Monday, March 18, 2013

21st Century Ways to Assign Narratives - Faculty Development

Part of my position is to provide faculty instruction sessions in addition to one-shots and embedded class work with students. This is something I really enjoy because it 1) helps me reach out to faculty beyond those who already regularly utilize library services, 2) allows me to collaborate with the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) here on campus which not only helps me develop as an instructor, it also helps me better understand the needs of the teaching faculty, and I get to hang out with the awesome CETL folks (some of the coolest people on campus), and 3) allows me to “sneak in the vegetables,” so to speak, with the faculty to help them refocus paper & project requirements, and give them ideas of how to better utilize the library resources and to fold in more information literacy components into their assignments and instruction.

This a week ago this past Saturday we had an hour-and-a-half long session discussing 21st century narratives.  We began with a Think-Pair-Share activity which kicked off a great discussion of why faculty assign traditional narratives/research papers, what they require for those papers (i.e. page numbers, citation styles, numbers and types of sources, restricting sources to those written by a nurse, etc.), how the learning objectives are connected to these requirements (or how they’re not connected), and how they assess the papers. We then shifted our thinking to focus on the learning objectives to see how they could be met with an alternate project that isn’t a traditional paper. I would have liked to have seen more of a connection (or a-ha moments) between what professors require of students and the learning objectives met from requiring those things. I think sometimes it can be easy for faculty to attach certain requirements to a paper or project and not connect those to learning objectives: requirements for requirements’ sake instead of making the requirements support learning objectives. During the discussion, attendees were great about sharing what they do and brainstorming new possibilities.

I highlighted alternatives to the traditional paper, starting with the more traditional and then moving to the less familiar options. We discussed:
  • Portfolios (traditional and electronic)
  • Poster Presentations
  • Mini-Conferences
  • Digital Storytelling Videos
  • Infographics
I was very intentional with mentioning things the instructors would have to consider before changing their assignments. Oftentimes people might think “hey that sounds neat--let’s try it” and not realize the shift to a new medium requires them to know what skills are needed and how to approach presenting the content from a new perspective. The considerations I emphasized were:
  • Establish objectives 
  • Consider type(s) of info. students will use
  • Research, visual, personal experience, statistics?
  • How can that information be shared
  • Are you proficient with the technology the students will be using?
That last bullet point may not necessarily be the most important in terms of educational objectives, but if the faculty member doesn’t have the skills to teach their students how to use the technology or answer student questions, it makes it hard for the professor to understand just what types of things can be done with the technology & what type of a time commitment it will be for students to complete their projects. This point allows instructors to establish reasonable expectations for their students’ work.

Below you will find the presentation slides. For each of the mediums there are examples, some guideline rubrics or tutorials, and links to tech tools and other resources. Again, I was really impressed with the level of engagement of those who attended; they were excited to learn new ways to have their students demonstrate knowledge. I even had one faculty member find me on LinkedIn--in her message she said she was having fun exploring the technology tools and even began making her own website using the resources I provided!

What are some ways you encourage faculty to think outside the box to find alternatives to the traditional paper?

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