Friday, May 04, 2007

Article Note: On stopping IAKT Syndrome

Citation for the article:

Bell, Steven J. "Stop IAKT Syndrome with Student Live Search Demos." Reference Services Review 35.1 (2007): 98-108.

Read via Emerald.

This article describes active learning techniques useful to counter the dreaded "I already know this" syndrome. To go with the theme, I will say that I know some of this already. However, the article provides good advice for any academic librarian that does teaching. Some notes and ideas from the article then:

  • Defining IAKT. "From the students' perspective all instruction may appear to be the same. Exposure to a variety of information literacy sessions as freshmen can lead students to assume that any librarian providing instruction in their sophomore and upper level courses is simply there to rehash an earlier presentation" (99).
  • One challenge for librarians. "The burden is on the librarian instructor to employ pedagogical methods that will enable students to distinguish between multiple sessions to recognize their distinctive and differentiated features" (99).
I would add that some collaboration and diligence from faculty can help with the syndrome as well. Having an actual purpose for coming to the library would be helpful. Asking for more than "just whatever library talk you have made" (yes, I have heard this a few times). Making sure students are prepared to do research specific and relevant to the class would be nice. All these are things a faculty member can and should do when bringing a class to the library. Sure, the librarian is responsible for using the best active learning techniques and for providing a good session. But some proactive collaboration from faculty would help as well. I did not see this addressed in the article.

Additionally in my case, IAKT can be a danger given the bottleneck nature of our freshman composition classes. The retention and success rate for those classes is on the dismal side. Seeing students from one year to the next repeating the class and coming to library instruction again is not uncommon. For me, this means I really have to be on my toes.

  • If the student says they know it already, then challenge them to prove it. Sure, it is risky, but it can be rewarding as well. "Involving students in the instruction session is a dynamic way to activate student learning. Because it requires the instructor to in essence 'hand over' the session to a student, sometimes in a completely spontaneous way, it can be subject to a number of challenges" (100).
Bell goes on to provide reasons for involving the students in the learning experience. For one, it not only engages students, but it also engages the librarian as well. Bell goes on to describe how to involve students in demonstrating searches. This is not an approach for the faint of heart. I've tried it, and indeed, anything can and does happen. You have to be willing to embrace the chaos. Bell also provides helpful tables listing advantages and disadvantages of the approach.

  • "Being in a smaller university or college allows librarians to know students on a personal level, facilitating good classroom interaction" (103). This is part of the reason that I often say that I have the best job in the world: I have regular opportunities to interact with students and know them on a personal level given our smaller size. However, I don't think this is exclusive of a smaller campus. A good instruction librarian will work on building good personal relations with students no matter the size of the school.
  • "As the session leader the instructor's responsibility is to step back, guide the session and be able to relinquish control. Avoid the urge to tell students what to do and how to navigate in every situation. It can be healthy for students to see that they have classmates who lack expertise in using library resources. It will also demonstrate that a student need not be as skilled as a librarian to accomplish a reasonably good database search" (105).
  • "Search demonstrations by students need not be perfect. In fact, expect some rough spots and the occasional flop, especially the first few times trying it. Even if the students get a less thorough instruction session than they would if a librarian did all the demonstrations, it is this author's observation that they ultimately have a more powerful learning experience when their peers search the library databases" (107).

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