Academic journal article Education Libraries (Online)

You Have One Hour: Developing a Standardized Library Orientation and Evaluating Student Learning

Academic journal article Education Libraries (Online)

You Have One Hour: Developing a Standardized Library Orientation and Evaluating Student Learning

Article excerpt


Limited classroom time with students is a challenge for instruction librarians aiming to develop and deliver quality instruction. When it comes to orientations, their nature lends them to be both limited in time and lacking a deeper research mission. In turn, this means they can be a challenging entry point for library instruction. However, getting students in the library, or at least aware of the resources available to them, is an important element of getting students oriented to campus. This is the landscape in which library orientations exist and function. The scenario is no different at Central Washington University where this orientation took place.

During the fall quarter of 2015, the librarians of James E. Brooks Library partnered with University 101 (UNIV101), a required orientation course designed for first-year students. This was not the first implementation of UNIV101 partnerships, but the relationship pivoted on the expectation of standardized content coverage. The main mission behind this orientation was to introduce students to library materials and services. One of the goals was to establish familiarity with the library from which to build on in higher-level library instruction. A secondary goal of this implementation was to check for student learning after their library session. The course outcome that was targeted during library orientations is represented in Table 1.

Given the flexible nature of this outcome, it was expanded to create clear expectations that the learner would be able to:

* Identify services, materials, and spaces available at the library

* Identify OneSearch [the library catalog] as a starting place for academic research

* Apply evaluative strategies to assessing resources and differentiate between scholarly and popular resources

In defining this outcome, it was important to keep in mind that students in this session were not expected to have had previous library experience or exposure. Therefore, it was necessary to assume that students in this course might have had little experience with research or the research process. They also would not have a research project that they are working on for a course. The premise of the orientation curriculum and all case-based learning activities were designed with this in mind and were self-contained.

Literature Review

Academic libraries are not new to the student orientation process and while library orientations take a variety of formats, most aim for a common goal of providing an introduction to libraries in a friendly fashion. Some orientation activities have included scavenger hunts, tours, and games (Kasowitz-Scheer, 2006) to engage their audience. Other orientations that occur in the traditional classroom have integrated clicker response questions into library orientation sessions (Brush, 2010) as an engagement method. Engagement is central to effective orientations and student learning. As a teaching strategy, it can also take a variety of forms.

Cooperative learning, active learning, and problem-based learning all circle back to the goal of creating engaging learning experiences. Cooperative learning has its roots in active learning, but distinguishes itself by maximizing learning through group work (Keyser, 2000) instead of simply active individual work. As a teaching model, case-based or problem-based learning also draws on individual interests and input to offer an effective learning environment (Carder, Patricia, & David, 2001). With the knowledge that students are also more likely to value instruction that they feel has personal relevance to their learning (Latham, Gross, 2013), adopting problem-based and active learning models can be an effective way to engage students. Orientations pose a challenge because students coming to the library for an orientation are unlikely to have an existing research mission or interest, and may not be as invested in the learning process. …

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