small steps towards better library instruction
Every time I go into lecture mode–however briefly, even if it’s just to give instructions for the in-class activity–the retention (attention?) of my students drops precipitously. Last week, for example, I handed out a note-taking worksheet for my students to use as a template as they took notes on the Occupational Outlook Handbook for their research papers. (I’ve found, just from my just-over half-semester of teaching, that asking them to take notes based on questions they’ll be answering in their papers is insufficient and they will invariably take notes on information that has no bearing on their paper and therefore be up a creek when it comes time to actually write the thing. Hence the scaffolding on how to take notes. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m teaching them life skills, not just how to use databases!)
In any case, I described the worksheet as a template: they had to take notes on three sources, but I only gave them a worksheet for one, which meant that they were going to have to use the same format in Word or in their notebooks for the second two sources. Between this explanation and their creation of APA-style paper templates the second week of class, I thought they would understand the idea of a template, but no. Lots of students asking for more copies of the template.
In retrospect, pausing during the assignment instructions to ask, “Now, what exactly is a template again?” would have been helpful. Lecturing does NOT work with these students, even for brief periods of time. (Along those lines, I’ve found a GREAT resource for developing with lesson plans with active learning content: these Library Instruction books. They’re a little dated–they were all published during the early 2000s–but we’re still teaching the topics covered in t books, like copyright and how to do a Boolean search. They’re chock-full of activities designed for longer classes like mine and come with CDs of supplementary materials. Great stuff.)
A tip from Adventures in Library Instruction I’ve started using: writing the class agenda on the whiteboard before class so students know what to expect. I’ve had a couple instances in recent weeks where students have left early (or tried to leave early) because they thought we were done for the day. I listened to the episode where someone on the podcast–can’t remember who–mentioned this trick not long after. It’s also a good strategy for organizing the lesson and helping students understand what they’re going to learn about, sort of a verbal version of the golden rule of essays: “tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.”
Also… does anyone else have the problem of students not communicating their homework troubles at all until the class it’s due? A handful of my students will e-mail me as soon as they hit a problem, but the majority just come to class and say they couldn’t do it because their log-ins didn’t work or they missed class and didn’t know how to do it, etc. etc.
Finally, an unrelated, but interesting note: I have further proof that these kids are not as tech-savvy as we (and they) have been led to believe. This morning a student at my day job asked me to print something that she had e-mailed to herself.
Entry filed under: teaching.