I was not quite sure what to expect, but it turned out to be a great learning experience and conversation starter for our high school level library team. The CSUSM librarians shared about the work that they are doing with college freshman, and what resonated with me is how they approach research instruction by prioritizing mastery of core foundational concepts, which are well summarized by the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) Framework for Information Literacy. While this framework is designed for higher education, I love the ideas and want to infuse them into my own instruction at the high school level.
Below are some key takeaways from the day:
- Focus on mastery of key concepts over specifics - A clear example the CSUSM librarians shared is focusing on the idea of attribution over citation style details. It is not that they don't help students with citation and bibliography questions, but they concentrate on students understanding the importance and purpose of attribution over punctuation and capitalization. Along these lines, they focus on keyword development with searching as opposed to complex Boolean logic.
- Research as inquiry - The point of research is not to find facts, but to generate questions. In helping students recognize knowledge as being dialogic, we must help students recognize and value their own experiences so that they see how they may add value to the dialogue. In doing so, we need to remember that students do not have the same life experience that we have and meet them where they are at.
- Context is everything - We need to get away from binary thinking of labeling information as "good" and "bad." Authority varies based on the value systems of a given community, and the appropriateness of a source must be determined based on the information need and audience. Empowering students to engage in information evaluation and curation also reminded me of the East County Tech Fest keynote, during which Jen Roberts shared a lesson learned that "Information students find themselves is always more engaging."
- Bias is everywhere - "Bias" comes up often when librarians teach about evaluating information sources, but it is actually a very complex, high level concept. The CSUSM librarians advise focusing instead on identifying opinion and perspective. And, if we do talk about bias, we should recognize how bias is everywhere and our work is in seeing it.
- Bust the .gov, .org, .edu schema for authority - Students need to more substantively evaluate resources beyond making unreliable assumptions based on domains. A good starting point is simply being able to identify different types of electronic content. Students may equate all web-based content as alike due to the shared delivery mechanism without differentiating between blog posts, news features, journal articles, etc. They need to start by knowing what they are looking at.
- Question CRAAP - I have used the CRAAP test as a tool with my students, but I appreciated the questioning of this checklist tool in favor of a more holistic approach. One of the CSUSM librarians explained how with CRAAP, students may view the list hierarchically and presume that the "C" for currency is most important when it comes to evaluating information sources even though currency may or may not be a priority depending on the information need. NOTE: This also led to some talk about the information timeline, which is something I haven't touched upon with students, but I think would be of interest.
- Increase time devoted to discovery - It is common that students select topics and jump right into thesis development before they even have adequate contextual knowledge. One way to increase attention to the discovery phase is by giving students requirements to read and cite ten sources, for instance, even though they are only allowed to use two. This reminded me of work an English teacher at my school is currently doing. She has required all of her students to add ten resources per research topic to shared Padlets. They are required to add notes regarding each resource, and then will be dragging-and-dropping sources to group them by sub-topic and also weed out sources. This keeps students from just using the first few sources they find regardless of appropriateness.
Information students find themselves is always more engaging @JenRoberts1 #ectechfest #guhsdtech #tlchat pic.twitter.com/qDrncOy83S— Suzanne Sannwald (@suzannesannwald) February 20, 2016
It was energizing to have a day with my fellow Teacher Librarians engaging in such a high level of discourse. As we debriefed, we shared our excitement regarding how this reframing of our research instruction ties into larger movements toward inquiry-based and discovery learning. We are grateful for having had this professional learning experience today, and we intend to carry the momentum forward into developing curriculum resources to share with classroom teachers at our sites.