Sunday, October 5, 2008

Better Pedagogy

Did I mention that I am taking three classes this semester? Met my family a few days ago and needed introductions. Talked to my Dad on the phone and commented on the amount of content output we had to create in this program as compared to the graduate programs he used to take. Not sure if it is the fact that our focus is information literacy or if this is how graduate school is taught today.

Focus this week in another class was how to teach an information literacy lesson that connects with the students, fostering “creative, reflective, and critical habits.” After reading Heidi Jacobs article, “Information and Reflective Pedagogical Praxis” (2008), it is apparent that many of us revert to a forced or “banking model” of education instead of striving for a more constructionist or conversational method.

To interest students in information literacy, we must first forget the theoretical. Many students tend to be disinterested outside of preferred topics (e.g. sports) or ones they see as threats against their personal interests or liberties (e.g. dress code). To implement an effective lesson, we must first engage students. Perhaps a conversation about past searches for information would work as an icebreaker for a lesson on search strategies. This conversation would also act as an assessment tool regarding current levels of expertise and a starting point for the lesson.

Instead of preaching the benefits of database research, perhaps the lesson should begin with discussion about acceptable and unacceptable sources for various types of information from an assortment of print sources displayed in the class – various magazines, journals, newspapers, phone books, encyclopedias, non-fiction and fiction books, student term papers, yearbooks, etc. As the group analyzes these sources in the real world, they may develop a greater understanding of sources in the virtual world.

The lesson could continue with group development of search strategies to find information students had struggled with in the past. By involving the group, discovery of alternate keywords might grow almost like a game instead of an individual drudgery. Discussing and having students demonstrate databases that they use regularly may eliminate some of the confusion and frustration regarding leased databases. Students seem to be well aware of TVGuide, imdb, Amazon, imeem,,, WhitePages, and others.

So many librarians focus on the mechanics – how to use a database. The majority of students will figure the mechanics out very quickly if we can convince them that the answers to the question can be found more easily here than on the web. This lesson needs to be the focus of our “instruction”.

Concluding with a game of stump-the-librarian may be helpful in reinforcing successful strategies. Rules could allow group or individual work by students, students and librarian choosing topics alternately, and winners based upon group evaluation of source quality.

Jacobs, H.L.M. (2008, May). Information and Reflective Pedagogical Praxis. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 34, 256-262.

No comments: