Having come to the end of delivering the second workshop for PSY first year undergrads, I thought this would be a good opportunity to reflect on the lesson itself and the two sessions overall.
To give it some context, this session builds on session one, which was delivered early on in the academic year (October/November time). That session served as an induction to Library resources getting students to access and use some of the core services, and then built in activities around keyword searching to find sources (books and journal articles) using Summon and Google Scholar. This would then allow students the chance to learn some useful skills in preparation for their first assignments.
Session two for this cohort involved showing how a good references list can be an indicator of an essay’s grade, and therefore how to use this as an opportunity to get better grades. In this sense, it builds on session one by contextualising the value of finding good quality academic sources, and the importance of using them effectively. In order to do this, the session touched on the value of different sources of information, in terms of currency and authority, and the value placed on this in relation to their essay marketing criteria for the core module. We unpicked the marking criteria a little more, and I explained how certain aspects of it related to the types of sources they might make use of in their essays, and we then completed exercises which students unpicked three reference lists by making judgments on the sources included and rating each list overall. The final activity involved students correcting the references on list A, using Cite Them Right online, the Library’s referencing database.
This session, along with session one, was mostly adapted from the sessions delivered by the previous Psychology Liaison Librarian with a few changes built-in to make the session my own, in a way that I would deliver it. In the main, however, both sessions kept the main content and learning of the original sessions.
I introduced a couple of new additions to the workshop that I think worked well, but that I would also want to build on or adapt going forwards.
Google Form Survey
I wanted to survey the first year cohort, to get an idea of their personal confidence levels for a variety of “Library skills”. I thought that this would be interesting information to get as a barometer for where students felt they were in terms of finding journal articles, using databases, advanced searching etc. The second purpose was to find out their preference for the ways in which they wanted to get help for anything that they felt they needed help with. The link to this form was emailed out to the whole cohort of students before the workshops took place, as well as in an email reminder to students about the workshop they had booked on to (which in the end was only around two-thirds of total students).
The data I have got from this survey will be useful going forward in my planning of how best to support these students into year two, but the important thing to consider here was whether I could have used some of the information from the survey to inform the workshop. For example, I could have used some of the feedback about the skills students were less confident with to focus on more specifically in the workshop, and refer to this in the session. Also, if this survey hadn’t have been originally intended as a more general information-gathering exercise, I could have used this to generate a very specific survey linked to the workshop which might have obtained some valuable information to inform the focus and activities. If this was then highlighted in the workshop, it could have shown how the information was being used to (potentially) tailor the session to the needs of the students more closely.
For example, I could use Google Forms as an assessment tool to pose questions relating to the skills being covered in the workshop, which would help to gauge the skills of the students before the session. This could be a good way of knowing how to pitch the activities and the skills that need focusing on and would certainly be a way of using Google Forms in a more direct, valuable way for a specific teaching session.
I introduced some Kahoot! quizzes into the session too. In the first incarnation of the workshop there was a Kahoot! survey at the beginning of the session as a starter activity, and a quiz version at the end. This was to enable me to gain some data about the students in the session, and did a job of testing the students at the beginning of the session of the some of the skills we would be covering in a fun way, as well as collecting some other information from them too. Then the quiz at the end posed some of the questions from the first survey again, in the hope of seeing whether more students were now able to get these questions correct.
The problem I had was, as a starter activity, students were arriving late and I was having to delay starting the quiz. This meant that the sessions were not starting quite with the injection of energy that this activity might create, if we went straight into it at the appropriate start-time, so I introduced the survey as an activity to complete while we waited for late-arrivals. In the meantime, I kept the quiz planned for the end of the session, and I found it to be a good way of rounding off the session with a fun, pacy activity which acted as a good plenary from which to get some data to interrogate some of the learning that might have taken place. The intention of having some pre- and post-lesson data to compare was, unfortunately, negated once I had abandoned the initial starter Kahoot!
Going forward, I would like to tie-together a pre-workshop Google Form survey with a plenary Kahoot! quiz, in order to measure some sort of impact from any future sessions planned. This does depend on whether students complete the survey before the session, and so it might also need to be set as a starter activity too.
In general, the sessions were ok. There was a decent enough pace to the session I think, with a range of activities from group, pair and individual tasks taking place as physical card-sort/kinesthetic, written worksheet and computer-based. There are some inconsistencies in language which I didn’t put right, particularly in the use of the term bibliography when students are only encouraged to include a list of references with their essays.
I think that the learning objectives need to be more focused, and there needs to be a clearer link between the finding of research (workshop one) and how it ends up on your references list to get you the best marks. This requires, I think, something different to the current, discrete two-workshop approach that is currently in place, with potentially a closer collaborative working relationship with the academics from the department and LET. This might be something to develop in the future.
So, moving forward, having delivered the two sessions I feel like I have gained a good insight into the approach taken previously and this should help me to think about what I might be able to put in place to further develop these workshops.
My initial thoughts are that there should be a greater emphasis on the academic skills required of first years, when it comes to undergraduate study. Across the two workshops, I think that we can potentially forego the functional induction-type activities in the first workshop, and deliver these in a different mode. I feel that there should be a closer relationship between what I deliver in the workshops and how this can, and should, impact on grades for students. In this sense, I think there needs to be a close identification of the needs of first year students, and where they struggle, which could come from discussions with the Psychology academics, and the ways in which the Library and I can help to address some of the skills required to improve their achievement. For example, the sessions may need, I think, to more closely align with teaching students how to find and use research/resources in their essays. And this should, hopefully, be taught in a more concrete way, making use of the actual essays/reports that students are either writing, beginning to work on, or have already written in order to understand how to improve their work next time. I think that this approach, as an example, would be of greater value to the students and have a more direct impact on their work, as they will be able to see (and practice) how to apply the skills within the session.
In addition, I will be reviewing the survey results to see how I can begin to develop the ways in which I both support students in general, and ways in which I might integrate further opportunities through the year to develop and embed teaching and support. For example, when asked how students might prefer to get help with certain skills, 73 out of 91 indicated that attending a weekly/bi-weekly informal drop-in session would be either good or ideal for them. So, it might be that there are opportunities to further develop the teaching of academic and information literacy skills in an additional way, and potentially to be able to offer these sessions with very specific skills to be covered. This approach requires further reflection on how this can be offered, and the most effective way to introduce it.