Developing Highly Effective Researchers

by Amanda Hovious of The Designer Librarian and Todd Heldt of LIS101

As a PhD student in Information Science, I have been chewing on one problem in particular: What are the missing components of information literacy instruction? What is not currently being addressed? I believe the answer lies in the essence of every information seeking model out there, and especially in Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process (ISP) model, which I had the pleasure of deconstructing in a theory development class. What is that essence? Uncertainty.

Uncertainty is present in the information seeking process (just about every information seeking model recognizes that role).

Uncertainty is inherent in inquiry and reflective thinking (John Dewey).

Uncertainty is the primary principle of Kuhlthau’s ISP model, and she defines uncertainty as “a cognitive state that commonly causes affective symptoms of anxiety and lack of confidence.”

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Addressing uncertainty is key to information literacy development. But in the absence of understanding ways to overcome the barriers that uncertainty creates in the information search process, we teach skills that will likely not develop beyond the classroom.

So, how do we address uncertainty in the information search process? A good place to start is Costa and Kallick’s Habits of Mind. They identified 16 habits of thought and action that help students manage the uncertainty that comes with ill-structured problems (e.g., information problems).

These habits are described to some extent in the Dispositions of the ACRL Framework. However, habits of mind are broader than the realm of information literacy. They are ways of thinking and doing that are essential to many areas of lifelong learning. In a nutshell, habits of mind are life skills.

Many of the habits Costa and Kallick endorse are absolutely essential for information literacy development. In particular, here are ten habits we need to instill in our students:

  • Thinking about Thinking (metacognition)

Thinking about thinking seems simple: to be aware of your own thought processes. But hidden biases and faulty heuristics can cloud a student’s judgment. Encourage students to spend some time thinking about how who they are impacts their relationship with information.

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  • Thinking Flexibly (being comfortable with multiple perspectives)

Any research project that requires an analysis of multiple perspectives requires thinking flexibly. Encourage students to investigate articles from sources across the political spectrum to see how different people present the same information. Likewise, fostering respectful classroom discussion about debatable topics is another good way for students to interact with differing viewpoints.

  • Thinking Interdependently (collaborating)

Most jobs and projects require some amount of collaboration. Assignments requiring students to share their ideas clearly and actively engage with input from others will not only make them more thorough researchers, it will help them more clearly communicate the information they have found.

  • Questioning and Posing Problems

Teach students to plan their research process ahead of time. Have them identify what they know and don’t know before they begin. Also, teach them not to be afraid of being wrong! If given the opportunity they will most often find that what they think they know is incorrect or incomplete. Embrace that!

  • Gathering Information through All Senses (being an observant researcher)

Not every answer is in a book or database! Offer assignments to allow students to interview people and/or observe behaviors first-hand.

  • Striving for Accuracy (choosing accurate or evidence-based sources)

Teach students not to settle on the first source they find, even if it seems legitimate and supports their prior beliefs. Have them read as widely as time allows, and engage with primary, secondary, and tertiary sources to see what the overall state of knowledge is in the field under study. Ask them when possible to verify conclusions by consulting other expert sources.

  • Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations (transferring skills)

Let them know that it is acceptable to draw on previous research experiences to tackle new research problems.  It isn’t cheating to use the same database over and over again if it has the requisite information!

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  • Persisting (growth mindset)

Teach students to follow a research project to the end, and not to give up if they don’t succeed right away. Researchers don’t usually find what they are looking for in the first article they read. Showing students how to put together different combinations of keywords, and navigate different kinds of sources will make them much more likely to find what they need. (And it always pays to reiterate that librarians are here to help when they get stuck!) 

  • Creating, Imagining, Innovating (looking at information in new ways)

Create assignments that let students share their research findings in new and interesting ways. Would visual aids such as graphs and charts be easier to understand than a written narrative? Would an e-portfolio be more accessible than a printed paper?

  • Communicating with Clarity and Precision

The best research skills in the world will only have limited value if students can’t communicate their findings precisely and clearly. Reinforce the importance of presenting information in a clear, unbiased way.

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Some of these habits are addressed in library/information literacy instruction, but we must remember that there is a big difference between teaching a skill to a student and creating an environment where the student can put that skill into continuous practice. The latter is more important in the development of habits of mind, and the library is just one environment that can be designed to reinforce them.

 

Introducing these ideas to students need not be overly complicated, and a few simple steps can help them keep these habits at the forefront of their minds. Define the profile of highly effective information seekers and enumerate those qualities on posters and handouts. Post them around the library, touch on them during instruction sessions, and give instructors in other departments copies for their classrooms to reinforce it beyond the walls of the library.

With these habits of mind, students will be able to search for information with more confidence and purpose, and they will be more discriminant in their selection of sources. These habits of mind correspond in many ways to the Dispositions from the ACRL Framework but will likely be more approachable for students and newer information seekers.

Share this infographic with your students:

Good Habits Make Good Research

Happy Faculty Development Week!

Welcome back faculty! It was great to see so many colleagues from HWC and CCC.  I arrived in time to hear the Chancellor’s prepared remarks. I took some notes and want to share some thoughts and talking points.

First,  can I just say, the tone was so positive I had to look around and make sure I was at FDW. Not since Wayne Watson Jr. have I heard so much positive language at FDW.  Although, now that I think about it, I don’t think Cheryl addressed us last year. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think Rasmus gave a lovely speech which was firmly in the camp of “too little, too late. “

So, after a brief intro and opening statement, the Chancellor began with a moment of silence for the victims of Charlottesville, WVA.  There was an acknowledgement of our own city’s violence and then began the body of his speech with a catchphrase that he stated he has widely used since coming to CCC. CCC is a” breakthrough institution for our students”.  It is a “game changer for our students” and allows them a life trajectory which can take them to the middle class and beyond.

He stated that while he may not be at CCC for 20 years, like some of our faculty, he intends to have a lasting impact on our schools. He believes that people come together for a shared mission and he is open to having conversations. He would like to break down the District/Colleges divide. And then he said something which made me actually cheer…out loud… he said each college is unique with its own culture,  but we are stronger together:  individual colleges AND one City Colleges of Chicago. After Cheryl’s insistence that we were campuses and we should all look alike through logo and personality, how nice to validate the culture we create and encourage our individual COLLEGES in the context of unity.

And then, my faculty brethren, he said, faculty are the key to the success of the students and colleges. What we do matters. He will work with us and develop a cohesive high performing team to support our students and us in our endeavors. Not much applause from the audience here. I think there was stunned disbelief and some skepticism but wow, how great to hear!

After the Chancellor, the Provost spoke briefly and said that City Colleges is more than completion and retention, it was about providing a superior student experiences. From what happens in the classroom, through the development of peer and faculty connections and by having a vibrant college experience, students should have a full experience. Faculty have far greater impact on this experience than anyone else. And faculty are the most important component and he is dedicated to helping us help students.

Two speakers, one fairly consistent pro-faculty message. It was appropriate for the occasion and for the audience. After being dismissed and insulted by Cheryl it was wonderful to hear appreciation and promises of support.

However, while I am wearing my rose-colored glasses for now, IMHO, our new Chancellor already has one strike against him, the departure of our beloved President Margie.

And our Union President, cautiously optimistic, did point out that while the District Leadership is certainly personable, the bar set by Cheryl was so incredibly low, anyone would be an improvement.  Still, my optimism showing, if action follows deed, District and Faculty may be able to finally pull in tandem towards the success of our student population.

I would love to hear other’s thoughts about today.

Goodbye Margie, You will be missed!

Joy: it was the message at one of Margie Martyn’s very memorable State of the College addresses. After the tepid leadership of Dan Laackman, the unapologetic joy Margie took in supporting our students, staff and faculty was inspiring

Margie is an educator, an advocate and a leader. As an administrator her focus was ALWAYS on supporting our students.  I was looking forward to a year with a new Chancellor who at least seemed positive about the entire mission of CCC. But now, I am disheartened by Margie’s departure. She is remarkable. There are so many things she has done to support all of us. I am reminded of a couple now.

She understands that HWC is a family. She showed that in many ways.

  • When Rachel or Jeni had parts in stage productions, she attended to support them. I imagine she attended other people’s productions, performances, etc.
  • When an adjunct who had only taught for us for 7 weeks died, she attended his funeral.
  • She provided a room for new mothers to pump
  • She supported the Memorial service and contributed refreshments when the budget was zero.
  • She participated in the American Lung Association Climb for Air (Climbing the stairs at Presidential Towers) as a member of the HWC team
  • She sat down with Theatre and Speech faculty to devise a strategy to help save theatre at HWC because the ill-considered pathways were reducing enrollment in these liberal arts classes.
  • She knows so many students by name and can tell you their stories, she didn’t have them in class, she just makes a point to know the students.
  • She always answers emails.

There are so many other ways she has provided leadership at HWC and has supported our mission and our school.  I hate that she will not be with us this semester.

Today is her last day and I can’t be there in person but I did want to say to Margie:

Thank you for your leadership, you are a great role model.

Thank you for your time, which you gave so willingly.

And Thank you for your joy. It meant so much to us all, especially during the dark days of reinvention.  And when you spoke about your joy, you humbled me by your honesty and vulnerability. A President who spoke of the joy of serving our incredibly diverse and extraordinary student population was something to see and emulate. I will miss your infectious smile, dedication to the mission and healthy example of riding your bike to work!

You will always be a member of the HWC family and my wish for you in the future is good health, interesting challenges, great adventures and mostly JOY!

Most sincerely,

Jenny Armendarez

Bienvenido, Chancellor Salgado – Adelante!

So, we have a new Chancellor.*

Meet Juan Salgado–this interview from The Reader, published shortly after Chancellor Salgado was named a MacArthur Genius grant recipient for his work in community advocacy is a good place to start. Salgado is clearly connected to the city power networks and Mayor Emanuel–he also serves as a Commissioner on the Park District Board. Yesterday, I heard some grumblings about him as “anti-union” and guessed that it was related to his leadership of a couple of charter schools (and that seems to be the case–apparently he put up some resistance to one of his schools’ attempts to unionize, at least at first), but was happy to find this article from 2015 about unions and charter schools from just last year where, if you read through it, you’ll see him quoted as saying:

I sat down with Juan Salgado, the president and CEO of Instituto Del Progreso Latino, a nonprofit educational organization in Pilsen, a predominantly Latino neighborhood in Chicago, to learn what it’s been like for him to oversee two charters that have unionized with AFT. Salgado believes that unions have been tremendous assets for his schools, particularly around some of the more fraught questions of wages and benefits. Can such issues be resolved “without a union?” he asks. “Yeah. But can we move forward to actually run a school? Probably not.” The mutual buy-in at the end of the negotiating process, Salgado said, created a better spirit at his schools.

Though Salgado was explicit that he disapproved of the way the union conducted its first organizing campaign—the organizers caricatured him as an evil boss, he says, solely to advance their strategy—he still feels the resulting unions, full of organized, passionate people, are no hindrance to excellence. “Unions ask a lot of questions! And that’s OK,” he says. “Critical questioning causes reflection and makes sure you have very good answers. And they demand transparency, and transparency is important. It’s a value that we should all have.”

I love the idea of having a Chancellor who has a moral commitment to education as transformative, though, I’m reminded that Chancellor Hyman has a deep belief in that same principle. I’m a little worried that so much of the talk about education and schooling that I see in relation to Chancellor Salgado (and the Mayor) consistently connects learning and jobs/careers. Even while I understand the appeal and value of a pathway to work and pay, we have seen where that narrow conception of the value of a liberal education can lead. I am heartened by his commitment to (and experience in) citizenship preparation and GED programs and recognize those and his charter school experience as providing something of what Faculty Council asked for in regard to an “educational background,” and I hope that Chancellor Salgado will recognize that his experiences at Moraine Valley and his work experience are a long way from being a complete understanding of what we do and do well. (For example, he is quoted in the Sun-Times article as saying, ““The school that I run, 54 percent of our students get some sort of college credential before they graduate from high school. We need to do that in every school because that saves students and families money and advances them into higher education,” he said. But a credit is not a credential, and a community college is not a bridge from high school to college–it IS college. But maybe that’s just semantics. Certainly everyone in a new job deserves the chance to learn and grow and show what they can do. I look forward to seeing what our new Chancellor does and can do. Hell, I look forward to actually seeing our Chancellor in the colleges for something other than a press conference with the Mayor.

 

*I have to also say that I was also happy to see that the news reports were not mere restatements of the press release, but provided fuller context on situation that our new Chancellor comes into. I’m not sure if it was a fluke or part of the information provided by our current board and leadership or whether we have Donald Trump to thank for the new willingness on the part of our local press to not accept the pronouncements of City Hall as unquestionable truth, but I’m happy to see it.

Nothing New Under the Sun: ID Policy Edition

So, just the other day as I rode home on the train, I was thinking to myself how nice it is not to have to be fighting about paper and copiers anymore, a thought that came to mind as I walked out of the building and saw the signs taped to the doors saying students would not be let in without their IDs. “This again,” I thought as I walked by, which drew my mind into other policy battles of the past (e.g., the Great Copy/Printer battles of 2012). Happily distracted by thoughts of gratitude I didn’t think much of the new ID policy, knowing that our active and effective Faculty Council was on the case and, surely, this wouldn’t be a thing again.

And then, just yesterday, I had a student show up at the very end of her class’ first examination, in the last two minutes of class, actually, apologizing and worried. She remembered having her ID with her at home in the morning, but somewhere between that memory and her arrival at school, she’d misplaced it. Unfortunately, she didn’t have ten dollars with her, nor a bank card to get some, so she had to go back home, get a check, get to a bank, cash it, return to school, pay the ten bucks, get a new ID and then find her professor and hope that she could get a make-up (which, as you surely can imagine) is not a guarantee for any college student.

In other words, this young woman could easily have lost the chance to pass the class (while, nevertheless on the hook for paying for it because she misplaced her ID one morning and goes to a school that refuses any other means than $10 to verify that she is in fact a student at the school. Had she been allowed to log in to Blackboard or MyCCC.edu on her phone or on a computer in the lobby, the security guards could have easily verified her status and purpose.

Talking to her, I had a tremendous sense of deja-vu. This policy is a policy that creates problems for our students by solving a problem for…whom exactly? Security? Administrators? Who? And then it hit me. We’ve seen this one before. And I wrote about it before. So I went back and found my post about the last time this happened, and re-read it, and found that EVERY SINGLE CRITICISM  applies now. Was SGA involved? Was Faculty Council (hint: No)? Is there data supporting broad HWC community desire for this policy (or some other reason–legal, safety (has there been a spike in thefts by unidentifiable visitors?)? Is this the plan to make up for the service-sucking state-budget-created black hole of a problem one Hamilton at a time? What problem is it solving and for whom? Who knows? So, why now? Good question.

Last time, in September of 2014, Margie “postponed the implementation of charging $10” for people without their ID. I guess that “postponement” ended the first week in February. But it’s not any less of a stupid policy. My student got her make-up exam and an apology from me for a school policy that made an already difficult and challenging day much much harder. That seems like the opposite of what our HWC values and aims are.

I just don’t get why this is a thing.

First CASTivity for Spring 2017

It’s about the P-word:

Exam

Placement.

We are inviting all interested faculty to join us for a CAST Lunchtime chat on

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

12:30-1:50pm

CASTle (Rm. 1046).

Our English and math placement coordinators as well as our dedicated testing center staff will be present to talk about the new placement process and its impact.

See you there!