Good morning. Outreach to high school students.By Jeffery Loo and Lisa Ngo, UC Berkeley Library
Jeff: It’s been 16 years since I was in high school at Burnaby North Secondary in the same school district where two famous Michaels graduated - J. Fox and Buble.
Lisa: As a lady, I’m not going to tell you how long it has been since I was in high school, but I can say that Danny Glover and Maya Angelou are fellow Eagles and graduates of George Washington High.
Despite our distance from adolescence, we came up with a plan to teach high school students from the SHARP program how to use the libraries at Berkeley. SHARP is a high school summer research program coordinated by the Berkeley Nanosciences and Nanoengineering Institute. Local high school juniors apply for the program and spend the summer working in labs in departments in ChemE, LBNL, and MSE.
Our goal was to teach young students completely new to Berkeley about the library using active and problem-based learning - without overwhelming them.
We wanted to reap these potential benefits of active learning1. Students learn by doing …so they can gain practice and get coached for their eventual research assignment. 2. Students solve problems and make discoveries ..because it’s fun and motivating when you figure out how something works. 3. The instructor engages students closely …to build a rapport and to observe students’ progress. This is when teaching can be the most rewarding.
With 50 minutes for the average information literacy class, the time constraint can kill our active learning goals. 1. One challenge is Chaos.Completing activities in a short time period may lead to students moving in different directions and speeds. 2. Another challenge is stress and performance anxiety.Solve a problem in ten minutes in public. This pressure may discourage students. 3. Finally, the temptation of passive instruction.Sometimes we want to efficiently download our knowledge to our students, so it is tempting to just give lectures and demonstrations
We tried to resolve these challenges by following three guidelines. 1. Form a teamWhen students work together in teams, it is a stabilizing force that fights the chaos. They share the workload, motivate one another, and rely on peer instruction.
2. Carefully guide the discovery with worksheets.We had students solve information problems by following worksheets that guided them step by step through the problem-solving process with hints and suggestions that led them to a discovery or conclusion.
3. Help, without showing.To engage with students, we changed our position from lecturer to facilitator. We eliminated lectures and demonstrations to free time for students to complete the exercises and to search databases. As student teams worked, we helicoptered the room to check in with students and to answer any questions. After each exercise, we had group discussions to check that class learning was on track.
Exercises that the students completed: Literature rotation stations: we had 4 tables set up where each table had a different type of scientific literature. students in groups rotated to each station, examined the literature, and used a worksheet to rate each type of literature on how useful it was for locating a specific kind of information. Finding materials: Students then worked in groups to complete 3 exercises that asked them to locate books in OskiCat, find scholarly journal articles on their research topic, and find a piece of data in a handbook. Each exercise walked them through a search process. While the groups were working together, we went from group to group to answer questions and help them only if they were stuck. After each exercise, we had them stop and wait for other groups to finish, and then discussed as a class what they found. At the end they had a step by step worksheet they could reference if they needed to find scholarly literature.
If you’re interested in our approach, check out:1) POGIL - short for process oriented guided inquiry learning - is a formal technique of using worksheets, guided discovery, and discussion for instruction 2) Additionally, check out http://goo.gl/UfNNy for sample information literacy worksheets and lesson plans we used here at Berkeley and at other libraries.
Lisa: What’s your top tip for teaching with our approach? Jeff: Teach less, but teach it well. Active learning takes time, so let go of teaching it all. Having fun working on a few exercises in class may be less overwhelming and may motivate students to self-instruction and to seek librarians for help outside of class.
Jeff: What’s your tip, Lisa? Lisa: Planning the exercises takes a lot of time, but it’s worth it in the long run as you can re-use them in future classes. If you’re worried that letting go of the lecture means that the students will miss something important, incorporate a mini-lecture or tip on the topic (1-2 min.) during an exercise where it’s relevant - students will be more likely to remember it if the tip is not lost in an hour-long lecture.
To summarize our approach, a haiku poem. Motivate through teamsDiscovery through small tasksNo demos/lectures