Increasing Information Competence in Medical School Faculty

By Sheffer, Rena A. | Academic Exchange Quarterly, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview

Increasing Information Competence in Medical School Faculty


Sheffer, Rena A., Academic Exchange Quarterly


Abstract

This article compares two approaches to increasing information competence in faculty at an academic medical center and looks at possible reasons for their varying success. Approach A started with formal instruction in a classroom setting and included hands-on work by the faculty-participants. An assignment involved followup interaction between the faculty-participants and the instructing librarian via email. In Approach B we went to the faculty when they had already gathered for a conference. Two librarians set up a computer workstation at the site and were available to answer individual attendees' questions before the conference. We have done this once, and it was very popular, so we are now promoting our "Reference Express" service as the approach has come to be called.

Introduction

Instruction librarians continually look for ways to make their teaching most effective for their varying classes. This is true for other teachers as well, but instruction librarians have an added challenge: most library instruction is confined to a single class, usually only one, or at most two, hours. This means that the topic and the approach must be chosen very carefully in an attempt to fit that audience and optimize the instructional impact. Methods for doing this are an ongoing topic of discussion in the literature(1-6) and on library instruction listservs. The following descriptions are two approaches conducted at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), an academic medical center which includes both clinical and basic science degree programs. Our particular aim was to study ways that might be most effective specifically in teaching faculty, knowing that there is no one class style that can fit all situations and audiences. One group (Approach A) included teaching faculty from the UAMS colleges of nursing, medicine, pharmacology, health related professions, public health and basic sciences. The other group (Approach B) comprised clinical medical faculty.

Approach A

We took a formal, classroom approach to information competence among our faculty upon the request from a special education program for faculty. This is a Teaching Scholars program which is institution wide, and there are similar programs at universities throughout the United States. Faculty must apply and be accepted in order to enter the program. It comprises lecture and working session classes, assignments, and development and implementation of an education related project. There are strict rules about completing all segments in order to graduate and receive the diploma-certificate. The program is highly recognized enough that the diploma-certificates are personally given by the Chancellor of UAMS.

A director of the Teaching Scholars program asked if we would teach a class on searching the literature to include the Ovid interface (MEDLINE and CINAHL being the databases most appropriate for this group) plus an introduction to ERIC searching. A participant requested information about the CRISP database, so we included a brief look at that also. The lecture-demonstration would be followed by hands-on practice at the same class session. Our formal classes always include both lecture and demonstration to accommodate both auditory and visual learners as much as possible.(7-8) Whenever possible, we also include hands-on time since so many people have told us they learn well by trying a search themselves when there is a teacher present to guide them. Although an actual discussion per Dean's Affective Domain(9) does not usually occur in our classes on database searching, we do ask questions and try to get people talking about the process and results in addition to the listening and watching that constitutes much of the class. For this class, there would be a required assignment to send the instructing librarian a search strategy and some example citations. These would be reviewed with feedback given to the searcher.

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