Finding collaborators

Opportunities for more targeted IL instruction emerged with the introduction of the University’s new core curriculum in Fall 2017. In development since 2011 and approved in 2016, the revised core curriculum included IL as one of its competencies in accordance with the university’s accrediting body, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission, which articulates core competencies in its standards for student performance at graduation in the Handbook of Accreditation (WASC, 2013). At the time of its implementation, IL was embedded in USD’s core curriculum along with Critical Thinking (collectively named CTIL) in Historical Inquiry courses. Prior to the core’s implementation, the initial Historical Inquiry classes were first approved by the CTIL Area Task Force, which had a dedicated place for one librarian before the implementation of the revised core. A librarian was also part of the original Core Curriculum Committee charged with drafting the core in consultation with the academic units. That said, while the new Historical Inquiry classes did mean IL was now formally embedded in the university curriculum, librarians felt this situation to be less than ideal. Given the range of classes involved, it would be difficult for the History subject librarian to conduct IL sessions in all relevant courses and handle instruction for History classes that did not have the embedded core requirement. Moreover, since these classes occurred at both the upper and lower division levels, a student could conceivably fulfill the CTIL core requirement after the first year of university. A student could very well make it through the first year without any library orientation at all. Research suggests that library instruction appears to be most effective when scaffolded across the curriculum with “clearly defined goals for students at every level of university study” (Bowles-Terry, 2012, p. 91). Evidence cited above also points to the value of students being introduced to library skills in the first year. The situation at USD conformed to neither of these ideals. Luckily, the new core did offer an additional opportunity for librarians to reach students.

With the adoption of the new core, the old Composition and Literature requirement gave way to FYW to fulfill “the core curriculum requirement for lower division Written Communication” (University of San Diego). This class is taken by students in either their first or second semester. With more than 1,200 incoming first-year students in Fall 2017, this compulsory class presented the perfect opportunity to make the maximum impact on introductory library instruction. Copley Library’s Coordinator of Instruction assembled a small team of willing librarians and reached out to the new Writing Program Director about collaborating with FYW instructors.

Two of the class’ SLOs provided the impetus to begin the conversation. Under the heading of Sources and Evidence, these outcomes state that:

Students will:

  • • Use credible sources to develop ideas and arguments that are
  • • Effective within assigned disciplines and discourses
  • • Cite sources accurately according to topic and style
  • (University o f San Diego, 2017)

The Coordinator of Instruction and another librarian met with the Writing Program Director and FYW instructors prior to the fall semester. Whilecollaboration with librarians to provide research instruction certainly was not a requirement, instructors were encouraged to work with librarians to support research instruction connected to relevant class assignments. For those instructors unfamiliar with the services librarians could provide, a generalized handout was distributed in person and via email to describe lessons librarians might include in one or more sessions for a given class (see Figure 7.1). Next, an online FYW subject guide was created for instructors to include in their Blackboard pages and librarians to use to direct students to tips for developing search strategies, finding and evaluating print and online sources, and citing references appropriately (see Figure 7.2). Finally, librarians agreed on a small set of core skills on which to focus from section to section. These included the skills listed above as well as distinguishing between scholarly and non-scholarly sources. Librarians had to remain fluid in their approach because while the FYW learning outcomes were static, the content in a given section varied depending on the instructor. Instructors requesting a session with a librarian were asked to provide their syllabi and any connected research assignments in advance. The Writing Program Director ensured the librarians had the contact information for all the instructors and reinforced her support for this project.

First year writing subject guide

FIGURE 7.1 First year writing subject guide.

Library instruction handout

FIGURE 7.2 Library instruction handout.

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