Summer is the prime season for conferences and workshops and last week was the kick-off!
Office of Undergraduate Research Faculty Development Workshop
The Office of Undergraduate Research designed this three day workshop to assist faculty who want to incorporate research into their undergraduate classes. The attendees were teaching faculty from all over the university (sciences to humanities to business). I come from political science where research papers are standard, but some disciplines don’t seem to have the same expectations, especially at the undergraduate level. This workshop helped us create research-based assignments in a thoughtful manner. The most useful part for me was brainstorming how I could get beyond the traditional research paper tacked onto the end of the course.
I attended to develop the assignments in my class, but I think it helped having a library insider in the room. Jenny Dale and Kathy Crowe from the library gave an excellent presentation on library services that sparked later conversations about library support. After the formal presentation, I was able to answer questions about the possibilities for collaboration with the library. Also I was able to see the assignment design process from the beginning stages, which is where the library really needs to be!
My goal for the workshop was pretty straightforward. I want to increase the quality of my student research without increasing the quantity of assignments. The class I teach is 200-level and an introductory course so the assignments need to be appropriate. The most useful tool in the workshop was the LOGIC model. I can’t remember where she got this, but the model includes three questions: What is my objective? What do I do to meet my objective? And what evidence do I use to demonstrate that my students have done that? Translated to assignment creation, we focus on the outcome, the activity to practice the outcome, and then the assessment of their ability. In libraryland we are great at doing the first and third parts. We have our learning objectives and then we are sure to assess them, but I feel like the middle component sometimes isn’t as strategically developed. In this model, we are assured that practice a student has in or out of the classroom relates back to the objective and then they are assessed on that specific objective.
For the workshop the research process was divided into discrete parts so that we could focus on specific objectives. My main objective has been developing my students’ ability to paraphrase and then synthesize their research. So many of my papers are long string of quotes interspersed with the writer’s insights (hopefully). To reach this objective I have several activities in mind:
- News journals: They choose a news story related to the class, write a summary (which requires paraphrasing) and then respond to the article. I did these for two semesters and several students have said that they liked doing them (it forced them to keep up with the news). I always saw them as separate from the research project, but they are their first paraphrasing activity. Maybe I need to encourage them to tie them into the research paper if appropriate.
- Image captioning: I use images a lot in my class, but I would like to do an activity each week where I show an image related to the week’s readings and then ask them to create a caption for it on an index card. This is a different skill from the usual and requires the ability to synthesize information. Plus I can use it as a mini-reading quiz.
- Source comparison and annotation exercise: After a library session in which we talk about sources, they have to compare three sources of information (scholarly, newspaper, and government information) on a particular topic. I like doing this activity, but may need to think through the logistics.
- Annotated bibliography for paper: Post our second library session they turn in an annotated bib on their chosen topic with a variety of sources.
I also have some assessments:
- Paraphrasing on exams: I got this idea from a presentation at the workshop. On their exams you give students quotes from the readings. They then must paraphrase the quote and respond– basically telling you what it means.
- The paper: Hopefully at this point they will be able to paraphrase. I also do an optional revision process where they get feedback and can improve their grades.
- An executive summary of the paper: Last semester I did a memo to the President where students needed to concisely and precisely sum up their findings to the President and tell him what he should do. The results were fine, but not great. This year I might do a more creative component for this where students have to do a short persuasive elevator speech with a visual. The visual could be a PowerPoint or an image or even a short video. It would function the same as the memo, but they get to choose the audience they would like to persuade. I’d really like to see some of them do short newscasts, but that’s a lot to ask (and watch with 40 students). The whole point is to sum up (or paraphrase) their own research in a understandable and thoughtful manner.
Well, those are my main ideas. Anything I’m missing? Suggestions welcome!