Working backwards, starting with the outcomes, creating the assessment measures, you then create the activities that will help students accomplish the outcomes and complete the assessment measure successfully. When all you have is a 75 minute one shot, you need to think on a very basic, simple level.
There are lots of situations where students could apply deeper skills in searching in their personal lives. Looking up health information, looking up information about a company or business they are applying to, deciding how they stand on a political issue, or going deeper into a current event, such as the police shootings. But how to get students who can only search Google or Bing to expand and grow their skills beyond a simple one-box search? and how to get this to correspond to their assignment – especially when in most classes students choose their own topic?
Other than the obvious, “you have this research assignment to finish” situation, creating a real-life situation for a choose-your-own-topic-research-paper is difficult. I prefer to have students use their own topics to develop and search for, so a situation or simulation is difficult to plan unless you have their topics before hand and create one for each student. Or, I may just have students create their own situation; have them come up with the scenario where they would need this information. Maybe in higher level courses I’ll even have them set the standards.
For the standards in an ENG 111 class, the main learning goal would be to find comprehensive information about their topic. But not a general topic. They’d need to first find some narrowed aspect of their topic to focus on (treatments of health conditions, the effects of droughts on farmers vs city dwellers, the standard operating procedures of traffic stops or a policeman’s right to shoot, etc.) A poor performance would be a student with a broad topic who found one or two websites with much the same information. A better performance would be a student with a specific aspect of a broad topic who found multiple websites that didn’t all say the same thing, including information that may contradict other websites. An exceptional performance would be a student who had specific examples related to their topic to find information on and who found multiple websites and used library databases to find general information as well as studies, theory, or discussions about their topic. (If this sounds like a rubric, you’re right.)
Students can self-assess based on the list of sources and types of sources they found, plus the variety and depth of information retrieved, preferably with notes they take that refer back to their topic and inquiry. (If this sounds like an annotated bibliography, you’re right.) Other opportunities include creating posters detailing and comparing the various understandings to show to their classmates, in easy to read text and layout. The poster would be have to a final project due on another day and need instructor approval.
I chunk the class into developing a topic and searching for sources with the topic development based on a worksheet, which I can monitor and give suggestions as we go. I need to add a space for them to write down one source they found and will use for their topic and assignment, so I can give feedback on that as well. I’ll need to monitor the developing a topic portion of the class, because in the past, I have not left time for much searching on their part.
One idea I want to try is to visit the classroom the class before we meet for library instruction to introduce myself and assign them a video or two to watch (I’ve got a few on developing a topic). The trick is figuring out how to hold them accountable to watching the video – if I give them questions to do outside of class, how do I know they didn’t just copy from someone else? Maybe I should have them brainstorm their topic.