Required library classes

Each semester here at the American University in Cairo, I teach at least two sections of LALT 101, a required no-credit one-hour/weekly information literacy class. Some students do exempt out of the course via an exam, but most undergraduates take it.

I really enjoy working with the same group of students all semester. It’s a nice change from seeing students only at the ref desk, in one-shots, or around campus.

What’s tough, though, is trying to teach research skills outside of the context of a real information need. My supervisor and colleague Nancy and I talk about this constantly. What can we do so that when students need to research for another class, they consider databases we’ve talked about in LALT 101? Much of our effort is spent attempting to create situations where students feel they have a research need, in hopes that they might really learn something.

Many instruction librarians struggle with how best to teach important critical thinking and research skills. And no one seems to have a great answer.

At AUC this is particularly challenging as most of our students are not coming out of high schools with American-style libraries. Like typical American undergrads, they’re on Facebook and Googling their hearts away, but also like American undergrads, their web savvy is no indication of research savvy.

But until they really need research, how will they learn to do it? I’d be interested to hear how other librarians are tackling this.


3 Responses

  1. This course sounds similar to SILS’ intro course for undergrads, INLS 200: part Reference-lite and part How To Conduct Research 101. I inherited this course from Barbara W & I still use the assignment that she developed with only small modifications: have the students identify a real info need that they actually have & work with that. Basically there’s one big project for the whole semester, to conduct research on a topic & write a short paper at the end. The students’ deliverables are various products that they would have to develop anyway (though maybe not so formally) in conducting a research project.

    The materials from the last time I taught this course, including assignment descriptions, are here:

  2. Jeff, thanks for your comment. I’m about to publish a new entry on a similar approach we took this past spring. We had students choose a topic and focus on that. It worked great with some students, and not so much with others. It needs some refinement – your assignments will be a big help with that, so thanks again.

  3. […] an information need Posted on June 11, 2008 by Joan As I wrote about in an earlier post, each semester I teach two to three sections of a required library class here at […]

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