Friday, June 27, 2014

Booknote: Active Learning Techniques for Librarians: Practical Examples

(Crossposted from The Itinerant Librarian)

Andrew Walsh and Padma Inala, Active Learning Techniques for Librarians: Practical Examples. Oxford, UK: Chandos, 2010. ISBN: 978-1-84334-592-3.

I finished reading this, and I was not impressed. The core of the book is the list of activities for active learning. Let's start by looking at what the book claims to do:

"It is a practical resource to be dipped in and out when needed and aims to appeal to a wide readership within the profession, particularly where teaching is a key part of the role. This includes graduate trainees and also students of librarianship and/or information students" (3).

The book is organized into three chapters:

  • One: Outline of theory and practice of active learning. This is a basic overview for people who do not know what active learning is or folks who need a refresher. 
  • Two: The practical activities are here. The activities vary from low to high tech and from practical to not so practical. The activities under the section "mobile phones and other gadgets" may fall under not so practical. Just because more students carry cellphones, it does not follow they can do whatever active learning activity you think you can do with the latest "cool" mobile gizmo. Now one nice element of this chapter is that each activity lists potential pitfalls; it is a rarity in LIS literature to admit something may not end as planned. 
  • Three: Sample lesson plans, including a couple of templates for lesson plans. New folks may find this useful. 
There are some good practical things, including one or two items I jotted down to try out. There is also a good number of activities I have seen before, so experienced practitioners may not find much new here. Additionally, the book has a few activities reliant on clickers or other technology that may or not be available in all libraries. However, for beginner librarians and librarians with minimal to no teaching experience who are suddenly told they have to teach, this may be a useful book. I don't see this book as one every librarian needs to have. If you instruction unit has a small reference/consult shelf of books about teaching, I can see adding it for the new folks. It is mostly a book for beginners.

In addition, instructions for some of the activities were pretty minimal; at times, I had questions about how exactly to implement something. I also wished the author had added more examples of how to use something or in what type of lesson something would be applicable. That would have made this book much more practical.

Again, as with other LIS books, we see authors running the risk of appearing less than relevant when citing Web 2.0 in learning contexts. That is because of how fast it can change, how often companies go out of style or out of business, and how things can quickly go out of date. Examples from the book:
  • Bebo and MySpace as social networking examples are pretty much a joke at this point. Bebo now is some kind of app company, and MySpace is pretty much, to be honest, dead in the water. 
  • iGoogle is gone by now. It was taken down in 2013. 
  • Jaiku was bought out by Google and then promptly shut down by Google. 
I am not saying don't use Web 2.0 online tools and resources. My philosophy on that is to experiment, find what works for you, and dump what does not. But when it comes to this topic, you are often better off asking around, talking to practitioners in the field who are likely more up to date than checking an LIS book. 

In the end, it is a book that I would recommend for beginners with some reservations. Seasoned instruction librarians have probably seen much of this, so they are better off seeking for new ideas elsewhere.

It was an OK book, so I am giving it 2 out of 5 stars.

# # #

A quote from the book I wanted to remember:

"A lot of library instruction can be very tasked, but when we are teaching we should not only be interested in gaining an end result, we need to focus on the experience the learner will have. If this journey is one where interactivity and stimulation takes place, in an environment that encourages thinking, doing, discussing and reflecting then there is more likelihood that the information will be retained and there will be some sense of understanding of the process, and therefore the learner will be enabled to independently replicate what has been learnt" (11).

Our job is to empower our students to use that knowledge, help nurture it, so they can be self-reliant, active lifelong learners.

Friday, June 20, 2014

SAALCK Assessment Workshop 2014 Notes

This workshop took place on Friday, May 30, 2014 at Crabbe Library, Eastern Kentucky University Campus. The featured speaker was Megan Oakleaf. The workshop also featured a panel of speakers from Murray State University. The workshop was provided by SAALCK. What follows are some of my notes from the event. As usual, stuff in parenthesis is usually my comments and additions.

Topic: Opening Speech by Megan Oakleaf on topic of "Academic Libraries and Institutional Impact Overview." (This presentation did have a PowerPoint. We did get a copy of it as a PDF--link to it on my Google Drive, let's see how it works out. A handout packet was included, much of it comes from a workbook by Megan Oakleaf, which can be purchased here. We'll probably order a copy for the library here.).

  • We began with some opening questions. 
    •  How to link library outputs to student learning outcomes? 
    • How do we develop an assessment plan?
    • How do we translate what we do into numbers? 
  • We got a small index card at the beginning of the presentation. The card had an owl sticker on one side, and a monster sticker on the other. The instructions were to, as we went along, jot down on the owl side any good ideas you heard or learned. On the monster side, you jotted down why the ideas could not be done, the challenges. 
    • (Ideas #1 I jotted down: Got validation of the value of reflective writing and other reflective exercises in assessment. This is something I have been starting to talk about in our library as something we need to be doing. Idea #2:  The library proactively assigning "research advisors" to support certain student groups. I think this could work for us here.)
    • (Challenges #1 is the ever present challenge of time. Challenge #2 is gaining advanced knowledge. One way I am acquiring it is piloting things, learning from them, and moving forward.)
  • What do we think when we hear "library value"? "Assessment"? 
    • The "elevator speech." Assessment is the tool, the measures. 
    • Value is the ROI (return on investment). Others would say how the library contributes to student success.One way to define success is helping with student retention and helping faculty be better teachers. 
  • See also The Value of Academic Libraries report (link to website. The report itself is available, but keep in mind it is a pretty big PDF file). 
  • "Satisfaction" measures are not really a big deal in assessment. We want to really measure outcomes in learning, so on. 
    • Yet we measure a lot of satisfaction and use. "Use" does not really measure value past a starting point. 
    • Difficult to measure what students do in academic terms. 
    • ROI studies do have limitations. It's one strategy, but it is not perfect. Also it is dependent on things like institution size. 
  • Ask how well the library contributes to overall goals of the parent constituencies. 
  • There is a trend in the library literature showing libraries moving from being passive to being active (this is not news to me really). 
    • Product>>Service. 
    • Collections>>Experience. 
    • Mediation>>Enabling.
    • Resources>>Educational Impact. 
    • Facility>>People. 
    • Access>>Sense-making. 
  • We build spaces, but we often fail to think how spaces will be used and what impact they will have on students.
  • Some recommendations/highlights from the Values in Academic Libraries report (report linked above):
    • Think institutionally. Be able to translate plans, etc. for other constituencies. What are campus leaders talking about in their speeches, so on? 
    • Ask: what do we enable people to do? And to answer that question, we need to know what people have done. 
    • As much as possible, use existing data. Your campus probably has a lot of data already; find out who keeps what data. Your library probably keeps a good amount of data as well. 
  •  Question to ask: what does your institution value? (what follows are some ideas from a brainstorm in the room. This list is mostly what the institutions would say, or at least what the people in the room say or think their institutions would say): 
    • grades
    • program completion
    • graduation
    • admission to graduate school
    • regional engagement
    • public service
    • economic development
    • athletes
    • serving international students
    • brand
    • (what I would say) good citizens and lifelong learning (no one said either one or something close to it, which honestly makes me wonder)
  • Students appear to acquire "information literacy" skills as a consequence of instruction, but assessments are scattered and episodic, not coherent and longitudinal. 
    • Much of the library instruction literature is about minutiae (I know; I read a lot of it). 
    • (I am thinking that for us here, use of the HEDS survey and keeping track of cohorts, we may be able to get some good data for assessment and improvement of our programs to better help student learning.)
    • Oakleaf is not much into pre- and post- tests. (To be honest, neither am I, but convincing some people in higher positions of this can be a bit of a challenge) Where the students come from does not matter as much as what they leave with. (This is what really interests me. However, I would add we do need to know at least some of where they came from in order to know where they are going. How much of where they came from do we really need to know has been a point of contention here for some of us)
  • Another question: how do you know scholarship is a conversation? This is where reflective writing and performance assessments, such as concept maps, come in. (This is something I have started to discuss here. We still have a ways to go)
    • Time and scaling are challenges. It's rigorous, and we may need more skills to carry it out. 
  • We need to be familiar with learner and learning analytics. Know where and when student behaviors/inactions/activities are tracked. 
    • Help to find problems in curriculum in order to fix them. 
  • (A reminder to myself to review this:
 # # #
Topic: "Conceptualizing and capturing library value."

  • Idea: students using company profiles, say from a database like Business Source. Ask if the students are using them to prep for job interviews? And if they do, ask if they did better on interviews. (To be honest, there was only one place that even mentioned this idea, and it was a few years back. The question was mentioned, but never explored, so I definitely see a research idea here.)
  • We need more information on library impact and faculty teaching. We do know, anecdotally, faculty citing library support for them having more time to do research, to develop lesson plans, etc. (Again, another investigation opportunity perhaps?)
    • How else do support faculty? Do you help in grant seeking and writing? In tenure and promotion? Keep track if you do. 
  • Idea: We need to learn about ILL (interlibrary loan) impact on students. 
  • Question: do students use library resources for prepping for and being involved in internships? 
  • Think of assessment as record keeping. Keep track of numbers as well as quotes and testimonials to enrich assessment narratives. 
  • I am thinking the library impact map can be a good exercise  to do in our library. Break it down for different units.
    • To begin investigating and prioritizing what to investigate, find out what the institution cares for. 
    • I would divide the chart by department/units of the library and go from there. 
    • Another idea: use a similar grid, but with library policies to look at policies' impact on patrons. 
    • Be careful not to be overwhelmed (which is why I would prefer the grid to be divided into sections). 
    • Again, on campus tours that stop at the library, make them more effective. Provide talking points (and try to measure impact with at least one survey question). 
    • Consider where are the "invisible" areas of the library that have an impact.
  •  In assessment, we often want "causal" questions, but "causal" can't really be done. You can't control every single factor. It is not a closed system.
    • Goal is to identify behaviors that lead to an outcome, positive or negative. Work then to improve the positive. 
    • What you want to show is a correlation. What contributes to the positive outcome, as part of other activities as well. 
    • Ask yourself: is it enough to describe the profile of successful students and seek to increase students that emulate the desired attributes?
    • To stave off criticism (say, from the usual "picky" faculty who feel the need to wave their "big stick" around), state your research up front. Say what something means and what something does not. 
  •   Consider your library communications. 
    • Which institutional values are reflected/emphasized in library communications? One part of communication goals should deal with library and institution goals (retention, learning, etc.). 
    • What part of our communications communicate impact on institutional focus areas? 
    • Keep in mind: different audiences may need different versions of (the same) information. 
  • Reminder note to review some of Lisa Hinchcliffe's work.  
# # #

Topic: Panel Presentation from Murray State University on "Assessment in Action."

  • Reporting on a campus and library project focusing on retention. 
  • If you decide to present (at a conference, workshop, a publication, so on), you may have to go through your IRB (institutional review board). 
  • They identified library users using campus data (students enrolled, faculty lists, so on), then used library data for identifying patron checkouts. (If you use something like Voyager for your library information system,  you are looking at things like historical library checkouts.)
    • They added ILLiad (interlibrary loan system) users. They do note they ran into some issues doing this, in part because ILLiad does not always "play nice" with other library systems. 
    • They used EZ Proxy data for electronic resource use. Their patrons use the "usual" credentials (campus e-mail user name and password). They make every user log-in whether on campus or off-campus. (Some attendees were skeptical of this, but the speakers claim that the campus complaints on this were low when implemented. I have to say I found that pretty impressive. In other campuses I have worked that, making such a suggestions would mean more than just "a few complaints.")
    • Most of the data is "yes" or "no." The idea is to see if there is a sense of a user community building up. 
    • Their data can now capture use by distance students as well. (For us, being a residential campus, this would not be a big concern. Maybe to track some off-campus students, say those traveling abroad.)
    •  Idea: providing documents with steps, how to talk to stakeholders, so on. 
    • Make sure that you can articulate the benefits in collecting data for assessment. 
    • Make sure you start early conversations with institutional researchers on the campus.
# # #

Topic: "Taking Library Value Home" (back with Megan Oakleaf). 

  • Reflection on ideas to take back. 
    • (Review parts of the library impact grid with our instruction team.)
    • Write something on our assessment efforts in a newsletter (for us, this could be done on our library blog.). An article on student outcomes and learning. (This can also add transparency.)
    • A presentation to faculty or a select group (for us here, for example, it could be to the Committee on General Education) on the Value of Libraries document.
    • Work more on collecting anecdotal information and testimonials. Things like filling out a small card at the reference desk. Sending out a small 2-5 question survey to students after instruction, so on. 
    • Quote: "you need to find the right key to unlock people's minds." This is especially true for resistant folks. So think ahead of time how you will address any resistance and answer any objections.
    • Assessment of LibGuides. Connecting to instruction and pedagogy. 
    • Work to build a culture of assessment into your strategic plans. 
    • Think big in an organized way. However, you can start small, but do start. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Booknote: Library and Information Science: A Guide to Key Literature and Sources

(Crossposted from my personal blog, The Itinerant Librarian)

Bemis, Michael F., Library and Information Science: A Guide to Key Literature and Sources. Chicago: ALA, 2014. ISBN: 978-0-8389-1185-3. 

This is basically a very big annotated bibliography of sources in library science. Though there are some web sources and databases listed, the focus appears to be on books, followed by periodicals. If you have kept up in your area(s) of librarianship, then you have seen much of what is listed here. The value of the book then is in seeing lists in other areas. The book is valuable, for instance, to see what are the basics of cataloging if cataloging is not your area. Also, the book can serve as a double-checking collection development tool for LIS school libraries. I would anticipate that LIS schools and their libraries would be the primary places wanting this book. It's the kind of book they would want their students accessing.

From the author's introduction:

"I wrote this book for a simple reason: I needed a current annotated bibliography of library science but couldn't find one. My goals were twofold: to collect as much of the available information sources regarding various aspects of the profession as reasonably possible and to then organize them in a logical fashion" (xi). 

The book is organized by chapters; it has 39 topics from administration and management to writing and publishing. Some of the topics have more sources than others, but most of the chapters provide a basic core list to give you a sense of what you have to read, or at least be aware of, on a given topic. If you need to read more deeply on a topic, some of the selections should help with that. 

An issue I found comes in the listing of information technology materials. For books in this area, a common issue surfaces: information tech books tend to get dated pretty quickly. Some items in that chapter are already out-of-date. If you still mention MySpace as something part of "all the rage," you are woefully behind at this point.

I did take a closer look at Chapter 15: Information Literacy and Bibliographic Instruction, which represents my main specialty. It did have items I expected to see. A new librarian wanting to go into this area will find enough to get started.

As a research starter on a topic in librarianship, I'd say this will be useful for many, especially beginners and librarian in the field who may not have extensive access to LIS sources. For me, I'd keep it on my shelf to check on things now and then as part of keeping up or for my areas of interest. This is one I am suggesting for librarians to at least look over.

I really liked this one, in spite of some small issues, some I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

* * * 

I did jot down some titles from the book's listings for later reading (the number included is the entry number in the book. Links, as usual unless otherwise noted, go to WorldCat.):

(Update note 10/5/15): For some reason, this post attracts spammers like flies to shit (especially stupid accountants for some reason). So, I am closing comments on it. 

Friday, June 06, 2014

Article Note: On Assessment of First-Year Undergraduate Students' Library Use, Academic Achievement and Retention

Citation for the article:

Soria, Krista M.,, "Stacks, Serials, Search Engines, and Students' Success: First-Year Undergraduate Students' Library Use, Academic Achievement, and Retention." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 40 (2014): 84-91.

Read via ScienceDirect. 

Assessment seems to be a big trend in librarianship now. There is at least one big conference out there on the topic, and it seems more librarians are showing interest. In fact, last week of May 2014, I was attending a workshop on assessment and academic library value (featuring Megan Oakleaf, one of the big voices in this), and the topic seems to be out there in Librarian Blogistan now and then. Even my college has a strong interest in the topic; heck, it is part of my job description. So when I find an article on the topic, I do try to read it. This one was a short piece, and for readers, unless you want to get technical, you can skip ahead to the discussion part of the article for the findings. The literature review also was good in giving a sense of where the assessment topic stands. The authors of this article do argue that there is still a lack of assessment, which "further translates into lack of research investigating the benefits of academic research libraries at their institutions. . . " (84). What I am going to say now is not scientific nor to be taken as gospel, but I get the impression a few people are doing assessment, and they are either writing it up, figuring out how to write it up, or presenting it at conferences to then revise it and write it up. From what I have done so far, assessment is work that does take a lot of time. I know; I am in the process here for our instruction program, and we are just getting started. So whatever publication I may get out of it is not going to be for a good long while yet. Anyhow, that's my brief musing. Let's move on.

The authors sought to investigate "whether students' use of academic libraries in several different areas is associated with their success. In particular, the purpose of this study is to examine the relationships between first-year undergraduate students use of the academic library, academic achievement, and retention to the second year of study" (84-85). To do that, they did regression analysis that predicted student GPA considering 10 data points of library usage. Variables and tables showing the work they did are included in the article for those wishing to look.

What's the bottom line? "The results of this study suggest that first-year students who used the academic library at least once during the academic year had higher GPAs and retention, on average, than their peers who did not use libraries" (89). It is a finding of the presence of positive relationships, not one thing causes another. Sure, some of the other findings may sound like a lot of "maybe," but they do have some evidence to back it up, or at least make some very good suggestions. For instance:

"Accessing databases, checking out books, reading electronic journals, meeting with peer research consultants, and receiving advice from reference librarians via online chats may represent activities that increase students' access to academic resources, enhance their information literacy, and enrich students' academic work, all potentially leading to higher academic achievement by virtue of higher grades on academic coursework" (90). 

A bit of what the authors recommend based on their findings (see pg. 90):

  • Libraries need to collect data related to student library usage in various areas. An area they did not look at is library as place. So try to get data on student use of physical spaces in the library. 
  • You can use other measures besides GPA. For example, measure student outcomes associated with information literacy competency. (This is actually a big part of what we are doing here now.)
And finally, the authors suggest also:

"Academic libraries do not exist in complete isolation-- students interact with libraries through classes, with their peers in study contexts, or while engaging in academic research activities with faculty and these interactions should be explored more fully to gauge the impact upon college students. Examinations into the time of the academic year in which students are interacting with library resources are also warranted, given the potential dramatic differences in academic achievement between students who first begin using the libraries early in the semester versus those who first use the library during finals week" (91).

Actually, that last part of time of the year and use is one that intrigues me, so I will keep my eye out for anyone who examines that, or maybe if I ever get to it, I may see what I can learn.