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Let’s Get Together Thursday- Collaborating about Collaborating February 27, 2014

Posted by Brooke Ahrens in Check this out!.
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For several years, my librarian and I have collaborated with freshman English and Religious Studies teachers to help students prepare for their first high school research paper. Students select and and investigate woman of historical significance, and then prepare a research project. The project provides us the opportunity to orient students to the digital and print research resources available in the Learning Commons, where and how to get help doing research, and how to find valid and credible websites.

Previously, our training orientation could be completed in 2 one hour sessions, but then things started to change. We expanded the resources and materials available to students, added more online databases, introduced anti-plagiarism software and online citation and note-taking softwares. We started using Moodle as our LMS to share materials, and incorporated Googles Apps for education. Our students needed training and orientation to all of these new services and softwares, so we added simply added them to our training sessions.

While our trainings changed, but our audience had not. Our students were still freshman, writing their first high school research paper, totally overwhelmed by the assignment and the amount of materials we were presenting. As librarians, teachers and technologists, we had adapted and integrated all of these exciting new tools into our working knowledge over a period of years, so we raced through our orientation sessions, trying to squeeze everything in. But during the trainings, you could feel the engagement of the students drop, and watch their eyes glaze over as they became totally oversaturated with information.

Something had to change, namely our orientation trainings. To solve this dilemma, we collaborated about how to best collaborate to meet our students needs.  Meeting with the English and Religious Studies teachers, we laid out the challenges we observed in our training sessions, and discussed the goals each department had for the research project assignment. Then, as a team, we redesigned how the project was introduced to students, and where and when trainings and orientations would occur to meet these outcomes.

Now, instead having orientation training before the project was assigned, we broke the trainings into several smaller sessions occurring over a period of weeks.  Students now select the woman they will research before our trainings begin, and each training session is focused on only one type of research resource or software. After each training, students have a specific research assignment related to the skill we’ve just introduced, designed to support their final research project.

Teachers were initially concerned because the new training schedule required more of their class time, but have discovered the new trainings have reduced the amount of  class time previously spent reteaching the materials we covered in our rushed orientations. Students now collect and document research materials for their projects in a more methodical and thoughtful process. And best of all, no one looks like they might lose consciousness in the middle of our training orientations!


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