The NCLA biennial conference wrapped up yesterday and today (a Saturday) I’m back at work staffing the reference desk on the first day of fall break. So a quiet day. A finance student just asked for help finding industry reports.
BLINC was busy at the conference. All eight of our programs had at decent attendance and were (in my admittedly prejudiced opinion) interesting and well-presented. We’ll try to get the program documents uploaded to the BLINC web site soon. We also had an entertaining BLINC dinner sponsored by InfoGroup/ReferenceUSA and Geographic Research/SimplyMap (thanks again, David and Steven) that began at 7 and didn’t wrap up until 10:30. Yikes! Now Mary Scanlon from Wake Forest University is the chair of the group. I know she and the other new officers, Leslie Farison from ASU and Sara Thynne from Alamance County Public, will provide excellent leadership for us.
Late September was my peak time for research instruction, and with those classes and the conference wrapped up, I finally have time to update the blog.
My most interesting new adventure last month was guest-teaching Economics 202, Principles of Microeconomics. Professor Leyden was going to be at a conference and asked if I would like to have his two sections of Eco 202 to do some information literacy work.
Every year I guest teach for CRS 231 a couple of times (active learning on the basics of company research and a discussion on plagiarism with scenarios). That introductory class for CARS usually has between 80-99 students, and it took me a couple of tries to come up with teaching strategies that work well for that many students. But teaching hands-on information literacy to 149 kids at once would be a record for me (and for anyone in my library, too, it seemed).
So would I like to teach those sections of Eco 202 for a week? I said “sure.” Challenges are good, and I have never done much teaching for Economics (unlike for CARS, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, and Management). But I decided that I would like to have two hours with each section, so the morning class would get its Friday off.
Professor Leyden’s learning goals for his Eco 202 sections include a strong emphasis on critical thinking; he has written a book about this which the students use. So he asked me to focus on critical thinking/information literacy, library tools for finding articles (databases and Journal Finder), and APA style. I created two required out-of-class assignments (among 19 total), the second of which I finally finished grading this morning.
Given the size of the morning class, I asked two of my sharp and outgoing colleagues, Amy Harris and Lynda Kellam, to assist. (Did they also agree to come along to see what kind of trouble I would get into trying to do a hands-on workshop for 149 students in a large, steep lecture hall? I would have, were I in their shoes!)
For the most part I ended up roaming up and down the steps leading the discussion while Lynda (Monday) or Amy (Wednesday) ran the students’ suggested searches at the computer station. (That computer is 15 feet below the bottom of the big screen — a very different situation from computers classrooms where if you stand in the front center, the projector shines right in your face.) Then we both wandered around when students worked on in-class worksheets in small groups. The students used their laptops, tablets, and iPhones. Every seat in this new lecture hall has its own outlet.
The Monday session seems to go well. Most of the students participated in the in-class assignment, and there was a critical mass of engaged students to keep the discussion moving along. But the Wednesday class has reduced attendance and the students weren’t quite as engaged, it seemed. I ended up really tired after both sessions! Roaming around steep lecture halls and projecting your voice must be a great way to burn calories.
However, I was pleased with what I saw in the two required assignments. The first one focused on searching, including how to turn fairly complex topics like “Carbon taxes and emissions trading are effective market strategies to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and limit climate change” into an effective EconLit/Business Source Premier search, but also required students to identify one normative (point of view) article and one positive (no point of view) article. The second assignment required the students to find two particular articles (a signed article from the Economist and a scholarly article) and determine if each was normative or positive (not a clear cut distinction in either case), cite the article in APA, find three other articles by the same author, and learn about the authors’ credentials. That last step tripped up about a fifth of the students: there is a journalist with the same name as the professor who wrote the article.
The evening class was fine, certainly a more intimate and casual affair. The other classes I had that week had 30-40 students, so 48 wasn’t much different. We finished up a little before 8pm (they did my first required assignment in class halfway through) and I let them go home early as planned.
So if asked, would I teach another active-learning information literacy workshop to a big group in a big lecture hall? Hmmm. Maybe. I teach one-shot curriculum-integrated research instruction for BUS 105 and MGT 309, classes required of all the majors in the business school at the freshmen and junior levels (respectively). But not all business majors have picked their major in their first year and therefore some never have to take BUS 105. Other opportunities to reach younger students are usually worth pursuing, as long as the teaching situations are workable.