Evaluation of Information Literacy Assignment by wql24865


									                 Self Evaluation of Information Literacy Assignment
                Benjamin D. Brewer (Dept. of Sociology & Anthropology)

        The following is a summary evaluation of the effectiveness of the changes made
to an assignment from Sociology 384 during (and after) the workshop on information
literacy I attended in the summer of 2006.
        In conjunction with social science reference librarian Candace Miller, I used the
workshop to revise a key homework assignment in this research methods course – that
assignment being the “search” and “review” of the scholarly literature(s) most germane
to the student’s research project. There were two main changes made to the
assignment. First, I specified in much greater detail the kinds of sources I expected
students to cite, as well as (and most importantly) the specific search databases I
wanted them to use. Secondly, I asked that students keep detailed notes for
themselves that would allow them to write a brief “story” of their search upon its
successful completion. Details for both of these changes can be found in the attached
copy of the assignment.
        While neither of these changes seemed particularly radical, the revised
assignment yielded extremely positive results this past semester (fall of 2006). This
was most directly reflected in the quality of the citations identified by students; the
articles cited were more directly “on target” and, therefore, much more useful to the
students as they began to link conceptual arguments to empirical measures. Specifying
the search databases to be used made a huge difference, particularly steering students
away from using JSTOR as a search engine (rather than simply a repository for pdf
copies of articles identified elsewhere). It should be noted that this assignment is
distributed following a class session in which I demonstrate with some sample search
terms how one accesses these databases, how search parameters are set, and what
one does with the results of a search (using Linkfinder, for example), so the success of
the assignment probably derives in part from this hands-on demonstration. That having
been said, clearer instructions in the assignment definitely improved students’ results.
        The second change made to the assignment – the “search story” component –
was also quite successful. Importantly, it offered greater insight into the logic guiding
student searches, which is quite useful in figuring out what went wrong with less
successful searches. Having a list of terms that a student used in the search process
allows me to offer more productive suggestions for how things could be improved. The
search story also helped students work their way out of impasses during the search
process itself, pushing them to think more explicitly about the logic guiding the process.
Narrative is itself a form of logic, of course, but one that is more familiar to most
students. Thus, the search story demanded that students be able to explain in plain
English what they did and why they did it, and this helped them articulate the steps that,
prior to the revisions to this assignment, generally remained out of view. Overall, then,
the information literacy changes made to this assignment greatly improved the quality of
student submissions as well as my satisfaction with the utility of the assignment.

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