Students learn library skills best when a library session is tied to an assignment.
As you develop assignments, remember that your consulting librarian is available to assist you in helping your students learn to do research and access information resources.
Let students know the purpose of the assignment. Why are you asking them to do this? What will they learn from completing it?
Be specific. Let students know what you expect to see: how long the paper should be, what sources are acceptable to use, what style you want them to follow (APA, MLA, etc.). Examples or models are very useful for students.
Test the assignment beforehand. Be sure the resources you want them to use are available. Remember that many first-year students are not familiar with how to use an academic library.
Provide examples of scholarly journals. Many students are not familiar with the differences between scholarly research published in peer-reviewed journals, and articles from magazines aimed at a general audience.
Provide students with citations rather than photocopies. If the article you want students to read is available in our collection (print or online) give them the citation and let them experience finding the article for themselves.
Practice the art of scaffolding: breaking down a large assignment into progressive steps that students can climb one at a time. This allows them to build on their experience.
Meet with your librarian early so that you have plenty of time to discuss the goals of your course and the purpose of your assignment. That gives the librarian time to tailor the instructional experience to your students’ needs.
Schedule your library session(s) at a point in semester when your students are ready to learn and can soon use the skills and concepts the librarian is teaching.
Information is best presented in manageable segments of time. Students retain information better in two 45-minute sessions than one 90-minute session, for instance. For tutorial students, a series of short, related writing assignments are recommended over one long paper due at the end of the semester.
Plan the session at a time when you can be present. Your participation indicates the importance you place on the value of the session. It also allows you to see first-hand how students conduct research and what obstacles they encounter.
There are a variety of expressions for a student’s academic research. For examples, please see these sample library research assignments.
How do the students demonstrate what they’ve learned in the library session? Graded research assignments, completed exercises from library sessions, or other methods can demonstrate if students have met your learning goals.
How effective was the library session? Follow up from the librarian with the instructor and/or the students can provide additional assessment information.