Monday, August 02, 2010

Assigning Inquiry - Study Findings

Have you read the recently (July 12, 2010) released Project Information Literacy Progress Report? It’s worth your time to review it and to reflect on what it means for our practices, particularly with so many sources newly available.

The report, titled Assigning Inquiry: How Handouts for Research Assignments Guide Today’s College Students, notes that "handouts for academic research assignments provide students with more how-to procedures and conventions for preparing a final product for submission, than guidance about conducting research and finding and using information in the digital age."

After analyzing 191 undergraduate research-assignment handouts culled from 28 colleges, the authors found these sources to be required/recommended:
60% - Library shelves (physical sources like books, print journals, videos);
43% - Library online sources (catalog; subscription databases);
34% - Course readings
33% - Primary Sources
26% - Web sites (other than Wikipedia)
13% - Librarians
12% - Search Engines
3% - Blogs

In fact, the majority of handouts did not even mention sources other than library shelves. This is in sharp contrast to the details which were provided on mechanics:
76% - required age length noted
66% - instructions on structure (such as introduction, bibliography, etc.)
61% - proper citation style
57% - number of citations required

If this is the type of assignment that teachers see during their college careers, perhaps it should not be a surprise that they are not more actively encouraging their high school students to use library sources, especially digital ones, to a greater extent. The good news? We have a 'teachable moment', both with faculty and students.

Here’s another quote from the report which should get us thinking and talking with colleagues about committing minds to inquiry:
A science professor described the gap between students’ perceived research competencies and their actual skill sets. "In one of my classes, I actually give a pre- and post- survey test to the students…. In the pretest— the self-assessment — I ask students to evaluate themselves on about 30 variables regarding their skills. Students typically express more confidence in their ability to do research, write papers, do analysis, present their results, than they do when I give them the post test at the end of the class. At the end of the class when I administer the post survey, students realized there was a lot they didn’t know."

1 comment:

Judy Gressel said...

Interesting findings. We certainly have our work cut out for us.

I think this speaks to the need to help shape the research experience, not just the final product.