As usual, not long after a long post summarizing summer readings, I learn about one other interesting article or presentation. This topic is too rarely covered in more general information literary/teaching librarian conferences. I mixed in a few observations of my own, but hopefully not too much.
Being ‘In The Room Where It Happens:’ Supporting Information Needs of Students in Experiential Learning Programs
By Angela Horne (UCLA) and Corey Seeman (Michigan)
Leaders of Experiential Project-Based Education Conference 2016 (June 22)
- Information Needs of Business Students (Case Method vs. Experiential Learning Method)
- Library Support for Experiential Learning
- Working with teams (for librarians)
- Administrative Issues (for the library)
- Collection Issues
- Closing Thoughts
Angela and Corey provided mini-cases to the participants in order “to frame the discussion and get people thinking about information needs.” Interesting approach! — especially since this program compared students’ research needs for case study pedagogy versus experiential learning projects.
A case usually provides all the information a student team needs, and provide a controlled situation with an official “answer”.
In contrast to the passive information environment of cases, experiential learning requires active information gathering, the needs for which often evolve as the project develops. Both primary and secondary research is usually necessary. The complex research needs of these student teams can be challenging for business librarians to handle, especially for solo business librarians (like me).
Angela and Corey discussed how the librarians at their libraries consulted and communicated with their experiential learning student teams. Some observations:
- “Information ambiguity is a common issue in most experiential learning projects we support”. [Also sometimes unanswerable questions!]
- Since the research needs of teams in the same class can be very different, a one-shot instruction session isn’t really useful. Instead, librarians should provide an introduction session and then later have consultations with teams on their specific needs [my interpretation of slides 30-31].
- In some classes [at Michigan, I think], the librarians get 30 minutes with each team at the beginning of the project. [This is a neat, very specific form of embeddedness, different from my co-teaching roles in which I’m in class most days but have to try to schedule team meetings outside of class, schedules permitting. Sometimes a team ends up with a “Cramer liaison” who becomes my official, solo in-person communication channel to a team].
Angela and Corey next provide interesting examples of research questions from teams. When a project needs to change direction is where the close connection with the librarian really pays off. Then the student teams really benefit from having the librarian “in the room where it happens.” Both UCLA and Michigan have surveyed student teams at the end of the semester and received student testimonials on the value of their librarian team member.
There’s a slide about potential licensing issues of using subscription databases on experiential projects.
And there is a short discussion about workloads and balancing time devoted to these experiential learning students versus those with more general, academic needs. This gets at the common and important topic of the sustainability of types of embedded work and also the value of that work. Corey notes:
“At Michigan, we have 440 students in MAP [Multidisciplinary Action Projects] (out of around 3000), but they take up the majority of time.”
Likewise, I spend much time with ENT 300 and MKT 426, both centered on experiential learning and required with their majors. That work leaves me with less time to be available in the library for random, walk-in questions from other classes. But I have always argued that the high value of my heavy involvement in those research-intensive classes justifies the time commitment, and my local library leaders have agreed. There have been a number of positive spin-offs and publicity resulting from that work (recent example).
Angela and Corey conclude that
“librarians always want to figure out how their work connects with students. This is the room where it happens – and is the best way to demonstrate and provide value to the enterprise.”
One of the PDF file provided at https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/handle/2027.42/120937 includes a short list of additional readings, including an upcoming book about experiential learning.