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

Good news from CCC. No really…

Posted on behalf of Michael Heathfield

The data are in – serious big data. Millions of anonymous tax filings and tuition records have been used by The Equality of Opportunity Project which specializes in using mass data to create policy solutions for social justice and increase equality. The headline of the just-published data set when searched for CCC says:

“The median family income of a student from City Colleges of Chicago is $31,700, and 4.9% come from the top 20 percent. About 2.7% of students at City Colleges of Chicago came from a poor family but became a rich adult.”

Behind this unsurprising finding there are much more important data about which we should be proud. On the access issue it is very clear who our students are. Really clear:

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Yet, with regard to social mobility we do much better than we might imagine:

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So we end up with what I consider to be a fairly impressive “mobility index”:

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To know our students, to know the struggles some of them face, and to now know that big national data puts us at 53 out of 690 community colleges for real impact to family lives, is a pretty impressive performance. Of course, I am being selective with the data I report here. Yes, really.

You can find the full data set here: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/college-mobility/city-colleges-of-chicago.

Sure, there is more to do. And yes, we must always get better. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful 2017 to have a District leadership team who lead by knowing and acknowledging the pretty spectacular job we already do? Oh happy day!

 

Mike Heathfield

 

Shared Governance Action Items: Provost Nominations by January 17 and Policy Revisions by January 22

Two important announcements from FC4 and District. You received these as an e-mail, but just to help spread the word:

1. PROVOST SEARCH:

From FC4 President Jennifer Alexander (Subject: “Nominations for Provost”), nominations for City Colleges Provost are now open until January 17. Anyone may nominate anyone. Description is here: http://www.ccc.edu/…/About-the-Provost-and-Chief-Academic-O…

Send nominations here: citycollegesprovost@agbsearch.com

2. ACADEMIC POLICY REVISION:

New policies are being proposed, and we have a short window to provide commentary and other proposals. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to review the proposals, but will before our FC meeting tomorrow. Armen forwarded the e-mail yesterday (subject: “District-Wide Academic & Student Policy Review, January 9 ­ 22”), but here are the key points:

1. Deadline for feedback is January 22.
2. Relevant documents can be viewed and feedback submitted here: https://cccedu.sharepoint.com/policy/SitePages/Home.aspx

Faculty Council Meeting: Wednesday, January 11, 1-3pm, Room 1115

The first Faculty Council meeting of the year is scheduled during registration week, Wednesday, January 11, from 1 to 3pm, in room 1115. Vice President Sarrafian has approved attendance to this meeting as part of full-time faculty’s 30 hours during registration week.

This meeting’s purpose is to be as accessible as possible to the largest number of faculty, in order to have at least one meeting this semester where the faculty body can gather to introduce and discuss the issues that matter most to our community. This will also help Faculty Council set its agenda for the Spring semester. If all goes well, I hope this serves as a model for a pre-semester large Faculty Council meeting going forward, in order to better facilitate shared governance.

If you have thoughts about what should be on the agenda, either leave a comment or e-mail me at bswanson1@ccc.edu.