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.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Power of the Exit Ticket

Leading into final exams, many freshmen prepared for a speech on a controversial issue. It was a fairly simple assignment: read an entire non-fiction book, research using three sources (newspaper, video, and a website) to better understand the issue addressed in the book, document research, outline and give a speech. Texts included:
Librarians worked with each class for 4 days:

Day 1 - Support students with research
We visited classes and helped individual students as needed. The teacher assigned very specific resources down to the newspaper publication name (New York Times), so many students were able to find what they were looking for, but a few groups, those who read Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai UndercityEscape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West, and Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal, struggled to find newspaper their articles and videos.
Day 2 - Teaching students how to cite sources
We paused this three part lesson (below) after each section to help individual students cite each resource type (newspaper, video, and a website). For homework, students finalized the works cited they had nearly completed during the lesson. They submitted their works cited drafts the next day. We met with the classroom teacher to review and calibrate our feedback on a few sample assignments, and then we (librarians) reviewed all the students work and gave them feedback. We did this with hard copies, which I found difficult because we tend to visit the sites students cite and doing  without hyperlinks on which to click was impractical. In the future, we will ask for Google Docs submissions.



Days 3 and 4 - Revisions, revisions, and more revisions
Once the drafts with comments were returned to students, the revision process began. It took two days of revisions, working one-on-one with individual students before their were able to submit correct final drafts. For some students, this meant generating as many as nine drafts.

Unless they are annotated, works cited lists and bibliographies are assessed in three areas:

  • resource selection,
  • page layout
  • citation format. 
Here is the rubric. The revision process was rigorous as students were asked to obtain librarian approval before submitting their final drafts. In looking at the revision history for each works cited in Google Docs, we noted that 40% of the students revised their drafts once or twice and 26% revised them five or more times. Through the revision process, students brought up their grade by an average of 24 percent.

In an exit ticket, students rated the value of NCHS library services. While the majority of students found all our services helpful, face-to-face lessons and one-on-one help rated the highest.


To what extent were these library services helpful?
Twenty-two percent of open-ended question respondents said they would have benefitted from more time with librarians. Forty percent used the word “helpful” to describe the librarians in their narrative. Another 22% said they would have benefitted from more detailed instruction. While 89% said that they would rather correct flawed EasyBib citations than create them from scratch, we also had feedback suggesting that  students wanted to know more about citing sources:
  • I did not understand how to write citations very well after I wrote them.
  • I just corrected what the librarians told me to correct.
  • Would have been beneficial for you to explain in more detail the order of things within our citations.
  • Explaining why the citations need to be so specific would probably helpful.


To what extent did these impact  my learning?
There was one glaring gap for us. Only 57% of respondents said THE ANNEX@ was helpful (lowest ranking of all library services) and yet 16% of respondents said our instruction would be enhanced if we provided online access to our lessons. All our lessons are posted on THE ANNEX@, including those we presented in class for this project. A related suggestion urged teachers to remind kids about library services. One student advised us to facilitate format-based mini workshops (e.g., newspaper articles, websites, videos) for students who needed help on specific citations.