement in students’ lives
- relationships between students and parents
The chapter starts by making with the argument that traditionally, students have been able to control the level of contact with parents, and parents have expected that the amount of contact they have with their offspring will go down. That separation from parents is essential for students to develop a mature relationship with their parents — if they stay too connected, then the dynamics that existed in high school won’t get a chance to change.
Most of this initial part is an exhortation for parents to let their students make their own decisions and their own mistakes. This is important not only for the students – who need to develop their own skills and to solve their own problems — but also for the parents. It is only when the student develops autonomy that they are capable of seeing their parents as people – with with lives that aren’t entirely defined by their children.
Nothing here is cited, but it seems to be heavily informed by Arthur Chickering’s seven vectors of college student development. Chickering’s revised third vector is called Moving through Autonomy toward Interdependence, and deals with the same issues of connectedness – and how the relationship between student and parent can improve and mature better when there is some autonomy, or separation.
In fact, Chickering’s initial model focused a great deal more on autonomy as leading to independence – it was in a relatively recent revision that he refined this category to recognize the ways that the relationships that students bring with them to college continue — and the ways that these relationships change. Hence, interdependence.
(Which I’ve always liked – I like the idea that one of the things we do in college is become capable of bringing more to our relationships – that we can become a source of support to people who have always supported us.)
So – then we move into a summary of results. And the one-line summary?
…students who have the most frequent contact with their parents are less autonomous than other students.
Evidence? Those students are less likely to hit their benchmarks, according to the standard psychological tests that were embedded in the surveys.
Subtopics examined include: decision making, relationships, self-regulation and parental regulation
Decision Making — The focus in this section is on majors. Parents are pushing “practical” majors where they can see an immediate employment benefit. Students are asking about other majors, and hearing they should change. At Michigan, only 2 students reported parents steering them away from econ or business, as opposed to many stories where the reverse was true. Of course, all parents aren’t the same – some were described as “not heavy handed” with their advice, others felt they needed to offer perspectives and warnings, even as they encouraged their children to follow their interests.
Student/Parent Relationships – Relationships are generally strong, but the researchers did find that those students who get called the most are more likely to have relationships with their parents that are “fraught” & marked by conflict. Students who control the contact — who make the calls – report more positive feelings about their parents. There are also students who are controlling the contact, but who are maybe calling too much – which the researchers describe as “trading independence for closeness.”
Self-Regulation & Parental Regulation — Students with good self regulation (what we might call “time management” and “study skills” in other contexts) get better grades AND report positive feelings about relationships with parents. Students who reported high levels of parental regulation (parents taking responsibility for the timeliness and/or quality of the students’ work), on the other hand, reported negative outcomes. Not surprisingly, those who scored high on the “parental regulation” scale also reported high levels of contact with parents. They also reported MORE trouble with school. So parental regulation doesn’t just hurt relationships – but in terms of academic success, it doesn’t work.
Conclusions & Advice for Parents
Not surprisingly – the main conclusion of this chapter is that parents need to back off and let their kids grow up. This will have positive impacts not only on the students’ academic skills and success in college, but also leads to better parent/student relationships.
From the start of the chapter, there’s the suggestion that there are two types of students here — those who want more independence, but find that college doesn’t really change anything in terms of the reminders and suggestions and direction they get on a daily basis from parents
AND those who maintain those lines of contact themselves – who actively resist the separation that the research suggests is necessary.
Probably not surprisingly, because of the “this is a guide for parents” nature of the book, the advice is heavily directed towards the first situation. Parents, after all, can best control their own behavior and it makes sense that the book would focus on those situations where the parents’ behaviors are more problematic.
I was curious what advice they would have for parents who aren’t initiating the contact, but who have kids who are, as they say, sacrificing independence and development for contact. How can parents diagnose a situation where their student might be relying on them too much? What are the warning signs that your student is too dependent upon you? And then what do you do about it? I hope this is addressed more in later chapters.
And the other thing I found most striking from this chapter was the discussion of majors. That’s something that I think we need to worry about – exploration is an important part of college and intellectual exploration is one of the most important kinds of exploration students do. If that’s getting short-circuited, it needs to be addressed.