Monday, August 18, 2014

QU 101 The Individual in the Community, Student-Led and Problem-Based

Rather than starting a third blog, I decided to blog my QU 101 facilitation experiences here.  It may not technically be "library" but it is professional activity.  It's my best way of getting to know and work with a group of first-year students, which helps me with my "day job" of planning information fluency instruction in various formats and working with user interfaces for library services.

What triggered me to start my blog now was giving up the QU 101 Journal. This is an every-other-day exercise that I assigned to my students last semester to help them relate the readings to their own experiences and to other readings.  In some of the wider-ranging or difficult readings, it gave a clue of where the class discussion would start.  For those who journaled faithfully, the majority, it did help with starting and continuing discussions by giving some time to reflect and organize thoughts before having to think on the fly in a 24-person discussion circle.  I read every post and enjoyed reading the student' insights, questions, and stories about their lives.

But the point of student-led learning is that there are many ways to do this, and each student can do what works best for their reading and learning preferences.  It doesn't have to come to me via Blackboard.  Blackboard limits the format and medium a lot, and I personally find it easier to annotate copiously, draw, pose questions, and summarize right in the book.  Others may want to post their thoughts more publicly, or in something like Evernote that's synced across all their devices.  I don't need to evaluate every post, and I'll see the results of however they choose to think on paper (or electrons) about the questions and readings as we work with them in class.

This is one example, but I'm combining my time this week revising my entries on Blackboard and starting to read the Wes Moor papers.  The early submissions are very encouraging.  These students related to the prompt about intention, used the story of the two Wes Moores to support and illustrate their positions on the importance of intention as opposed to other decision-making factors, and so far I have not read a "book report" that simply retells the book's story.  I've seen a few issues with fact-checking, grammar, and organization, but so far have received interesting, readable essays that have gone a bit beyond the obvious.  This gives me a good feeling.

I went into the faculty development sessions for SLS/PBL (Student-Led Seminar/ Problem-Based Learning) with the intent of understanding this method in order to provide better library support.  While I sort of got PBL, I was extremely skeptical and fearful of SLS, especially after some recent bad experiences.  On the other hand, even as I was doing it, I realized that I was escalating the number of rules and the severity of consequences for breaking them, forcing myself more into the annoying role of classroom behavior police, mainly out of fear.  I feared such a level of disengagement and inattention that the course would become the meaningless waste of time that it's rumored to be, not the exciting, lively exploration of ideas that I've seen it be.   I feared not doing my job well, and not creating an environment conducive to shared learning.  The workshop opened me up to the idea that letting go of so much control, while still encouraging and facilitating, can be a way forward to students truly being responsible for their learning, classroom environment, and level of engagement.  it's on "on me" or "on them," it's "on US."

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