Information Literacy and the FYE

I’m doing a webcast tomorrow morning about integrating information literacy into the First-Year Experience.  I’ve done some presentations for faculty, and for some graduate classes on campus on this topic, but this is the first time I’ll be talking to (mostly) librarians about it.

Here’s the monster list of “further reading/exploration” links I’ve gathered along the way.





this is not a New Year’s resolution

The 22 days that have passed since New Year’s day should make that clear, but just in case…

I am going to see if blogging is something I can still sustain.  I still have time for writing; I do a lot of it.  But I don’t have the same kind of time for reading that I used to and without reading, there isn’t as much to write about. I don’t tend to write in a vacuum, I write as a conversation, and without listening there’s not much this introvert has to say.

And since I tend to read in bursts when I have time, and that time is sometimes after the time when everyone else has read the thing, I worry more as much about missing the conversational moment as I do have anything to say.

So I’m pretty sure this hasn’t been widely discussed in libraries – but it made me think – or I should say it sounded familiar.

Tom and Lorenzo (Tom + Lorenzo, Fabulous and Opinionated) talking about Carey Mulligan wearing Roland Mouret at the 32nd Annual London Film Critics’ Circle Awards.

(By the way, the post is not really about Carey Mulligan or about Roland Mouret so much as the YSL pumps she’s wearing – go ahead, look.  They’re blue.)

They start the post, a variation on a specific genre of post often featured on this blog — does this specific red carpet look work or doesn’t it? with a disclaimer.

We’re almost afraid to write this one.

Not because we fear the wrath of Carey Mulligan’s publicist (or Roland Mouret’s, for that matter), nor because we fear that legions of her fans will tear us limb from limb in an orgy of righteous rage because we dared to say something less than flattering about her (although it does give us some pause). No, we’re afraid to write this one because we’re about to complain about something that we’ve been asking for in every red carpet ensemble for almost five years now.

(Color, is what they’ve been asking for. Just some color, which Ms. Mulligan is without a doubt sporting in that photo.)

See, here’s the thing – they’re thought twice about writing the post because while they’re writing subjectively about some of the most subjective content there is – they know they have readers who are looking for hard and fast rules.  They know that those readers think they have a rule figured out and then they’re going to go and contradict themselves and those readers will be confused and think “you don’t even know what you want.”

But there’s a general principle they’re reasoning from here – a way of thinking, as it were.

there’s nothing inherently wrong with, say,  black peeptoe pumps, but when they become ubiquitous and they’re mindlessly paired with every dress on the red carpet, whether they go with it or not, that’s when we get all huffy and dogmatic about it. But the flipside of that is, we then get a rep for hating black peeptoe pumps (or silly putty pumps, or ankle straps), and when we wind up letting a pair go by without comment, or worse, complimenting the choice, kittens get confused. “But…I thought you hated black peeptoe pumps,” they say, their adorable kitten eyes wide and on the brink of shedding tears of disappointment and confusion. “There, there,” we say (in our imaginations), “Sometimes these things work and sometimes they don’t. Fashion shouldn’t be rigid. Now dry your eyes, little fashion kitten.”

Darned if this doesn’t sound like me when I read a paper and make comments and then the student takes it away and works on it for two months and in that two months the argument of the paper evolves and changes so that the thing that I said the paper needed in January isn’t even part of the argument any more in March and when I write on the paper that it needs to go they say “but… you SAID…”

I know, I know.  It’s frustrating not to have rules. And it’s frightening.  But I think what Tom and Lorenzo are asking their readers to have is confidence – confidence in their own ability to say what they like and to learn a way of thinking, or a body of reasons they can use to articulate why it is they like what they like.  Which is not the same thing as memorizing a set of rules.

And this is where this sounds familiar – where the information literacy comes in – where the student development theory comes in – the end goal on these things is also, in part, confidence.  But confidence that goes beyond “I like X,” confidence that you can know what you like and contextualize it, understand as something that exists in the world and that is understood by others in a particular way.  Which means learning how to talk about what you like with reasons and evidence – evidence beyond simplistic appeals to expertise  (Tom and Lorenzo like color) that let you participate without really putting yourself into the conversation.

I miss this blog in part because it was a place where I could consistently put myself into the conversation.  I’m not sure that can be re-created at this point. But I’m going to try.

some thoughts on school libraries

Or, at least, that’s where this started.

Sometime last spring – not sure when, but it was definitely sunny here in western Oregon – a colleague and I drove to an OLA board meeting in Forest Grove — quite a haul from our part of the Willamette Valley. I love being a part of the Oregon Library Association because it’s one of the few things I do that isn’t academic/instruction librarian focused. That extra perspective that comes from hanging out with children’s librarians (and lots of other kinds of librarians) is really important to me.

Driving back home we both had the same thought – that part of this meeting had been VERY relevant to us in our academic/instruction life — the State Librarian had released some numbers about school librarianship in Oregon. School librarians numbers here have shrunk dramatically in the last 30 years:

Graph showing the numbers of school librarians in Oregon declining more than 50% from 1980 to the present

School Librarian #'s

And it’s not like the numbers of students has held steady:

graph showing the number of students per librarian increasing

And these numbers are only set to get worse.  In the last year the two largest school districts that still had librarians in every school: Beaverton and Salem-Keizer both had to put those librarians on the chopping block because of budget constraints.  The Beaverton district may have saved their librarians.  Salem-Keizer, on the other hand, is cutting all positions except for the two librarians in the high schools.

This situation is certainly not unique to Oregon.  This story about librarians in Los Angeles forced to defend their jobs in a hostile environment made the rounds last spring.  And the American Library Association uses the word “crisis” in this School Libraries Funding Press Kit.

So, why am I focused on school libraries?  Because it’s time to gear up for the new term – to teach classes for students enrolled in bridge programs designed to give them a taste of what they need to be successful in college.  And to think about the first-year experience with it’s focus on how the resources available to you at a research institution are different than those you may have had access to before.

And I generally focus on “things you might not expect to find in your library” when I get students who are new to college, don’t have a research assignment and do have a meeting with me.  But this has me thinking a lot more specifically about – what about students who don’t know what to expect from A library, much their “their” library.  If “library” to them means “unstaffed room with perhaps outdated books” in it, don’t we have a bigger hill to climb than the complexities of how to use our specific libraries — where do students who have no school librarians get their sense of the type of help they can expect from any library?  I’m not sure.

So lately when I talk to faculty about things I talk less about the stuff we have to offer students and more about this – I don’t think most of them know about these numbers.  I don’t think they always know the extent to which students have been on their own when it comes to research and evidence.  I think this all makes the soon-to-be-published research I saw teased on my Twitter last week a little more important.  What do you think?  Does a lack of school librarians mean starting with what a library IS?

And I also wonder because I have been hearing more and more from instruction librarians at conferences and meetings that they want to focus their dwindling resources on the advanced majors “who can really take advantage of our resources and services” — that we should automate the basic instruction that can be done with a tutorial or online module and leave the real teaching (since there are fewer of us in academic libraries and our numbers aren’t getting any bigger ) for the classes with the real need.  And I get that there are fewer of us and the numbers won’t be getting any bigger, but I have to wonder — if we ignore them in K-12 and then ignore them in their first two years while they’re learning what college is, what college research is and what a research library (or a library full stop) is — what will their motivation BE to seek us out when the time is right?   I have no answers here, only questions, but I can’t imagine that that will be an easy sell, and I think there must be a better answer, even if I don’t know what it is yet.

Peer Reviewed Monday – Scaffolding Evaluation Skills
So this week we’re also behind a paywall, I think.  Someday I will have time to actually go looking for Peer Reviewed Monday articles that meet a set of standards, but right now we’re still in the “something I read in real life this week” phase.

And this one was interesting – so far, when I have found articles that are specifically about deliberate interventions designed to teach something about peer review or about research articles, it is almost always in this literature, about the teaching of science.  Not surprising, but it does beg the question of disciplinary differences.  Still, the overarching takeaway of this article isn’t that everyone should teach about evaluating scientific evidence like we did so much as it is everyone should be teaching this on purpose, and over and over.

Which is a message I can get behind.  And one, I suspect, that is true across disciplines.

So the article has two parts.  One is a presentation of the model the authors used to teach students to evaluate evidence, and the second is a report on their research assessing the use of the model in a class.  Their students are not college students, but advanced high school students.

The authors open by arguing for the significance of evaluation skills in science –

Students, more frequently now than before, are faced with important socio-scientific dilemmas and they are asked or they will be asked in the future to take action on them.  They should be in position to have reflective discussions on such debates and not accept data at face value.

They further argue that students are not being taught this now – that most problem-based or inquiry-based curricula takes the data as a given, and doesn’t include “question the data” as part of the lesson. ( I almost think they are arguing that this is even more important now then it had been before because of the current emphasis on active, experiential learning.  That they’re suggesting that this type of pedagogy requires evaluation skills that the old lecture model didn’t, but that teaching evaluation skills hasn’t been built into these curricula.  That’s an interesting idea.)

In the lit review, the authors spend some time on the question of what “credibility” means.  For the purposes of this paper, that are arguing that there are two main components to the assessment of the credibility of evidence:  the source of the evidence and the method, how it was constructed.  This interpretation is heavily influenced by Driver, et al, 2001).

Questions to ask of the source:

  • Is there evident bias or not?
  • Was it peer-reviewed?
  • Who is the author? What is their reason for producing the evidence? What is their background?
  • What is the funding source?

Questions to ask of the methodology:

  • Does the evidence refer to a comparison of two different groups?
  • Is there any control of variables?
  • Were the results replicated?

The review of the literature suggests that there is ample evidence to support the claim that students are uncertain about how to evaluate evidence and assess claims.  This holds true across grade levels and disciplines.  They also suggest that there is very little research on whether these skills can be improved.

image of steel building framework

Credibility Assessment Framework

The authors then turn their attention to the Credibility Assessment Framework, which they believe will help high school students build the skills they need to assess evidence in inquiry situations.  The framework is based on two specific theoretical concepts: Learning-for-use framework (Edelson 2001) and scaffolding design framework (Quintana, et al 2004).  The framework is intended to help designers create good learning activities that include:

  • authentic contexts
  • authentic activities
  • multiple perspectives
  • coaching and scaffolding by the teacher at critical times
  • authentic assessment of learning within the tasks
  • support for the collaborative construction of knowledge
  • support for reflection about and articulation of learning

What they did

The team spent eight months building the learning environment for a class of secondary school science students.  They built their evaluation learning activities around a project where students were supposed to be doing hands-on work on an ill-structured and complex problem (food and GMOs) — a context where their work should naturally and authentically benefit from the critical evaluation of multiple sources of evidence.

One thing that is significant here, is that the authors supplied the reserach for the students to evaluate — they didn’t include a “finding stuff” piece to this work.  But they also modified the sources that the students were going to use, when they felt it was important to do so to decrease the cognitive load on students.  What was really interesting to me about this was what they added in – context, why the study was done and where it fit.  This is exactly what I feel (feel, because I haven’t got data) my students are missing when they’re just assigned “peer-reviewed articles.”

This information was put in a database in the students’ online learning space.  This space includes both an “inquiry” environment and a reflective “WorkSpace” environment; the project used both.

Scaffolding was built in, using both human-provided information (from the teacher) and computer-supported information (available online for the duration of the unit).  And the unit as a whole lasted elevent weeks.  There were 11 90 minute lesson plans.  The students started out doing hands-on experiments, and then spent the remainder of the unit doing groupwork which included data evaluation.  Then at the end the groups presented their findings.

In the first four lessons, the students were evaluating the provided sources without direct instruction. In the fifth lesson, they did a specific exercise where they evaluated the credibility of two sources unrelated to the class’ topic — this was done to reveal the criteria that the students had been unconsciously using as they attempted to evaluate provided sources in the first four weeks.

What they found out

The authors gathered pre- and post- test data using two instruments.  One measured the mastery of concepts and the other the evaluation skills.  They also videotaped the class sessions and used data captured from the online learning environment.  There was a control class as well, which did not have any of the specific evaluation lessons. The authors found that for the study group, there was a statistically significant difference between the pre- and post- tests for both conceptual understanding and evaluation skills.  For the control group there was no significant difference.

Two findings I found particularly interesting:

  • Including the qualitative data gave more insight.  In the pre-tests students were abel to identify the more credible sources, but they were not able to articulate WHY those sources were more credibile.
  • Within the particular components of credibility that the authors identified (source and method) the students did fine on author/author background by themselves, but needed help with: type of publication and funding source.

The students needed scaffolding help on methodological criteria, and even with it, many students didn’t get it (though they got more of it than they had coming in – this was a totally new concept for most of them).

Here’s the piece that I found the most interesting.  The impact of the study, as interpreted by me, was not so much on the students’ ability to tell the really good or the really bad sources.  It sounded to mek like the real impact was that the students were able to do more meaningful navigation of the sources in the middle.  And I think that’s really important — and something that most students don’t know they need to know on their own.  Related to this – the students were likely to mistrust ALL “internet” sources at the beginning, but by the end they were able to identify a journal article, even if that journal article was published online.  That’s significant to me too – that shows the start of that more sophisticated understanding of evaluation that I think is necessary to really evaluate the scholarly literature.

Finally, the authors found that the students had most of the conversations they did have about evaluation as the result of instruction – not on their own – which they took to prove that instruction was needed.

As I said before, the point of the paper seemed to me to be more about the fact taht this kind of direct intervention is needed, not that this specific intervention is the be all and end all of instruction in this area.  Beyond this, I think the paper is interesting because it illustrates how big a job “evaluation” is to teach – that it includes not only a set of skills but a related set of epistemological ideas — that the students need to know something about knowledge and why and how it’s created.  That’s a big job, and I’m not surprised it took 3 months to do here.

Nicolaidou, I., Kyza, E., Terzian, F., Hadjichambis, A., & Kafouris, D. (2011). A framework for scaffolding students’ assessment of the credibility of evidence Journal of Research in Science Teaching DOI: 10.1002/tea.20420

it has been a while, yes

Wow, that was kind of unplanned hiatus.  Since I last posted:  my library has hired a new University Librarian, I received tenure, I gave some talks, almost all of Spring term has gone by, I was surprised by a completely unexpected but lovely award, I finally finished the IS executive committee minutes from Midwinter, and I submitted an epic proposal for IRB approval.

I am also almost done with an actual blog post.  Until that’s done, though, here’s something awesome:  a news website article (from The Guardian UK) entitled This is a news website article about a scientific paper.

A sneak preview –

This paragraph elaborates on the claim, adding weasel-words like “the scientists say” to shift responsibility for establishing the likely truth or accuracy of the research findings on to absolutely anybody else but me, the journalist.

If I could summarize one of my goals for library instruction it would be – to make sure OSU students understand the scholarly article better than this.

While using my iPad for article-reading, a blog post about Storify appeared

It has been ages since I talked about a new tool/service like this but Shaun came home talking about Storify the other day and it sounded good so I got myself an invite.

Basically, it lets you pull content from the dynamic web, including all of the social social media suspects plus search results, into a timeline-like interface. You add text (or not) and you have a story.

Reading the “one year out” iPad posts that have been popping up, I have been thinking about how I use mine — especially how I use it differently than I expected.  One thing I didn’t expect was the extent to which I have used it to replace some of the paper in my life.  Not all of it, but some of it.   And one of the most interesting pieces of that story, to me, has been the extent to which some of the papers being replaced are the reams and reams of paper worth of article printouts I used to create.

Those printouts were totally outside my workflow in so many ways – but I had to be able to:

  • Take them places (even my laptop is so much less mobile than a folder of paper and a pen).
  • Read them (which I could technically do, but not really do on my phone).
  • Take notes on them (typing doesn’t count for me.  I wish it did.  But it doesn’t).

With the iPad, some of that started to change.  Here’s a story about how.


Screenshot of the top few lines of a story created using the Storify tool


There are definitely some glitches – the integration with Flickr wasn’t working at all for me, for example.  But it was quick and intuitive and I like the output a lot.  I have some more interesting ideas for using it than this one.

I wrote a book chapter!

When I first started at OSU, I was browsing through some composition texts because I knew that part of my job was going involve working closely with the writing program on the beginning composition class. While I was doing that, I came across some descriptions of different writing styles outlined by OSU professor Lisa Ede in her book Work in Progress and immediately recognized myself in her description of the “heavy reviser.”

(Seriously, she could have included my picture)

Reading that really had an impact on me – not that it changed how I write, at all, but it changed how I felt about it.  And most of all, it made it easier for me to write collaboratively.  Knowing my style as one of many meant knowing what to warn people about – knowing that my willingness to slash and burn through a draft just might freak someone who writes that draft more deliberately than I do the heck out.

So it is especially wonderful that now I have collaborated with Lisa herself.  A year-plus ago she told me that she was substantially revising her textbook The Academic Writer, and asked if I would collaborate with her on the research chapter.  Chapter 6 and I spent many hours together over the next several months, and I am pretty happy with the results – even if the scope of the whole made it difficult for me to see the forest for all the trees while I was immersed in creation.

Doing Research: Joining the Scholarly conversation is available here, in OSU Libraries’ Scholars’ Archive – I hope it’s of interest and ultimately of use!