I teach at a large, multi-campus community college in an urban area. Community college students run the gamut of age, experience, and ability. Some are here for a two year degree, while many are going to transfer to a four-year college. Some are returning students who have life experience but can not remember much from school. Some are eager to help their peers with technology, others tell me point blank, “I’ve never used a computer before.”
Most classes are in-person, 75 min. one-shot classes at one of the smaller branch campuses; usually intro English and Communication. I am also embedded in fully online classes as well. Either way, the purpose is to introduce students to research and using the library (many have never used a library for research). My overall goal for these classes is to get students to deliberately think about their topic before they start searching, so they have a better idea of what they want to learn/know. This goal help them have a strategy and better idea of what they need to find. I also want them to know the library exists for college level research and get them searching in a library database during class so when they come back to it later, they at least have seen it before.
I have three basic learning outcomes and one additional outcome for the introduction classes I teach (ENG 111 & COM 110). I want students to:
- Brainstorm and focus their topics
- Create keyword strategies (search strings)
- Search at least one library database in class
- Use the citation generator in library databases
I believe these objectives cover all students from those who have never completed a research assignment to those who have experience but not at a college level. I am sure there are a few students who learned this already, but a review is considered practice by cognitive scientists. I also believe these are the bare minimum skills needed to complete a research assignment.
As students fill out the worksheets I walk around the classroom to see how they are doing and give them feedback and suggestions. If I see a common issue or an interesting tidbit, I’ll announce it and explain it to the class. Another assessment measure is an exit ticket where they fill in their topic, keyword strategies, the database(s) they used, and a citation for a source they plan on using for their assignment. They can add their name if they want suggestions. Before they leave, I’ll collect the tickets. This exit ticket aligns with the outcomes by them writing down the keywords they developed from their topic, lists which database they used, and gives a sample citation showing whether they know about the citation generator (including if it was EasyBib).
I’ll use cognitive and behaviorist learning theories to support the outcomes. I use lots of pictures, videos, and diagrams like flow charts and mind maps to appeal visually and help make a concept easier to understand. Plus, pictures mean students are listening to me, not reading from the slide. I include videos to help explain a concept, so I’m not lecturing. The exit ticket is a behaviorist technique because they must stay on task and find a source in order to fill out the sheet (and thus, leave the classroom). By chunking the class into segments, there is a progression to follow and no long stretches for students to get bored. See the latest iteration of my lesson plan (still working on the PPt).
The tools I’ll need include worksheets, videos, and student computers. The videos help break the monotony of the class (and keep me from having to lecture). The worksheets and computers are active learning tools. Students work through their topics to create keyword strategies to use when searching a library database on their own.
The readings have been most enlightening. Part of getting into a new field is finding the right articles to start with, so a recommended reading list from a class simplifies things. I learned a deliberate process for planning a class, and being a bit organization crazed, I appreciate a process. I will always struggle with finding the right pieces. For instance, I find a lot of videos on YouTube to use in classes, but it is hard to find the perfect one. So unless I create the videos myself (no time), it can be tricky to fit them in the lesson plan. And trying to incorporate technology into a class which often has digital non-natives is difficult.
Reading others’ blogs have helped me in two ways. One, I get more ideas about techniques and activities. Two, I see other applications of the theories and concepts we have learned which helps me better understand the theories themselves. Since I like puzzles, I enjoy helping (commenting to) others with questions or problems with my ideas or thoughts. I found myself reading and commenting on these blogs:
Working with community college students, it is hard to work higher level and advanced skills and concepts into a class. Incorporating critical pedagogy when students have never used a library before and still think in black and white is not generally possible. I need to focus on the basic and introductory college library skills. However, sometimes there’s an adult student or that one student who is incredibly bright and asks questions that give you the opportunity to touch on concepts like critical pedagogy. I wonder, however, how many other pedagogies are out there, besides critical. I know of feminist, but that’s a similar technique to critical.