I recently attended the 18th International Learning Conference where papers were presented on a variety of education topics including academic literacy, teaching teams, academic performance of first years, underprepared postgraduates and plagiarism in student writing. Many of these papers were presented by Academic Development Units or similar units including Writing Centres from institutions across the world including South Africa. And in almost every one of these papers, libraries and librarians were not mentioned at all. So, where it was appropriate, as the lone librarian at the conference, I would raise my hand to ask. And would get yes, of course, we worked with the library; we had the librarian come in to run a session on searching databases (but didn’t think it important enough to actually say so in the presentation) . So this set the bees in my bonnet buzzing …. Have always kept an eye on what other academic libraries do for undergraduates, particularly regarding information literacy skills and have come across some interesting ideas - devising of virtual games to teach information skills; personal librarians (new trend) … but none of these satisfied. On occasion, librarians have got themselves embedded in courses - but generally it has been to come in to run a session or two on teaching how to use the resources . But generally, these things seem happen in “splendid isolation”… including here in our own library. Collaborations with campus partners to provide services to undergraduates is the way to go.
SLIDE ONE: COLLABORATIONS & PARTNERSHIP Are collaborations or partnerships taking place between libraries and units like Academic Development Units or Writing Centres? Or are we in parallel universes? Or is the library the Invisible Man? I’m going to focus on Writing Centres, as opposed to Academic Development Units….. We’re all involved in Learner Support Services - but that can mean different things . For librarians, learner support means information skills tuition, and reference services, basically. And Writing Centres provide support for writing . By working in collaboration, the library and the writing centre can treat the research process and the writing process as a seamless whole. Writing and research are so integral to the academic work of students that we shouldn’t be separating them. Undergraduate research question comes out of a specific assignment in a specific class. The ultimate product is the written assignment and students are often not able to work out what they need to do - and especially at undergraduate level, at first year level, they are still learning what is expected of them. There is a switching backwards and forwards between writing and research - think about the cycle - Research, write, read, rewrite, research again and ending with the final version. Students arrange the writing as they invent, invent as they revise and integrate sources as they develop. (Pretty much as I did when preparing this presentation.) We know how difficult academic writing. Those finished products look like they just popped out - but that is not true … various drafts, feedback from different readers, conversations etc from the communities of practice in a particular discipline… Not easy whether we are experienced or not, and I don’t believe that it is any different for undergraduates who are just learning how to do it.
SLIDE TWO: COLLABORATIONS & PARTNERSHIPThe literature points to the trend of convergence - Has been a trend of convergence - writing centres in libraries, librarians in writing centres, writing centre tutors getting research training…. Perhaps the physical placement of the Writing Centre within the library could be considered here, further on down the line
SLIDE 4 WHAT LIBRARIANS AND THE WRITING CENTRE HEAR STUDENTS SAY (From own experience and in the literature) Challenges both face:- Guiding students through the sequence of the writing process (I’ve already written the paper, but I now need some research to back up what I have written)Assisting students who may be uncertain about assignment guidelines (I don’t understand the assignment)Operating under time constraints (need to hand the paper in this afternoon)Empowering students to take charge of their learning (will you edit this for me, or can you give me some sources …. Vending machine mentality)Evaluating souces for quality and preventing plagiarism. (I’ll just cut and paste from Google.) This leads to my proposal…
SLIDE 5: PROPOSALa web-based one-stop customised interactive guide to assist with writing, research, time management and citing sources for undergraduates.
SLIDE 6: PROPOSALOur own research or essay planner. The student chooses from a list of subject areas (or courses) and enters the start and due date of the essay. The planner then generates a series of sequential steps from understanding the assignment, developing a research strategy, finding and evaluating sources etc, with a date range for each step. Links would be given to locally developed guides for each step of the research process and students directed to resources they can use with their research - whether those are from the library or the Writing Centre. It could be very possible to link this tool to VULA.
SLIDE 7 PROPOSALThis planner would place library services in the context of an individual student’s assignment, and the student becomes aware of resources in the library. The “hook” would be providing a student with a customised research timeline with a navigation menu to go through the process of writing the assignment. The time management aspects would enable students to meet deadlines. This would be a way of promoting or teaching information literacy painlessly. There is always a risk that information literacy becomes separate from real-life experiences and contexts. Wisdom is that instruction needs to be embedded into “real” tasks. So teaching information literacy skills by stealth. A way of marketing library resources, painlessly through the links to the resources. The student would also become aware of writing issues such as plagiarism, developing arguments and rewriting drafts. Much of the library content is already available in various forms, either in LibGuides, in the Information Skills Corner, the Handbook on Citation and Related Matters. How well used are these? Probably not as well used as they should be, so this would be a way of repackaging this content. The interface and web design would need to be developed, as would the software and infrastructure. Working together with the Writing Centre, and linking up with the Studying at University: a Guide for First Years, and VULA - we could have a really useful tool. The proposal is based on an existing research tool, called the Assignment Calculator, created by the University of Minnesota Library, and adapted and improved upon by a number of other academic libraries – but no South African institutions as far as I can tell. The next few slides show screen shots from versions produced by some of these institutions .
SLIDE 8: The original research tool on which all of these are based.
SLIDE 9, 10, 11. The Research Paper Navigator from the Ticsch Library @ Tufts University. The Writing Centre and the library successfully applied for a technology grant to customise the original research tool. The library hosts this and is responsible for keeping it up to date. They are in the process of revamping and are consulting students and academics. Students are apparently wanting something more visual while the academics want to link course deadline dates into the calendar.
SLIDE 12: Staffordshire University Library have called their version, the Assignment Survival Kit (ASK). There are additional features to store multiple assignment schedules and get email reminders.
SLIDE 13: University of Arizona Libraries Assignment Scheduler.
SLIDE 14: University of Minnesota’s latest version which is only available to their community through login. They have set up a bank of existing assignments which can be customised by the students.
SLIDE 15: RESOURCE & MANAGEMENT IMPLICATIONSThis would need to be a collaborative project, Project Managed, with different parts of the library including subject librarians and Library IT, the Writing Centre and Centre for Educational Technology forming a team. This could be a candidate for a Teaching with Technology Grant from Centre for Educational Technology. There are challenges that will need be managed very carefully and diplomatically. It will need more than a willingness to collaborate. The ideas in the proprosal are very rough around the edges, and need to be strengthened and tweaked. Successful collaboration lies within the team itself, tapping into the collective wisdom. There needs to be a climate of trust and clear credible leadership that enjoys the confidence and support of stakeholders. And of course, management support is absolutely necessary.
PRESENTATION ON A PROPOSAL FOR AN INNOVATIVE LIBRARY SERVICE TO UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS INGRID THOMSON
COLLABORATIONS & PARTNERSHIPSBETWEEN LIBRARIES AND WRITING CENTRES Part of Learner Support Services. Treat the research process and writing process as a seamless whole. Writing and research integral to the academic work of students.
COLLABORATIONS & PARTNERSHIPSBETWEEN LIBRARIES AND WRITING CENTRES Literature shows trend to Convergence Writing Centres in libraries Librarians in Writing Centres Research Training for Writing Centre tutors
WHAT THE LIBRARIANS AND THE WRITING CENTRE HEAR STUDENTS SAY I’ve written my essay. I Now need some research to back Up what I have written. I don’t understand the Assignment. Will you edit this for me or can you give me some sources? I have to hand this essay in this afternoon. I’ll just google it and cut and paste
THE PROPOSAL A web-based customised interactive guide to assist with writing, research, time management and citing sources for undergraduates.
THE PROPOSAL Student enters the start and due date of the assignment. Chooses from a list of subject areas or courses. The guide generates a series of steps in the writing and research process with a date range for each step. Links to appropriate resources whether from the library or the Writing Centre
THE PROPOSAL Time Management Information Literacy Skills by stealth Marketing Library Resources Awareness of writing issues like plagiarism, developing arguments, and rewriting drafts Much of the library content already available
RESOURCE & MANAGEMENT IMPLICATIONS Needs to be a collaborative project Project Management Partners would include subject librarians, Library IT, Writing Centre, CET Possible Teach with Technology Grant? Teamwork = Successful collaboration = climate of trust + clear credible leadership + collective wisdom + management support