What am I doing differently this semester?

So the instruction season is in full swing (I have 5 sessions for three classes this week, and 4 sessions for two classes next week, yikes!) and I’m back from Immersion, so I’m sure you’re waiting with baited breath to find out how Immersion has transformed my information literacy instruction!

Wait, you’re not? Oh.

Well, I’m going to tell you anyway, so there.  What I’m doing this semester is … actually, not all that different from what I was doing before.  Which is kind of depressing and is making me feel rather useless.

Here’s what’s different:

  • I’m writing the learning outcomes up on the board at the beginning of class, and when it’s possible, I leave them there throughout the class period (we don’t have much whiteboard space, so sometimes I have to erase them).  I’d always talked through them at the beginning of class, but having them up there reinforces the structure of the class, and maybe helps address multiple learning styles.
  • I’ve experimented a little bit with asking the students to help me prioritize which learning outcomes to spend the most time on, and which to spend the least time on.  In two cases, I’ve been able to do this ahead of time (not, as I had hoped, via Blackboard, sigh) and in a couple of cases I’ve done it on the fly at the beginning of class.  In one of the cases where I asked them in advance, I got really good information that I’ll use to construct a session on completely different tools and skills than I’d planned to do — the session is next week, so we’ll see how it goes.  In at least one of the cases where I did it on the fly, and the students said, “oh yes, we know how to do this, you don’t have to spend any time on it,” it became apparent later in the session that no, they did NOT know how to do that.  Oops.  I’m not sure what to do about that.
  • I’ve asked students to come up and “drive” the instructor’s computer a couple of times. This has worked out fine but hasn’t felt revolutionary, almost more like a gimmick.  I’m going to keep trying it, though.
  • When I teach search strategy, I use a handout that helps them brainstorm keywords and combine them using AND and OR.  In yesterday’s class, I collected the handouts, and I intend to make comments and suggestions and then return them to the students via the professor.  This both gives the students feedback on their work and an additional contact with me, and also allows me to assess how well they did on the worksheet.  Over time, I hope to develop a rubric for assessing the worksheets and start building a collection of data for assessing their learning.  The only drawback is, I just created a big pile of work for myself: clever, that!

What hasn’t changed:

  • I’m still doing the same blasted “construct a Boolean search; run it in an EBSCO database and sort your results; use the article linker to get full text” lesson plan I’ve been doing over and over and over. And over.  Because it’s what the professor wants.  And it’s what the students need, primarily.  It’s pretty effective, but inevitably I’ll have one or two students in the class who’ve seen me do the same schtick once or twice before, and they’re totally checked out.  And I’ll have anywhere from one or two, to a bunch, of students who really struggle with search strategy, which kind of defeats the purpose of the whole rest of the class, if they can’t construct a coherent search to start with.

I’m really not sure what to do about this situation, or how to get around the Golden Oldie lesson plan that I always get asked to do.  For the assignments our professors give (most of the time), it’s what (most of) our students need.  And until we get some mechanism to provide some baseline IL instruction in their first year or two, we’ll still have students who reach their junior or senior years and still don’t have the first clue how to string more than one keyword together. (Seriously. I taught some seniors, writing their comps, this week, and some of them had a heck of a time with it.)

But I’m going to keep plugging away, trying to do better, and hope that the new General Education program will give me some leverage to work with.

I do hope to be able to do a no-demonstration class in the near future, and I have high hopes for a history senior comps class I’ll be teaching next week (I may even show them OAIster!) and an intro communication class I’ll also be teaching next week.  But the sense that I should, after all that time and energy at Immersion, be doing better than this is very strong.