Monday, October 7, 2013

Bringing the flipped classroom to library instruction

I suppose I should start this post with the note that I am by no means an educational pedagogy expert. Nor do I have any hands on experience with 'flipped classrooms.' But then again, if you've read any of my other posts, you know that I've taken my instructional inspiration from way weirder places. So without further adieu, Becky's version of a flipped IL classroom.

The basics of a flipped classroom for those of you unfamiliar with the idea include having students read or listen to the lecture or traditional class content outside of class and spending in-class time working on problem sets or what would traditionally have been homework. In essence, content is introduced outside the classroom walls, and class time is used to reinforce the ideas and concepts learned.

My version grew out of two different places. First, I had an instructor who gave me two full periods with his first-year students concerning his Journal Article Review assignment. He originally thought I'd spend the first hour doing a "basic library overview" and then the second date teaching them more specifically about the assignment. I agreed to the 2-date setup, but I politely reminded the instructor we don't really do a overview tour of the website, but I would find a way to use those class periods productively.

Secondly, I'd been playing around with an idea for while. Just trying to find a place to put it into practice. What if we had the students do the searching outside of class and did the rest of the assignment in class? Because let's be honest, the students are coming in more and more capable of typing words into a search box. Getting them to that point...and beyond that point. That's the issue. Why take precious time in class letting them search?

This assignment was perfect for this approach. It required the students to find a scholarly article and write a critique and review of it. Simple on the surface, but SO many skills and topics incoming students would need help with. After talking with the instructor and my backup in the class (Both sections of this class have approx 30 students.), we decided to split up the instruction this way.

Day 1

We started the day breaking the assignment down and figuring out just what we needed to find. Along the way we realized this 'journal' article might not be the kind of article we were used to, as the assignment talked about study participants, methodology and future implications. So we spent the next portion of the period talking about scholarly articles: what, why, who, and how.  Once we figured out what we needed, we moved on to how we searched for it. This class is a 100-level introduction to a major that has 3 distinct tracts: Sports Marketing, Pre-Professional Health, and Athletic Training. So to both take advantage of and explore that, we brainstormed topics about football. We created a topic web on a piece of paper all branching off the basic topic. Each tract was represented and we talked about how many different ideas and research studies might exist out there. And before we were done...we had a bunch of different keywords ready to dump into SPORTDiscus. This left us with about 10 minutes to demo the database and how to request the full-text.

The Homework

The students' job was to come to the next library session (about 3 weeks away) with a print or digital copy of a scholarly article that fit the criteria of the assignment. That's it. Do the searching. Read the abstract. Request the full-text. And bring it with them.

Day 2

The second day is all about using the article and assisting the students with whatever part of the process they need help on. The class activity to start is the "parts of a scholarly article" activity I've talked about previously. After that, we'll set up 3 "Ask-The-Experts" stations in the classroom. One will be staffed by a library staff worker (who is an MLS student). She'll cover APA citations and formatting as well as any searching as we expect a student or two to come in without an article. I will staff another on how to read a scholarly article and where we will find each piece the assignment requires. And the instructor will cover questions about sports terminology, statistics and graphs, as well as any specific questions about the assignments.

A few of the students in this class are upperclassmen. Part of the goal of this instruction is to meet the students wherever they are at skill and experience-wise. If the students are comfortable or have done this type of assignment before, then they basically have work time. Other students will have the opportunity to ask questions in a less intimidating arena than the reference desk or office hours. And it also empowers the students to recognize the skills they already have and hopefully legitimizes the process of asking questions.

We did the first library session already and it seemed to go pretty well. I've seen a few of the students since asking if they had to do anything now that they had their article. I told them they had 2 choices, just bring it with them to the next library date. Or get ambitious and start reading it to see if they can figure it out before they see me again. The next library date will be Oct 14. I'm excited to see how it goes. 

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