In Spring 2016, Healey Library and the English department collaborated to design an assessment study focusing on students enrolled in ENGL 102. Librarians and faculty worked together to develop learning outcomes, instructional materials, and data collection instruments (pre-test, post-test, rubric). Our learning outcomes were that after research instruction, students would be able to:
- explain the difference between Googling and academic research
- apply subject-appropriate vocabulary to brainstorm keywords and find books and articles
- revise their research questions and search strategies according to what they discover and synthesize across multiple sources of information
In January, English department chair Cheryl Nixon described our study in a meeting with Composition faculty. Ultimately, we had 10 participating faculty and 24 ENGL 102 sections:
- 320 students attended research instruction delivered by their professor and/or librarians
- 281 pre-tests were collected
- 222 booklets were collected from students that attended research instruction sessions
- 250 post-tests were collected
There are no results to report yet, as we are just beginning to analyze the data we gathered. However, I can share some lessons learned:
- Put together a large team with diverse strengths, and delegate accordingly.
- Collaborating is time- and labor-intensive, but an extremely fruitful endeavor. Getting buy-in from participating ENGL 102 professors was probably made easier because we worked so closely together. In fact, we heard from more than one professor that they were impressed with how much reflection was built into the lesson!
- While your study may change drastically over time, it still helps to have a research design document that is updated as needed.
- Don’t try to assess too many learning outcomes at once! We only had 3, which still resulted in a lesson plan that packed too many things into too little time and a booklet that the majority of students had difficulty completing in class.
- If you show students how to email articles to themselves, they will not necessarily want to write down the articles’ bibliographic information.
- Don’t be afraid to deviate from the original plan to address more immediate needs, if that’s what’s needed.
- Recruit more participants than you think you’ll need; also, try to recruit participants even if they didn’t initially indicate interest in the study – at worst, you’ll hear “no.”
- Just remind yourself if you feel like you’re lost, that you’re not making a mess of things and to keep going, and that your hard work and frustration will pay off! Remember, you put together a good team with diverse strengths. Lean on your team and trust that you’ll learn something useful that you can use to make improvements to your program and/or your teaching.
Word cloud of student responses collected in the post-test when asked “In the database(s) you searched, what features did you find the most helpful/useful?”