20th January Part I – Teaching (‘The Big Thing at Work’)

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Good morning folks! It’s been a busy old week in Yorkshire, with much to report on. As ever, I’ll try not to waffle, so I think I’ll split this up into two parts! The first being ‘The Big Thing at Work’: teaching! I’ll make the second ‘The Other Big Thing at Work’: customer journey mapping for performance measurement and Customer Service Excellence, which is getting underway here in Bradford. Also, there’ll be more about me tootling around Yorkshire doing library-related things.

Firstly, the teaching! The aim of my mentorship with Kirsty is ‘to gain experience of preparing for and teaching library information skills to a large group of MSc Engineering students to prepare for their Advanced Research Skills module’ (eek!). It’s nice that we’re keeping records of each mentor/mentee meeting as it means we’ll both have a record of what we’ve achieved at the end, and it’ll be something I can put into portfolios or applications in the future.

So far, we’ve had a couple of prep meetings. I found out there’s SEVENTY FIVE OF THEM (the students, not the meetings!). I was under the impression there was only about fifteen. So naturally, I’m now even more terrified than usual.

The last meeting we had was really good though, lots of ideas were discussed! We had a look at some handouts and flow-charts and slideshows from other universities to see what other people had done, and if there was anything that could inspire us! Turned out there was plenty. We decided which bits of the information we wanted to use – or at least, the main points we wanted to get across.

The first aspect of the sessions is to get the students thinking about where they’re looking for information: what databases and resources are best for their course: whether they need to look at books, journals, things like market research or British and/or American Standards. The last two are totally alien to me, so I’m looking forward to learning more about them (from what I gather, there’s lots of information about concrete…)! The students will also need to think about their search strategy, and we’re meeting later today to create a hand-out with a little flow-chart to help them – what to do if you have too many results, too few results, or ‘just right’ (have you covered everything? Are you sure your results are relevant? Could anything be re-worded?).

As well as finding resources, the students need to evaluate them. I’d found some really good key points on a slideshow from the University of Leeds (ah, my alma mater), which were in turn adapted from the Open University’s SAFARI tutorial. However, since most of the students we’ll be teaching are international students who don’t speak English as a first language and may never have set foot in this country before, we felt some of the language on the Leeds materials might need changing to ease them into their research! One fine example is ‘Is the resource obsolete – has it been superseded?’ Our main points will be, in essence:

  • What kind of resource is it? Does it have bias? Is it a book, or a .com website?
  • Who (or which company) has written the resource? Are they qualified or experts in the field, already published, or part of an organisation?
  • When was it published? (This is really important for engineers as they need the most up-to-date information and legislation possible!)
  • Is there any evidence or other research mentioned in the resource? Is it referenced?
  • Is the information at the right level for you? Is it appropriate for your topic? (Does it also relate to the right country?)

Another problem we hit upon is getting the students to engage, with us and with each other. We thought about splitting them up into groups and getting them to evaluate one type of source in their group (journal, book, market research, website), and then feed their thoughts back to us so we can put responses on a Padlet page for them to come back to. It is a big group, but we thought it would be nicer for them to engage rather than being lectured and then working on an example in silence for two hours.

Finally, we decided to create a Powerpoint to help them with their referencing – just to point out where things like the edition, the publisher, year of publication, series title(if necessary), the author or editor can be found on a book, and where this information would go in their citation and reference. (I’m not sure if Bradford engineers use their own version of Harvard – mental note made to check!) We had a look at another institution’s Prezi slideshow, but decided to do our own as then we could tailor it to our own requirements, and then it would be in keeping with the language and style used in our other resources. We decided to do a Powerpoint rather than a Prezi mainly due to time constraints! Hopefully we’ll make that available on the University website after the teaching sessions have finished.

So! Lots to be done on that front – I’m meeting Kirsty later today to work on our little ‘keyword search’ flow-chart. Which, hopefully, won’t inspire any ‘How many library staff does it take to make a flow-chart?’ jokes! Kirsty’s also asked if I fancy coming along to meetings to introduce myself to some of the students we’ll be teaching, so I think I’ll try! It may lessen The Fear a little, haha!

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