Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Booknote: Motivating Students in Information Literacy Classes

Title: Motivating Students in Information Literacy Classes
Authors: Trudi E. Jacobson and Lijuan Xu
Publication Information: New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2004
ISBN: 1-55570-497-2
Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Library Science/Teaching/Instruction
Pages: 143

Jacobson and Wu provide a good overview of motivation theory and its application to information literacy classes. The title sounds limited, but the book covers more than just motivation; it provides a good overview of various teaching techniques with plenty of examples to guide librarians. The book provides a solid grounding in theory, and it is a very practical guide as well. For educators with experience, this book will be a welcome review and refresher with some new ideas. For librarians coming to teaching for the first time, the book is a valuable and very accessible resource.

The motivation theory in the book is based on John Keller's ARCS model (Attention, Relevance, Confidence, Satisfaction). The terms, as briefly defined in Chapter 1, page 7, are:

  • Attention: capturing the interest of learners; stimulating the curiosity to learn.
  • Relevance: meeting the personal goals and needs of the learner to effect a positive attitude.
  • Confidence: helping learners to believe/feel that they will succeed and control their success.
  • Satisfaction: reinforcing accomplishment with rewards (internal and external)

While there are other motivation theories out there (a good literature search would prove this), this model works because it is simple and pretty straightforward. The authors do a good job of connecting this model to the techniques that they are presenting. So, what are some of the things the authors cover?

Chapter 4 covers "Better Teaching Behaviors." It provides ideas on such topics as how to move around in the classroom, speaking clearly, use of visuals, and getting to know your students. Chapter 5 provides an overview of active learning techniques with various examples. I personally liked the fact that they included writing to learn as one of the options. I am a firm believer in the power of writing to make meaning and to learn, so this is very appropriate. Many of these writing to learn activities are what some would call free writing. The advantage of such a technique is that it can give students a brief opportunity to show their learning or to explore what they still need to know in a fairly safe setting. Other activities highlighted in the chapter include concept maps and information logs. The book also includes a chapter on assessment, with emphasis on authentic assessment. This means using techniques designed to have students demonstrate their learning and knowledge in meaningful ways through application and use of the knowledge. Holistic learning and mastery are favored in such a situation. The chapter looks at the difference between formative assessment (use to assess progress over time and help a student shape their learning. Use of feedback is very important here) and summative assessement (used at the end of the teaching to assess the final products). Some of the techniques suggested include use of rubrics, concept mapping, case studies, and portfolios.

If some of this sounds like stuff used in composition classrooms, I can tell you as a former composition teacher, that they are techniques many composition classrooms use. Maybe at some point further exploration of how librarians have integrated techniques from other subject areas may be a topic to pursue. I do know there are some articles connecting information literacy to composition classes, but these are mostly in the context of bringing information literacy to those classes. Anyhow, just an idea for me to maybe follow up later. Back to the review.

Overall, this is a highly recommended book. I borrowed a library copy from the main campus, but this is a book I would definitely want on my own bookshelf, and I consider myself a pretty experienced teacher. For librarians who suddenly find themselves having to do a credit information literacy course, this book is an excellent resource to start. It does not cover every single detail, but it provides a lot of good information. It also has elements for librarians who do a lot of single session (one shot) sessions. The book chapters each have an excellent bibliography for further reading.

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