Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What we Learned from Freshmen

In our last post, Freshman Learning, we described what we learned from ninth grade research feedback. Since then, we've been considering how to to apply what we learned to program improvement.

Here is what we learned from the freshmen in no particular order:
  • Citing sources properly helps students evaluate their sources more critically.
  • Teaching MLA 8 is much easier than teaching MLA 7.
  • When citing sources in MLA 8, online citation generators are not as effective as students think.
  • Students who understand the elements of a citation and the correct sequence of those elements document their research more accurately than those who don't.
  • Our library needs to better promote its online instructional resources.
  • Our students think they would benefit from additional face-to-face instructional time with librarians.
  • Teachers could help make online library instruction more visible.
  • Giving students feedback on first drafts and all subsequent revisions improves learning outcomes by nearly 25 percent.
  • Librarians and faculty can work together to assess student bibliographies.
We have long held that online citation generators free up librarians to focus on teaching the higher-order thinking skills required for inquiry, close reading, and publication. We assumed that teaching citation formatting was a misallocation of instructional time. After all, there were low-cost tools available to facilitate that task. But feedback from our students taught us something we had not considered. Online citation generators are to student researchers what swimming pool floaties are to toddlers: They give learners the false impression that they can do it (swim/cite) independently, but they do not teach them how. Dependence on the tool impedes skill mastery.

Is citation mastery critical? Probably not, but it is valuable to achieving other critical ends - namely resource evaluation. By determining how to align all nine elements of an MLA 8 citation with each consulted resource, students are challenged to evaluate those sources more critically. This supports learners with their embedded references as well.

We are now teaching students how to build citations from the ground up. It is unlikely we would have tackled this with MLA 7, but MLA 8, which was released in April 2016, makes it a whole lot easier because the elements and their sequence do not vary, regardless of the source format.

Last spring, we created an MLA 8 slide show to introduce teachers to the new guidelines. Lately, we've been working on instructional materials for students. We are warehousing them in this webpage, which is part of what will become the new THE ANNEX@ once we sunset the existing one.

The basic slide show:


The narrated abridged slide show in video format:


Using student inquiries - those "How do I cite...?" queries from the library's text messaging service - we are building a works consulted exemplar. Where need arises (and time permits) we offer a QR code and a shortened link to an image explaining the citation in detail, element by element.

Screenshot of document
One of the QR codes from above
Example of what a QR code links to

These resources were built to help students learn and will continue to evolve in response to student needs.

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