Academic journal article Research & Teaching in Developmental Education

Student-Curated Exhibits: A Vehicle towards Student Engagement, Retention, and Success

Academic journal article Research & Teaching in Developmental Education

Student-Curated Exhibits: A Vehicle towards Student Engagement, Retention, and Success

Article excerpt


In looking for ways to combine course content literacy and information literacy with active learning, in 2007, our English Department and Library combined efforts and created a course project for students to curate exhibits that would demonstrate their understanding of course material through library research. We know that in developmental education active, student-centered learning is the best method to promote engagement, increase confidence, and build enthusiasm (Bransford, Brown, Cocking, & NRC, 2000). After discussing several strategies, we decided to incorporate an assignment involving student-curated exhibits, with a public reception, into the curriculum of a freshman capstone course, Classics 107: Greek Mythology, in which many of the developmentallevel students enroll. This assignment could be adapted to suit courses in any discipline. The assignment asks students to work in teams to curate exhibits using various methods of research. Students synthesize text, artifacts, and other visual images to explain and analyze a topic from the course and then present the exhibits to the campus and public during an opening event. The assignment had four instructional goals: for students to experience success engaging in a variety of learning intelligences and employing both cognitive (writing and research) and affective learning skills; to increase library awareness and information literacy; to contribute to the students' sense that they belong to the academic community; and to develop competency skills that translate into the workplace. Studentcurated exhibits meet these goals because students actively engage in verbal/linguistic, visual/spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, and interpersonal learning intelligences (Fogarty 1997; Gardner 1999). Additionally, students conduct research, manage their time, create written documents, form artistic representations, and verbally present information. Here we describe the role of the library, discuss the assignment, and show through outcomes assessment how students not only increase their critical thinking and writing skills, but also that they show a change in attitude about the library as a place and their role as a student on campus.

The Role of the Library

College libraries have long been considered central to the academic missions of colleges and universities, and therefore, must have an active and dynamic role in the educational experience, beyond that of simply being a quiet place to study and providing access to information. To that end, at UNM-Los Alamos, the library offers a dynamic information literacy program, and proactively reaches out to all campus constituents with collaborative opportunities to enable student life-long learning, engagement, and success. According to Kuh, Boruff-Jones, and Mark (2007) a key to student success is the nature and frequency of contact with agents of socialization, including librarians and faculty members. Accordingly, collaboration with a faculty member or librarian on a research project, even just one time during a student's college experience, could be a life-altering experience leading to success.

Between the paradigm shift from libraries as keepers of information to providers of information and the ever-increasing availability of online resources, libraries have become lively multi-purpose gathering centers. Hence, the significance of "library as place" has increased dramatically. As a result, many libraries now have coffee shops, designated eating and drinking areas, designated discussion areas, and spaces for showcasing art, information, and book exhibits. Creating an environment where people choose to gather can make a difference in the overall perception of the library, the amount of support given to the library, the amount of usage the library gets, and the effectiveness of the library's role in promoting student success. (Phillips, 2008).

At UNM-Los Alamos, the library has had a long tradition of hosting art exhibits, and in 2000, that tradition was extended to include information and book exhibits. …

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