Tips for Planning a Library Experience for Your FYE Class
Make it Relevant
Students will value the library as an educational resource only if their professors place a premium on it from the start. Build library assignments INTO your course, to enrich and extend the content of your class, rather than a means for merely teaching library use. Students need to understand the purpose of the assignment: in relation to the course objectives.
Assume Minimal Knowledge of Library and Research Resources (Despite What Students Tell You)
We see very few students—certainly very few first year students—who are aware of the extent of Tutt holdings. And despite our best efforts and the technological proficiency of the students, the world of electronic resources is not always “self explanatory”
Be Clear in Your Explanation and Expectations
Prohibiting the use of the Web for research, for example, may suggest, in some students’ minds, they cannot use the Library’s online catalog or electronic databases! Students who are told to have (for example) 5 books and 3 periodicals in a bibliography tend to think quite literally. The resources related to each topic are extremely variable. Students will become more concerned with the numbers than choosing the best or more appropriate sources. If you expect your students to use primary sources, be sure your students understand what “primary” means in your discipline or in this instance.
Schedule a Research Workshop in the Library for the Right Reasons and at the Right Time
General introductions to the library, unrelated to an assignment or a course, are boring and the information received quickly forgotten. Students should be aware of their assignment, topic selection, etc. before coming for their session. Students learn best when they have an incentive to do so-a task at hand that makes the workshop meaningful. A simple tour is not an effective introduction to research skills that students need.
Build in Reflection and Critical Thinking
This experience should not be simply a “retrieval” exercise, though the skills needed to locate and find the information are necessary before a student moves to this next level. Students benefit from opportunities to reflect on their research strategies and think critically about what they are doing. Show your students what you look for when you read journal articles or analyze information. Provide opportunities for feedback and reflection throughout the research process. Include a method for evaluating strategies and sources (for example, a research log) as well as readings Grade their bibliographies for quality of sources, balance, etc., not just for style.
- Students know a dictionary definition of plagiarism. Go further and provide examples of proper paraphrase and citation. What was acceptable in high school may be quite different.
- Require early submission of a thesis, multiple peer or instructor responses to drafts, oral presentations of work in progress, etc.
- Design research assignments that do not follow the usual research paper structure and design.
- Require a journal or research log in which students describe successful and unsuccessful research strategies and/or analyze what they learned in the process of completing the assignment.
- Require an annotated bibliography of the sources cited.
Examples Of Specific Assignments
- Focusing on Assignments: Sample block plan research assignments, assessments, contacts
- Tutt Examples: A variety of possible FYE assignments – short or extended.
- First Year Seminar Library Instruction: Project Ideas (Lafayette College): The short library assignments on this web site are worth a look.
- Effective Library Assignments (University of Maryland): This is an adaptation from some unknown original … many versions around.
Selected Comments From Previous FYE Students
- “It was nice to be introduced to the library since I knew nothing about it or how it is organized.”
- “I felt that the library portion of the FYE program was not integrated into the course as well as it could have been.”
- “One session was quite informative to get general lay of the land and to know where to go for more specific info.”
- “I really feel that I learned how to effectively use the library.”
- “I wish I would have had 2 sessions instead of just 1.”
- “Made the library very friendly and inviting.”
- “Extremely valuable.”
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