Take Five: Using Documentary Film in Information Literacy Instruction

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In a for-credit elective information literacy course it is often difficult to keep the material both engaging for the students and exciting for the instructors while still keeping the course …

In a for-credit elective information literacy course it is often difficult to keep the material both engaging for the students and exciting for the instructors while still keeping the course objectives in sight. In an effort to make some changes to their LIB100 class, instructors at Wake Forest University introduced documentary films as the content around which the course and the assignments were built. Films on a variety of contemporary topics were chosen: Food, Inc., The Union: The Business Behind Getting High, Maxed Out and Big Bucks, Big Pharma. The students were divided into groups to work on a final presentation on one aspect of their film and examples from the films were used to illustrate various points over the course of the class. Additionally, a short documentary on the drinking age was shown to the class and formed the basis of examples and demonstrations by the instructors. The design, implementation and outcome of the course will be discussed including ideas for others interested in using film and lots of lessons learned.

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  • 1. Take Five: Using Documentary Film in Information Literacy Instruction
    Rosalind Tedford Asst. Director for Research & Instruction
    Molly KeenerScholarly Communication Librarian 
    Z. Smith Reynolds Library
    Wake Forest University
  • 2. About WFU
    • Liberal Arts University
    • 3. 4500+ undergraduates
    • 4. 7000+ including graduate students 
    • 5. 475+ Full-time faculty
    • 6. 11:1 Student:Faculty Ratio
  • ZSR Library
    • 1.4 million+ volumes
    • 7. 52 Library Staff
    • 8. 28 Library Faculty and 24 Support Staff
    • 9. Open 24/5
  • Information Literacy For-Credit Class
    • 1-credit elective half-semester class
    • 10. Began in 2003
    • 11. Currently 11 or 12 sections per semester
    • 12. 15 students per class
    • 13. 23 Library faculty instructors from all library departments
    • Subject-specific versions
    • 14. Social Science, Business & Accountancy, Humanities, and Science sections 
    • 15. 2 or 3 sections a semester
  • Why Documentaries?
    • Desire for change
    • 16. WFU absorbing Center for Documentary Studies
    • 17. Student engagement 
    • 18. Contemporary issues
  • 19. Which Documentaries?
    The Drinking Age (in-class example)
    Big Bucks, Big Pharma
    Food, Inc.
    Maxed Out
    The Union: The Business Behind Getting High
  • 20. How we used the films
    • Drinking Age was shown as class example
    • 21. Groups formed around other four films
    • 22. Groups picked research questions out of film content
    • 23. Assignments geared toward finding resources to answer questions
    • 24. Context (Background) Information
    • 25. Scholarly Books and Journals
    • 26. Stakeholders
    • 27. Final projects were group presentations
    • 28. All students had to watch all films before final presentations
  • 29. Final Presentation Requirements
    Your research question and how you arrived at it.
    Some background about the filmmakers.
    A background of the issue at hand -- NOT a recap of the film.
    A description of the scholarly research on your issue.
    A summary of the sides of your issue. What are the primary arguments made in the debate about your topic?
    A discussion of the stakeholders surrounding your issue and how they impact the debate and discussion.
    The challenges you encountered when researching your issue.
    End with a question that will begin discussion among your classmates.
  • 30. Lessons Learned
    • (Al)most everyone wanted to do the one on marijuana! 
    • 31. Didn't always connect that their assignments should focus on research question, not just general topic/focus of film
    • 32. Selecting films available online helpful
    • 33. Too many films for 6 week class - in future will focus on single film 
    • 34. Need to bring back clips into class to make point 
    • 35. Individual projects might have worked better 
  • Student Feedback
    "...the films were a crucial part of class that really made the final projects interesting."
    "I enjoyed using documentary films in this class. Not only did I learn a large amount of information form watching them, but I found them to be very interesting and insightful."
    "I really enjoyed watching the films. They were very educational and made you think because they try and present the whole issue from a non biased point of view. I have been recommending the films to friends..."
    "I like the idea of the use of documentary films in the class. I did like the films, and they were worthwhile. I would not recommend using them again because classes are always more fun if there is new territory being explored."
    "I liked the films, I just think it would have been better to just watch the film we presented on and then learned about the other films through the presentations."
  • 36. Next Steps
    • Social Science Research Sources and Strategies Class Spring 2011
    • 37. Will use The Union as the ‘text’ for the class
    • 38. Will look at the issue from all of the Social Science perspectives
    • 39. Will keep an eye out for a good documentary on the drinking age
    • 40. Will consider using again in LIB100 but with a single film
  • Thank You!
    Rosalind Tedford: tedforrl@wfu.edu
    Molly Keener: keenerm@wfu.edu