February 15, 2019

Lesson Plan Series, #3 – Finding and Evaluating Sources for First Year Students



By Eva Sclippa

What is your name? Where are you in the field currently? What has been your teaching experience thus far?

PHOTO BY: JEFF JANOWSKI/UNCW

My name is Eva Sclippa; I’m currently First Year Engagement Librarian at UNC Wilmington, but the lesson plan I’m sharing today is from my time at Alfred University. In my role there, I coordinated and taught the information literacy sessions for the art history students, as well as for some studio classes. Though it is no longer art-specific instruction, even more of my time is now spent in the classroom, as I coordinate, schedule, and teach many of the one-shot sessions for First Year Seminar students here, as well as a for-credit course in the spring semesters called LIB 103: Introduction to Library Research and Technology.

What is the name of the institution and the position that you were in when you wrote and gave this lesson plan?What is the context of the lesson plan you wrote – who was the audience, what were your learning objectives, etc?

When I wrote and taught with this lesson plan, I was the Art Librarian and Coordinator of Instruction at the Sloane Library of Art and Engineering, at Alfred University. This plan was developed for a one-shot session as part of a series of three one-shot sessions, distributed throughout the year on a quarterly system. The students were all new studio art majors, taking three required art history introductory courses as part of their “Foundations” first year experience. This particular plan was designed for the 130 level classes.

In developing this lesson plan—and the two that accompanied it for the 120 and 140 level classes, respectively—I faced the unique challenge of needing to develop three tiered classes without being able to control the order in which students were taking them. Working with the art history professors, we were able to agree on a system in which the information literacy component would have a different focus for each level: Images and Visual Literacy for 120s, Finding, Evaluating, and Citing Sources for 130s, and Synthesis (developing a research question and strategy) for the 140s.

For the 130 classes, our objectives were:

  • Students will be able to search for sources in our catalog and databases
  • Students will understand the primary criteria for evaluating their sources and be able to use them in their own source selection process
  • Students will be able to recognize the basic elements of a Chicago style book or journal article citation

The lesson plan and accompanying Powerpoint I developed begin by walking students through the basics of generating keywords and search terms using the 12th century Virgin of Montserrat as a starting point, though they only touch on this process briefly, as this subject is covered more in depth in the 140 “synthesis” sections. We explore and discuss the primary source evaluation criteria as a class, moving on to a polling exercise (discussed below) and then the source evaluation activity that takes up the largest portion of the class. This activity, also discussed later in this post, gives the students a chance to explore the evaluation criteria in practice, while also learning from each other during the demonstration and presentation section. Finally, we review the basics of the Chicago citation style, and then close the session with the “Human Citation” activity, in which a group of student volunteers is given signs bearing parts of a citation, and the rest of the class has one minute to direct them into the correct order.

Were there any resources that you used in the creation of the lesson plan? What were they?

The primary resource I used was polltogo, a free online polling tool. During the discussion of source evaluation criteria, I used this to briefly quiz students on whether or not a series of sources could be considered relevant or credible, and then was able to show the anonymous results to the class. This gave me a way to assess student comprehension as I taught, and often surprised and intrigued students who assumed their classmates were all on the same page. These days I primarily use polleverywhere for in class polling and quizzing, and any simple multiple choice polling tool would be equally effective.

How was the plan received? Would you make changes to future iterations?

Generally well—though there is a great deal of disparate material that needed to be covered in a limited amount of time, in a way this functioned to give each topic a “lightning talk” sensibility, making it easier to keep the students engaged. The key element, in my opinion, is the Resource Evaluation Exercise, in which students have to work as teams to first locate and then evaluate different sources based on the criteria discussed in class. I specifically inform the students at the start of the activity that I have made sure to select sources that have at least one thing “wrong” with them, and challenge them to determine what that flaw is. The students then present their source as a group, walking the class through how to access it—through our databases or catalog—and the conclusions they came to about its quality. Having the students demonstrate how they retrieved the source was especially valuable, as there were multiple avenues to access each one, and this gave students an opportunity to learn from each other.

Typical complaints about time limits and coverage in one-shot sessions aside, if I had to revisit this lesson plan now, I would probably work to flip the classroom more, especially in the introductory portion that focuses on the basics of searching. Assuming such a plan was amenable to the professor of the course, one good approach might be to develop an interactive tutorial on searching that students could complete prior to class, and then shifting that part of the lesson into a group activity in which they found the sources they would later evaluate. With enough time, flexibility, and miniature whiteboards, this could even be translated into the Human Citation activity, with the librarian instructor selecting one of the students’ sources to parse as a class.

If you have any questions or would like to contact me, feel free to reach out at esclippa (at) gmail (dot) com, or sclippae (at) uncw (dot) edu.

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