The information laboratory

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Presentation at the NOLA ILC Forum 2013 about a successful collaboration with a sociology professor using library materials to enhance and reinforce a lesson on content analysis research methods. The session included a homework assignment to refresh past skills, discussion of scholarly uses of content analysis in the published literature, and a hands-on experience applying content analysis to selected "analog" (i.e. print) information sources at the library. This approach could be adapted to a range of information literacy learning objectives, especially those involving the use of primary source materials in libraries and archives.

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  • This was the start of a conversation about changing a library session for a section of SOCI 3030, Research Design.Within an established sequence of ILI in the sociology major, this is the second course in the sequence, and students see the librarian twice in this course: Early in the semester to talk about literature reviews, locate and evaluate the lit review in published articles, and learn to do citation searching as one technique to help build their own and see the communicative nature of scholarly publishing.Later in the semester, using U.S. Census data to ask sociological questions, focusing on evaluating quantitative data, secondary data analysis issues.The professor, a fan of qualitative data and methods, wanted to changes the second visit from the Census and quantitative data to “archival” materials for qualitative research.
  • During the back-and-forth e-mails with the professor to learn more about what she wanted and expected, I went to the literature. Not the library literature, but the sociology literature to learn more about how sociologists employ content analysis methodology.Also, the journal Teaching Sociology is a must for any liaison to sociology or social science disciplines to learn how professors teach their subject, and consider where the library fits into their teaching. (Remember the professor’s learning goals are more important than your ACRL standards or awesome library collections).If you haven’t already, find a similar journal on teaching and learning for your subject area.
  • These are just a few examples of articles in Teaching Sociology that describe and discuss professors teaching students how to do content analysis with active learning. Note the range of “content” students engaged in just this small sample: photographs, media representation of criminals and trials, film, and personal ads.
  • I also drew on my experience working with students in need of primary source materials. History students ask me for databases with primary sources for their papers, international development (grad) students ask me for data sets for their quantitative methods course. Most think finding and using primary sources is the same as secondary – find a database, enter a few keywords, and voilà!The ACRL standards give this impression as well in their ordering: Define need (know what you’re looking for)Locate informationEvaluate informationUse informationBe ethicalFor primary sources, this is almost entirely backwards. Ethics come first, especially for sociologists working with human subjects. IRB! Knowing the concepts of how to use primary source material (i.e. methods) is prerequisite to independent research and data collection.
  • Lev VygotskyZone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is the “distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problems solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers” (Vygotsky 1978:86).In other words…What they can do on their own (existing skill/knowledge) and what they can accomplish with help (potential skill/knowledge).Sam WineburgWhen it comes to primary sources, primarily texts, what can students do? Often students read texts for basic comprehension and retention, like they would to prepare for a test, perform on SAT exam questions, or write a high-school level paper. This is not how disciplinary experts read texts, looking for author intention, audience reaction, context, conscious and unconscious subtexts (Wineburg 2001: 68-9). Refers again to the history students and IDEV students who want to find primary source data by topic/keyword as they would secondary sources, without recognizing primary sources require a different approach and use method.Jerome BrunerSo if reading comprehension is where students are now (actual developmental level), and we need to get them to read in a critical, methodological way as defined by their discipline of study (potential developmental level), how do we get there?Bruner uses the metaphor of scaffolding to cross Vygotsky’s ZPD. The expert guides the novice through a sequence of exercises, gradually shifting from high levels of expert guidance to greater student independence.
  • Lev VygotskyZone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is the “distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problems solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers” (Vygotsky 1978:86).In other words, what they can do on their own (existing skill/knowledge) and what they can accomplish with help (potential skill/knowledge).Acquiring new concepts is socially constructed. “An interpersonal process is transformed into an intrapersonal one. Every function in the child’s psychological development appears twice: first, between people (interpsychological), and then inside the child (intrapsychological)….All higher functions originate as actual relations between human individuals” (Vygostsky 1978:57).
  • Sam WineburgWhen it comes to primary sources, primarily texts, what can students do? Often students read texts for basic comprehension and retention, like they would to prepare for a test, perform on SAT exam questions, or write a high-school level paper. This is not how disciplinary experts read texts, looking for author intention, audience reaction, context, conscious and unconscious subtexts (Wineburg 2001: 68-9). Refers again to the history students and IDEV students who want to find primary source data by topic/keyword as they would secondary sources, without recognizing primary sources require a different approach and use method.The professor and I have also seen this phenomena with students use of secondary sources. They excel at reading a scholarly article for basic understanding (what was the study, what were the findings), but don’t always grasp the communicative properties of publishing, where scholars respond (and often disagree) with one another through the literature review, and by seeing the broader conceptual, theoretical value of an particular study.
  • Jerome BrunerWhat can the instructor do to help bridge the ZPD, to bring basic comprehension readers toward expert content analysis reading?Bruner uses the metaphor of scaffolding to cross Vygotsky’s ZPD. The expert guides the novice through a sequence of exercises, gradually shifting from high levels of expert guidance to greater student independence. Requires deconstructing the experts conceptual knowledge into discrete parts, deploying teaching methods that stay ahead of students’ existing level of development, but not too far so as to allow incremental growth, avoid frustration.Reducing the degrees of freedom by presenting tasks/concepts in digestible pieces before moving on to the next/larger concept.Keep in mind that scaffolding is what the teacher does, not what the learner is asked to do. For example, breaking down a research paper assignment into smaller assignments (thesis statement, annotated bibliography, rough draft, final draft) is not true scaffolding since it relies on the students’ individual, existing conceptual development, and essentially assumes the students could write the final product all along. True scaffolding in this instance would involve the teacher recognizing the ZPD for thesis statement formulation, which requires an understanding of existing scholarship, the communicative nature of scholarship, the realm of possible topic-method pairs appropriate to the discipline, and the availability of data that can be deployed in pursuit of such a topic-method pairing. Thesis statement may not be the place to start after all!
  • Modeling (notice mini-scaffolding within the modeling component)Students read textbook chapter about content analysis, and an article representative of the method in use by a sociologist.Students receive lecture and discuss readings in class with professor.Homework: Students locate and read a published journal article in which content analysis methodology is used.At the LibraryClass Discussion (Moderated by librarian)Librarian asks how students found their articles (review of how to search Sociological Abstracts). Particularly interested if students went beyond the given instructions (put “content analysis” in the Abstract field) by adding additional keywords, limiting by date, other facets).2. Librarian invites students to describe the study they read, identifying what was the content used (primary source materials), and what sociological question did the author address. Also, was the author’s interpretation convincing/successful?3. Librarian makes a running lists of types of content and types of research questions while students contribute, providing commentary and follow-up questions as appropriate.Group WorkStudents are divided into groups and given “content” selected from the library’s print collections. (Reduction in degrees of freedom = take away the task of identifying need, finding sources to focus on what kinds of sources are suitable, and how to apply the method) Children’s books, Life magazines from 1950s, U.S. history textbooks from 1980s & 1990s, Published song lyrics.Photography magazine (American Photo)Librarian & Professor circulate to keep groups on task, ask probing questions, etc.Groups describe their content, a sociological research question relevant to the content, and their proposed means of applying content analysis methodology.Exam1. Professor asks questions on midterm relating to content analysis methodology, giving students the chance to demonstrate individually their understanding of the method and its application.
  • Initial feedbackMet professor’s expectation of students working with “archival materials.”Got the “fun factor.”Initial assessment is that students “got it.”End-of-term feedbackFormal assessment (post-session discussion; exam questions) show students learned methodology and how to work with these data sources.Professor inspired to adopt and extend active learning techniques in her teaching.
  • The ACRL IL standards are backwards when dealing with primary sources. Articulating the what (need) and the where (access) of appropriate primary materials is the more advanced skill, better placed after one learns the ethics and disciplinary methods (evaluate, use) to utilize. Keep this in mind when working one-on-one, and when lesson planning with professors.Envision the archive in the life of the user, not the user visiting the archive. Eschew show-and-tell of great collections in favor of deeper understanding and use of a “data set” that’s relevant to their need methodologically. Students are not visiting expert researchers.
  • The information laboratory

    1. 1. Using Active Learning to Enhance Classroom Objectives THE INFORMATION LABORATORY Adam Beauchamp Howard-Tilton Memorial Library Tulane University NOLA Information Literacy Forum 2013
    2. 2. “I AM HOPING TO GET THEM TO THINK ABOUT USING ARCHIVAL MATERIALS.”
    3. 3. Sociological Abstracts (database): 7,003 abstracts include “content analysis” Teaching Sociology (journal): 30 abstracts include “content analysis” WHAT DOES SHE MEAN, ARCHIVAL? “Content analysis is a research technique for making replicable and valid inferences from texts (or other meaningful matter) to the context of their use” (Krippendorff 2010:234).
    4. 4. CONTENT ANALYSIS IN TEACHING SOCIOLOGY Eisen, Daniel B. 2012. "Developing a Critical Lens: Using Photography to Teach Sociology and Create Critical Thinkers." Teaching Sociology 40(4):349-359. Finley, Laura L. 2004. "Using Content Analysis Projects in the Introduction to Criminal Justice Classroom." Teaching Sociology 32(1):129-137. Messinger, Adam M. 2012. "Teaching Content Analysis through Harry Potter." Teaching Sociology 40(4):360-367. Rushing, Beth and Idee Winfield. 1999. "Learning about Sampling and Measurement by Doing Content Analysis of Personal Advertisements." Teaching Sociology 27(2):159-166.
    5. 5. My Experience Students ask for help to find primary sources…, but don‟t always know how to use what they find. History – primary sources Int‟l Dev. – data sets ACRL Standards Need Access Evaluate Use Be ethical This order better suited to secondary sources. WHAT DO I KNOW ABOUT THIS? The “content” in content analysis = primary source materials
    6. 6.  Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) (Vygotsky)  Experts v. Novices with primary sources (Wineburg)  Scaffolding (Bruner) PEDAGOGY
    7. 7. ZONE OF PROXIMAL DEVELOPMENT (ZPD) Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934)  Distance between what can be done independently, and what can be done with guidance  Concept development (scientific knowledge) is first on the social level, and second on the individual level
    8. 8.  Experts & Novices  Students read for basic comprehension, acquire facts  Experts employ more critical reading of texts  Author, Audience, Context, Subtext READING PRIMARY SOURCES Sam Wineburg Stanford University
    9. 9.  Relationship between expert and novice in the process of acquiring new skills  Expert creates “reduction in degrees of freedom”  Break down into steps  Focus on one task/concept at a time  Sequence of active learning methods SCAFFOLDING Jerome S. Bruner (1915 -)
    10. 10. SCAFFOLDING Modeling Class Discussion Group Exercise Exam The Information Lab (at the library)
    11. 11.  Modeling  Do students engage during in-class lecture?  Do students demonstrate understanding of the readings (textbook, assigned article, and independently discovered article)?  Class Discussion  Did students find studies that use content analysis?  Can students identify types of content, relevant sociological questions, and evaluate the success of the study?  Group Exercise  Did groups come up with viable research designs using content analysis methodology on their sample “texts”?  Could groups answer questions about their proposals? ASSESSMENT
    12. 12. FEEDBACK “I think it went really well ... I really think students „get it‟ when they do something hands-on, and the wide range of materials you picked was fun and creative.” Post-session, 3/6/2013 “Based on their exam performance and in-class discussion following the content analysis exercise, this group of students definitely understood what it took for them to use these data for research. It has inspired me to do more hands-on exercises in class on other topics in the future.” End of semester, 5/8/2013
    13. 13. For situations involving primary sources:  Make sure students know how to use before you ask them to find.  Highlighting unique and interesting collections is secondary to teaching students how to use them.  Restrict degrees of freedom. Less is more for the novice researcher, so limiting # of decisions/tasks can help focus on the important ones.  Think about ways to apply this to other disciplines in both class instruction and one-on-one research help. TAKE AWAYS
    14. 14. Adam Beauchamp Research & Instruction Librarian (Social Sciences) Howard-Tilton Memorial Library Tulane University abeaucha@tulane.edu http://libguides.tulane.edu/soci3030
    15. 15. WORKS CITED Krippendorf, Klaus. 2010. “Content Analysis.” Pp. 234-39 in Encyclopedia of Research Design, edited by Neil J. Salkind. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. Vygotsky, Lev. 1978. Mind in Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Winburg, Sam. 2001. Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. Wood, David, Jerome S. Bruner, and Gail Ross. 1976. “The Role of Tutoring in Problem Solving.” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 17(1):89-100.

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