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Designing Effective Library Assignments

Consider Learning Objectives:

  • What skills do I want my students to gain/demonstrate with this assignment?
  • How does this assignment fit into my overall course objectives?
    • Students often find more value in a library assignment that is directly linked to future assignments
  • Do my students need to become familiar with key resources in the field, like a specific database?
  • Do my students need practice critical thinking and evaluation of information skills?

Consider Students' Skill Levels:

  • Are my students familiar with library basics?
  • Are my students experienced searchers?
  • Are my students all on the same skill level?

Consider Assignment Time Frame:

  • How long should this assignment take to complete?
  • Will this assignment require my students to obtain material through Interlibrary Loan, and if so, how will that influence the time required to complete the assignment?

Be Clear About Expectations:

  • Clearly identify the kinds of resources you want students to use (e.i. books, scholarly journal articles, statistical information). 
    • Students often do not understand the differences between sources found at the library. By stipulating exactly what it is you want them to find, they are in a much better position to ask for help when they get to the library
  • Explain to your students why the library research assignment is important.
    • While the importance of a library assignment may seems obvious to you, many students have a hard time comprehending why a library assignment, and library resources, benefits them in long run. If you explain to your students why it is essential to utilize the library at the beginning of the assignment, you may find that they make more of an effort to walk away with a meaningful experience

Practice what you Preach:

  • After you have designed you assignment, make sure to try the assignment yourself. 
    • Students are often unfamiliar with the simple steps associated with finding things in the library. By testing the assignment yourself you are sure to uncover unclear instructions, technological hiccups, or missing material.

 

Ask for Student Feedback:

  • After your students have completed their library research assignment, consider asking for their feedback.
    • What did they find surprising while completing the assignment?
    • Was there an aspect of the assignment the was especially helpful? Confusing? Tedious?
    • If they were designing the assignment 

Evaluate Assignment Results:

  • If you had your students submit work related to the assignment, are you satisfied with work they submitted?
    • If the work your students provided was not satisfactory, in what ways did they fall short of your expectations?
    • Were there questions on the assignment that most of your students struggled with?
  • If you did not require student to submit work for the assignment, considering evaluating the overall improvement in their skills over the course of the semester.
    • Did my students demonstrate in improvement in research skills after they completed the assignment?
    • Is it obvious that my students did participate in the assignment?

Incorporate Changes:

  • After you have evaluated the effectiveness of your library research assignment, make sure you incorporate changes!
  • Consider consulting with a librarian if you are unsure of how to best achieve your assignment goals.

Here are a few important rules to keep in mind when designing effective library assignments:

Do:

  1. Encourage students to ask librarians for help!
  2. Put required materials on reserve, learn more about putting materials of reserve here.
  3. Assign a library research assignment early, this enables students to utilize their recently acquired research skills during the rest of your course.
  4. Ensure the library has access to the material you are asking students to find.

Don't:

  1. Assign students busy work like scavenger hunts.
  2. Assign the same topic to a large class or multiple classes, they library may not have enough material to support 50 students all working on the same topic.
  3. Require students use "print" sources only. Many students do not understand the difference between an internet source and an electronic source. By using the term "print" source, you may be unintentionally encouraging students to avoid using electronic books, electronic journals, and other valuable library resources.
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