Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Library skills training: Best with real class assignments

Our textbook reading on “Information Skills” includes a statement that can be taken as rationale for “embedded” library skills training: that is, training that helps students complete actual course assignments (87). I find myself sharing the textbook’s preference for embedded library skills.
“Research has shown that people learn better when the learning is relevant, that is, when it relates to something in their lives and builds on their past experience and knowledge. Learning also occurs best when there is immediate hands-on practice of the skills.”
(Our Cuesta instructors take this approach by the way; when I took courses on research skills, I was encouraged to choose a topic that could be used for another class or was an area of personal interest.)

Let’s say I need to become proficient in locating a non-fiction book in the library and a reliable article from a database, according to the curriculum for information skills. Simultaneously, for English language arts, I have to complete a report on the author of my choice.

When my library skills training can directly be used toward the completion of my report, it becomes immediately relevant and fills an immediate need, to paraphrase the bullet-pointed benefits summarized in our text. With this outcome, doesn’t it seem likely that I’ll become a library “repeat customer”?

Our course handouts’ example of an embedded lesson involved Civil War primary sources, using library resources available circa May 2005. Its creator, Mary Speidel, indicated she used this embedded lesson with a U.S. History class.
“If I were preparing the lesson today, I would include in the list of resources the databases subscribed to by the district as well as listing specific reliable web sites. I would also list search terms to use in both database searching and web searches beyond the sites listed.”
The idea of “embedded” library skills training also reinforces to classroom teachers that the library’s a viable resource and the people who work there are partners and stakeholders in the educational community.

Speidel recommends that library staff review assignments on teachers’ web pages.

Our textbook walks the library professional through monthly teacher surveys (60) to help him or her support classroom instruction with library activities and resources. The sample document includes space for noting lessons in Reading-Language Arts, History-Social Science, Science, Mathematics and Other Subjects. Teacher responses can also help identify purchase needs to fill gaps in library holdings.

Works Cited:
  • Santa Clara County Office of Education, Learning Multimedia Center. Where Do I Start? A School Library Media Handbook. 2nd ed. Santa Barbara: Linworth, 2012. Print.
  • Speidel, Mary. Laguna Middle School Library Pathfinder, Primary Resources, Civil War, Grade 8. May 2005. Web. 1 Oct. 2014.
  • ----. Week 7 Readings. Post to online news forum, LIBT 210, Cuesta College, 30 Sept. 2014. Web. 1 Oct. 2014.

Composed for Cuesta College’s LIBT 210, School Library/Media Center Services

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