Social Sciences Advisory Group – Notes from May 2010 Mtg.

May 19, 2010
Attending:  Brenda Ellis, David Stoll, Bert Johnson, Shel Sax

I. Discuss Information Literacy Standards and Proposals

Brenda introduced the topic and handed out the draft document that outlines Research Skills needed by Middlebury Students prepared by 4 reference librarians, also available online: 

She noted there are much longer ACRL (Assoc. of College & Research Libraries) information literacy standards that have been developed for academic libraries, but the group created their own version that  distills a lot of the key concepts much more sucinctly.  Our draft document focuses the most attention on the the first year because the basics are needed early to form a foundation for more discipline-specific work for the upper level classes and departments may decide to articulate their own additional goals for their majors.  The Middlebury document outlines a time frame from the FYSE through senior year for when students would be expected to develop their research skills.  It is clear to the reference librarians that many students start their senior papers or thesis work and don’t know enough about doing research beyond using Google or Midcat. David concurred that in some cases, it is obvious that seniors wrote papers that did not get beyond Google as their research method.

Brenda asked for feedback, in particular, what we may have missed.  As librarians, they are proposing a more active role in the first year seminar which is a good opportunity to introduce research skills, but not all faculty incorporate a research-based assignment into their classes.  Librarians want to give all students a basic foundation that first semester so that upper level library instruction classes don’t have to repeat the basics for those who’ve missed them and can instead focus on more advanced skills or discipline-specific resources.

Librarians want all FYSE faculty to incorporate some sort of research piece into the FYSE so that the librarians could then have an assignment to base an instruction session on.

Brenda shared some of the feedback that the group received from FLAC (Faculty Library Advisory Committee).  They were very positive about the proposal to make a research component part of every FYSE and gave a few tips for improving the skills document.

David thinks that the inquiry-based project needs to be very focused – some research issue that requires them to find data on the web which would guarantee that they’d have to learn the research tools the librarians are recommending.

Bert is concerned that faculty will feel that they would be losing more control of their class if they had to accommodate a research paper.  Many faculty feel that the purpose of a first year seminar is get students to talk, think critically, argue, etc and Bert noted that he can foresee resistance.

It was noted that some departments have a research methods class either in first or second year and is very research-based, but this is not the case for all departments, the the FYSE is the one place to reach all students at the same time.

Brenda asked whether an online tutorial would be a satisfactory substitute for some of the really basic info (how to see if we have a journal, etc).

Bert thinks the intro Pol Sci class is the best place to introduce a research-based assignment rather than a FYS which is supposed to be non-departmental.  However, Brenda noted that not every student takes the same intro course.

David thinks the Soc/Anthro 300 level methods course is the most likely place to have a serious research topic and that in a methods course like this, it would be an appropriate.

There was discussion of research methods courses and the difference between Soc/Anthro and Pol. Sci’s courses. 

Brenda noted the existence of online assessment tests, also pre-tests.

Bert suggested not providing journal articles but making the students find it.  David noted that if these articles weren’t provided, a smaller fraction of students will have read them with consequences for discipline, quality of work, class discussions, etc.

II. Effect of the new printing rules for students on classes.

Printing impact:

Bert noticed that most of his students now bring their laptops to class in order to not have to print the article.  His students are distracted by the computer and internet availability.  He also reported that when others are observing his class (e.g. when under review, adult auditors) they report that the students spend a lot of time surfing instead of participating in the class.

Bert reported that more of his students assignments are submitted electronically and he grades more electronically than previously.  David asks for printed submissions so that he can correct, comment and grade more effectively.

Bert noted that it is difficult to correct rather than comment on line because it requires using the ‘track changes’ features and students can simply accept changes.

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