Yes, we did write that up

Finally!

Kate and I finally got an article related to our LOEX of the West presentation (from 2008!) finished and published.  This peer-reviewed article delay had nothing to do with publishing cycles and everything to do with writing process.  But it’s available (in pre-print) now, and I pretty much like it.

Beyond Peer-Reviewed Articles: Using Blogs to Enrich Students’ Understanding of Scholarly Work

Making one-shots better – what the research says (Peer Reviewed Monday, part 2)

ResearchBlogging.org

And now, on to Peer-Reviewed Monday, part two but still not Monday.

Mesmer-Magnus, J., & Viswesvaran, C. (2010). The role of pre-training interventions in learning: A meta-analysis and integrative review☆ Human Resource Management Review, 20 (4), 261-282 DOI: 10.1016/j.hrmr.2010.05.001

As I said earlier this week, this was started by a link to this article, a meta-analysis trying to dig deeper into the questions: which of the pre-practice interventions examined in the Cannon-Bowers, et al study are most effective?  For what type of learning outcomes?  And under what conditions?

The first part of the paper reviews what each of the pre-training interventions are, and presents hypotheses about what the research will reveal about their effectiveness.

METHOD

They reviewed 159 studies, reported in 128 manuscripts.  For this work, they considered only studies that met all of the following conditions:

  • they involved the administration of a pre-training intervention
  • the study population included adult learners
  • the intervention was part of a training program
  • the study measured at least one learning outcome
  • the study provided enough information to compute effect sizes.

The studies were coded for: the type of pre-practice intervention; the type of learning outcome; the method of training delivery; and the content of the training.

The codes for pre-practice intervention were drawn from Cannon-Bowers, et al: attentional advice, metacognitive strategies, advance organizers, goal orientation, and preparatory information.

The codes for learning outcomes were drawn from the Kraiger, et al (1993) taxonomy:

  • Cognitive learning (can be assessed at 3 stages: verbal knowledge, knowledge organization and cognitive strategies)
  • Skill-based learning (also assessed at 3 stages: skill acquisition, skill complication, and skill automaticity)
  • Affective learning (attitudinal outcomes, self-efficacy outcomes and disposition outcomes)

Training methods coded were very relevant to information literacy instruction: traditional classroom; self-directed or distance learning or simulations, such as role-plays or virtual reality.

Training content was coded as: intellectual, interpersonal, task-related or attitude.

RESULTS & DISCUSSION — so, what does the research say:

For attentional advice — this was one that I was able to immediately think of one-shot related applications for, so it was particularly interesting to me that medium to large positive effects were found for both skill-based and cognitive outcomes, with the largest gains found for skill-based outcomes — given that so much of what is taught in one-shots is skill-based, intended to promote success on particular assignments.  These effects are strongest when general, not specific, advice is given.

Metacognitive strategies –

The authors identified two main forms of meta-cognitive strategies that were studied: strategies that involved the learner asking why questions, and strategies where the learner was prompted to think aloud during learning activities.

The research shows that meta-cognitive strategies seem to promote all levels of cognitive and skill-based learning.  Why-based strategies had more consistent effects for all levels of cognitive learning, which supports the authors’ initial hypothesis — but think-aloud strategies do a better job of supporting skill-based outcomes, which does not.

Advance organizers —

Positive results were found for these for both cognitive and skill-based outcomes.  Of particular note for instruction librarians is this finding:  “stronger results were found for graphic organizers than text-based ones across all levels of skill-based outcomes.”

Goal orientation —

When compared with situations were no overt goal was provided to the learners, goal orientations seem to support all types of learning: cognitive, skill-based and affective, with the strongest effects (just by a little bit) in the affective domain.

The authors also hypothesized that mastery goals would be better than performance goals.  The findings suggest this hypothesis is true for skill-based learning and for affective learning.  They were not able to test it for cognitive learning.  They did find something odd with regards to affective learning – when they compared performance goals and mastery goals separately against no-goal situations, then performance goals showed greater effects.  But when they compared mastery goals and performance goals, stronger effects were found for mastery goals.

Preparatory information –

This showed positive effects for skill-based and affective learning, but they weren’t able to test it for cognitive learning outcomes.

SO WHAT ELSE COULD HAVE AN EFFECT?

The training conditions and content were coded to see if those things had an effect on which pre-practice interventions were most effective.  Of particular interest to me were the finding that stronger effects for cognitive learning were found for advance organizers paired with self-directed training (e.g. tutorials) than for traditional classrooms or simulations.  (Of course, it’s important to remember that those showed positive effects too).

RESULTS BY TYPE OF OUTCOME

This turned out to be the most interesting way to think about it for me, so I’m going to include all of these probably at a certain level of length…

For skill-based outcomes, broken down – the strategies that work best seem to be:

  • skill acquisition: mastery goals & graphic advance organizers.
  • skill compilation: think-aloud meta-cognitive strategies, attentional advice and goals.
  • skill automaticity: graphic organizers and pre-training goals.

This seems to suggest pretty strongly that librarians should find a way to communicate goals to students prior to the one-shot.  Obviously, the best way to do this would probably be via the classroom faculty member, which is why this also makes me think about the implicit message in the goals we do send to students – most specifically, I mean the implicit message sent by requirements like “find one of these, two of these, three of these and use them in your paper.  It does seem like this could be considered a performance goal more than a mastery goal and even if the main impact on students is added stress to perform, is that stress that is serving any purpose or should it be eliminated?

For cognitive outcomes, also broken down – these strategies emerged from the literature:

  • verbal knowledge: specific attentional advice, why-based meta-cognitive strategies, and graphic advance organizers had the largest effect.
  • knowledge organization: general attentional advice and think-aloud metacognitive strategies
  • development of cognitive strategies: why-based strategies and attentional advice.

This is interesting, of course, because while we know that teaching on this cognitive-outcome level is pretty hard in 50 minutes, a lot of the topics we’re asked to address in the one shot are really asking students to perform in that domain.  Ideas like information ethics, intellectual honestly, scholarly communication, identifying a good research article – these all require more than a set of skills, but also require a way of thinking.  So in this area, I am thinking okay, we can’t teach this in 50 minutes, but if we can prep them in advance, maybe we have a better chance of getting to something meaningful in that time.

For affective outcomes –

  • Overall, a pre-training goal orientation and attentional advice were most effective in this domain.

These might not seem relevant in the one-shot, but they really are.  We’re talking in many cases about teaching them something with the hope that they’ll use it later, when they really get to that stage of their research process, their confidence and self-efficacy is clearly relevant, as is their disposition to believe that you’re teaching them something valuable!  In fact, I think this might be as worth or more worth focusing on that cognitive outcomes.  So that makes these findings particularly interesting:

  • post training self-efficacy AND disposition toward future use of the training material were most influence when a performance goal orientation was used.
  • Attentional advice, mastery goals and preparatory information are also promising here.

Prepping for the one-shot (Peer Review Wednesday)

ResearchBlogging.org

Via the Research Blogging Twitter stream – I came across an article the other day that seemed like it would be of particular interest to practitioners of the one-shot, but as I was reading it I realized that it drew so heavily on an earlier model, that I should read that one too – so this week’s Peer Review Monday (on Wednesday) is going to be a two-parter.

Today’s article presents a Framework for Understanding Pre-Practice Conditions and their Impact on Learning. In other words — is there stuff we can do with students before a training session that will make for better learning in the training session? The authors say yes, that there are six categories of things we can do, which raises the related question – are all of the things we can do created equal?

CANNON-BOWERS, J., RHODENIZER, L., SALAS, E., & BOWERS, C. (1998). A FRAMEWORK FOR UNDERSTANDING PRE-PRACTICE CONDITIONS AND THEIR IMPACT ON LEARNING Personnel Psychology, 51 (2), 291-320 DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-6570.1998.tb00727.x

This article also reviews the existing literature on each category, but I’m really not going to recap that piece because that is also the focus of the other article, which was published this year and why look at both?

So I have started to feel very strongly that instruction in typical one-shots much more closely resembles training than teaching – at least how I think about teaching.  I’ve had some experiences this year where I have had to do the kind of “what does teaching mean to you” reflective writing that put into focus that there are some serious disconnects between some of the things that are important to me about teaching and the one-shot format, and it makes me wonder if some of the frustration I feel with instruction at times – and that others might be feeling as well – comes from fighting against that disconnect.  Instead of thinking about what I think about teaching (thoughts that started developing a long time ago, when I was teaching different content in credit courses that met several times a week over the course of several weeks) and trying to fit it into the one-shot model, perhaps it makes more sense to spend some time thinking about the model we have and what it could mean.

So, the training literature. Can a deep-learning loving, constructivism believing, sensemaking fangirl like me find inspiration there?  Well, apparently yes.

In their first section…

…the authors define what they mean by “practice.”  Practice in the context of this paper means the “physical or mental rehearsal of a task, skill or knowledge,” and it is done for the specific purpose of getting better at it (or in the case of knowledge, getting better at applying, explaining, etc. it).  It is not, itself, learning but it does facilitate learning.

They distinguish between practice conditions that exist before the training, during the training, and after it is done.  This article focuses on the before-the-training group – which I think is what makes it really interesting in that one-shot context.

In the second section…

…they dig into the six different types of pre-practice conditions that they categorized out of the available literature on the subject.  In their review of the literature, they tried to limit the studies included to empirical studies that focused on adult learners, but they were not always able to do so.

Attentional Advice

Attentional advice refers to providing attendees with information that they can use to get the most out of the training.  This information should not be information about how to do the thing you are going to be teaching — but information about the thing you are teaching.  This information should allow the learner to create a mental model that will help them make sense of what is being learned, and which will help connect what is being learned to what they already know.

The example they give describes a training for potential call-center employees.  The attentional advice given before the training includes information about the types of calls that come in, how to recognize and categorize them.  Not information about how to answer the calls directly.

This one got me thinking a lot about the possibilities of providing information about the types of sources students will find in an academic research process (as simple as scholarly articles/popular articles/books or more complex – review articles/ empirical research/ metaanalyses, and so on) as attentional advice before a session, instead of trying to teach it in a one-shot session where you have two options – to spend five minutes quickly describing it yourself, or to spend half of the session having the students do something active like examining the sources themselves and then teaching each other.

Metacognitive Strategies

Most instruction librarians can probably figure out what this one is – metacognitive strategies refer to strategies that help the learner manage their own learning.  These are not about the content of the session directly, but instead information about how the learner can be aware of and troubleshoot their own learning process.  The examples provided take the form of questions that learners can ask themselves during the training or instruction session.

Advance Organizers

I am sure the metacognitive strategies will spark some ideas for me, but it didn’t happen immediately – I think because I was distracted by this next category.  Advance organizers give learners, in advance, a way to organize the information they will be learning in the session.  So a really obvious example of this would be – if you want students to learn the content of a website, you could provide information in advance about the website’s navigational structure, and how that structure organizes the information.

This one really got me thinking too.  Another piece of information literacy instruction that is really, really important and about which we have a bunch of research and information backing us up is the research process – the iterative, recursive, back and forth learning process that is academic research.  We even have some useful and interesting models describing the process.  But in a one-shot, you’re working with students during a moment of that process and it’s really, really hard to push that session beyond the piece of the process that is relevant where they are at the moment.  What about providing advance information about the process – does that require rethinking the content of the session or the learning activities of the session — probably.  But would it provide a way for students to contextualize what you teach in the session.  I’m not sure, but I’m going to be thinking about this one more.

Goal Orientation

This one is pretty interesting in the more recent article.  There are two types of goals – mastery goals and performance goals.  Mastery goals focus attention on the learning process itself, while performance goals focus on achieving specific learning outcomes.  As a pre-practice condition, this means giving learners information about what they should focus on during the session.  As an example, they say that a performance goal orientation tells students in a training for emergency dispatchers to focus on dispatching the correct unit to an emergency in a particular amount of time.  A mastery goal orientation, on the other hand, tells the students to focus on identifying the characteristics they should consider when deciding which unit to dispatch to a particular emergency.

So – an performance goal orientation in the information literacy context might tell students to focus on retrieving a certain number of peer-reviewed articles during the session.  A mastery goal tells them to focus on identifying the characteristics of a peer-reviewed article.

Preparatory Information

This seems like it would be pretty much the same as Attentional Advice, but it’s not.  In this one you focus on letting the learner know stuff about the session environment itself — the examples they gave were situations where the training was likely to be very stressful, physically or emotionally difficult.

Pre-Practice Briefs

Finally, there’s this one, which refers specifically to team or group training.  In this one, you give the group information about performance expectations.  You establish the group members’ roles and responsibilities before the team training begins.

In the third and fourth sections…

The authors attempt to develop an integrated model for understanding all of these conditions, but they’re not able to do it.  Instead, they present a series of propositions drawn from the existing research.  Finally, they examine implications for day-to-day trainers and identify questions for future research.  The most essential takeaway here is – not all preparation for practice is equal and that we should do more research figuring out what works best, with what kind of tasks, and for what kind of learners.

Stay tuned for the second installment, where current-day researchers examine the last 12 years of research to see if this has happened – and where it has, they tell us what was found.


Word of the day: Advertorial

So advertorial – one of those words (like “anecdata”) that has meaning the first time you hear it.  A piece of writing that is made to look like one thing (usually an article) but which is really another thing (an advertisement).

While the most famous example of this for instruction librarians is undoubtedly the advertisements for Big Pharma in the form of scholarly journals flying under Elsevier’s flag of convenience, they are apparently and not surprisingly a well-established tool in the public relations toolkit.  They even give awards for them.  In the last round of Bronze Anvil Awards (given by the Public Relations Society of America to “recognize outstanding public relations tactics”) there were two awards given to advertorials — one to InSinkerator for something called InSinkerator Gets Home Builders to Think Green, and one to the Florida Department of Citrus, for their Florida Grapefruit Makes Headlines.

So why am I thinking about advertorials today?  Because they are wrecking one of my favorite places to go on the Internet — ScienceBlogs.

In short, ScienceBlogs disastrously, inexplicably, weirdly, agreed to allow a new nutrition blog to join ScienceBlogs – which is an invitation-only type networks of blogs about science and scientific research.  The weird, disastrous, etc. thing about this new blog, called Food Frontiers, was that it was produced by PepsiCo, and the decision to fairly radically change the type of content that was part of the ScienceBlogs network was made in an uncommunicative, opaque, closed way.

Summaries of the fallout – which bloggers are staying which are going, where the going bloggers are now – can be best found here, at Carl Zimmer’s blog (associated with Discover magazine) — Oh, Pepsi, What Hast Thou Wrought.

A Note from ScienceBlogs can be found on the former site of the Pepsi blog, explaining the decision to take it down.

So what does this all mean and why do I care?  Lots of people know that I love ScienceBlogs, or that I have loved ScienceBlogs, as a librarian who teaches – my love for it has only grown.  So now what?

Dave Mosher provides a good summary of what this means for content from ScienceBlogs in the future – which is the issue about which I am really concerned.  I don’t

That effort signals a fundamental change to the way their content is structured:

Before: Blogs.
After: Editorial blogs. | Advertorial blogs.

I type “signals” and not “is” because the transformation isn’t complete.

Because part of this is about reputation – and not reputation in that individual kind of way, but reputation in that authority/publishing/information literacy kind of way that means so much to students struggling to find their way through the scholarly landscape –

From Dave Munger (emphasis added) -

The hypocrisy in handing a nutrition podium to a company that is seriously implicated in the global obesity crisis was astonishing, and even worse, the dozens of bloggers who’ve worked for years to build ScienceBlogs’ reputation were taken completely by surprise.

Former ScienceBlogger David Dobbs nails the key irony here (again, emphasis added), arguing that PepsiCo is “buying credibility generated by others even as they damage same.”

As PalMD and others have pointed out, PepsiCo hardly lacks platform. The only value they can gain from writing here is to draw on the credibility created by a bunch of independent voices engaged in earnest,= thoughtful (well, most of the time), and genuine conversation.

What these (and countless other) commentaries point out is that the reputation of the site matters – that the name ScienceBlogs is supposed to mean something and one of the things it is supposed to mean is no corporate agendas — the fact that just anyone couldn’t write for ScienceBlogs, the fact that ScienceBloggers were writing independently, the fact that their creators, Seed Media, proclaims this lofty agenda (from their About page) all adds up to a set of expectations about what the content on the site was supposed to be.

We believe that science literacy is a pre-condition for progress in the 21st century. At a time when public interest in science is high but public understanding of science remains weak, we have set out to create innovative media ventures to improve science literacy and to advance global science culture.

While those expectations were not always reasonable and there were ads on the site, and whatever else might also have been a little muddy or murky before – there was an idea behind the project that was an important part of why this project was useful to me in the classroom and at the reference desk and in my own work.  It is not that this content was all supposed to be good, or right, or true, or even civil – but the reasons for it being written?  They were supposed to relate to improving the public understanding of science and science literacy.  So what does that mean in a world when that content is either editorial or advertorial?  No matter how easy it is to tell which is which on the site (and the RSS feed?  the Twitter stream??) – that changes things.

Bora Zivkovic hones in on this question of a network’s reputation in his post, explaining his reasons for leaving ScienceBlogs…

We have built an enormous reputation, and we need to keep guarding it every single day. Which is why the blurring of lines between us who are hired and paid to write (due to our own qualities and expertise which we earned), and those who are paying to have their material published here is deeply unethical. Scientists and journalists share some common ethical principles: transparency, authenticity and truth-telling. These ethical principles were breached. This ruins our reputation, undermines our work, and makes it more unpalatable for good blogger to consider joining Sb in the future.

Zivkovic goes on to discuss the ways in which the existence and influence of the ScienceBlogs network makes the people who blog there de facto science journalists – whether they are aware of (or willing to embrace) that fact or now. It is not surprising in this context (the context of how important science blogging has become to science journalism) that some of the first reactions to the Pepsi blog controversy came not from quick-on-the-draw bloggers, but from mainstream media outlets and watchdogs.

I don’t blog at ScienceBlogs (not many librarians do) and it’s not a crucial part of my everyday professional knowledge building because most of the content on the site isn’t directly aimed at my professional needs — it’s more the idea of the project that is important to my work than the reality of what is posted there on a day-to-day basis. That’s not true for everyone.  But as a libriarian, particularly a librarian working with first-year students making the transition to academic thinking, reading, and writing, ScienceBlogs was (and probably is) a go-to site for me.

A lot of the reason for this is the authority/credibility/reputation issues discussed above.  Not that my students could or should automatically trust any of the content on that or any site, but because I felt like I could tell them (quickly, in a 50-minute one-shot) why and how that information had been created in a way that could guide their critical and effective use of the site as a tool — an incredibly valuable tool – that would help them navigate expert research and academic writing.

But another part of the reason is good old fashioned findability.  As Zivkovic says in his discussion of the network effect at ScienceBlogs, most people don’t track blogs using RSS readers or other tools – they find the content when they search for it.  And when they search for it and find it on one blog in the network, all of the blogs in the network are made stronger.  I don’t expect my first-year students to really figure out yet what pieces of the dynamic web they want to track for scholarly or professional purposes – most of them, at 18, are still figuring out what those purposes will be. They may want to track stuff for a particular class, or a particular term, but yeah – for most of them the searchability and the browsability of this site was key to its being useful.  ResearchBlogging is good for that too, and there are other collections of resources that I can point indivdiual students to – but nothing else out there does what ScienceBlogs does (did?) as a place to illustrate the importance and utility of science blogging and academic blogging.

Carl Zimmer puts his finger on one of the main issues for me – if the bloggers leave ScienceBlogs that may be (probably will be) good for the quality of the content but bad for the findability of the content, and those things are not totally unrelated.

What I find particularly galling about this whole affair is that bloggers who don’t want to associate themselves with this kind of nonsense have to go through the hassle of leaving Scienceblogs and setting up their blog elsewhere. The technical steps involved may be wonderfully easy now (export files, open account on WordPress, import), but the social steps remain tedious.

Munger picks up the theme -

If they want to continue to have the kind of influence they used to have at ScienceBlogs, I think the bloggers who have left the site need to do something more than just start or restart their old, independent blogs. They need to form a new network — perhaps built around different principles, but a network nonetheless.

I think so too – I think if they lose the network effect, individual blogs and bloggers and small groups of same will be able to connect with one type of reader, and an important type of reader, but they’ll lose the true neophyte who stumbles on to new ways of talking about evidence and knowledge coming in through a Google Search — or because a librarian says “browse here for a while” when they’re stuck looking for topics.

Ira Flatow (NPR’s Science Friday) offers to talk about hosting departing ScienceBlogs bloggers’ blogs on the Science Friday site instead. And again here.  I suspect that even the benign oversight of NPR might seem too much to the gunshy bloggers who left ScienceBlogs, but I hope they do find each other again somewhere, or that they build new somewheres elsewhere.

Google Scholar search alerts

Searching today for articles about collaborative teaching philosophies (don’t ask)  – I saw this new little icon on the Google Scholar results – how long has this been here?

new search alert icon - Google Scholar result list

I clicked it, thinking it would give me the chance to email results to myself (which is something my students sometimes ask for, though not nearly as often as they ask why Google Scholar won’t format their citations for them).  But instead, it’s a chance to set up an alert for this search.

Google Scholar search alert, with articles only setI don’t actually know that I’ll use this because I don’t really want anything else coming to my email — an RSS feed would be nice.  But has this been around for months and I’ve just noticed it?  That could definitely be true – we’ll see how it works.

“how does the study measure up”

Here’s a great example of way that an academic blog post, written for a general audience, can be a crucial supplement or starting point for a student trying to decipher the peer-reviewed literature.  From Momma Data –

Blame Mom for High School Beer Binges: The Power of a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

This post:

  • describes the study
  • identifies the important (and discipline-specific) concepts used by the authors
  • analyzes the study design
  • gives an opinion about the quality of the paper
  • explains the significance of the journal to the discourse

The only thing I’d like to see is a more robust comment stream – maybe some discussion/ refinement of the ideas. But all in all, a great example and on a topic students sometimes write about too!

History and libraries, but not always history of libraries.

Nicholas and I presented this afternoon at Online NW.  Presentation materials are available here, on Nicholas’ blog.  Good times!

We used Prezi to create the presentation.  This is what it looked like, all together, when it was done.  I know that some people I know have found it difficult to get used to, but I kind of really liked it.  Plus, I’ve used it so far on three very different computers in three very different contexts and it’s worked smoothly every time.

Plus, no dongle drama.