I am the subject librarian for the architecture and design faculty. One of the core first year courses is SARC 151 Architecture history. For the last couple of years I have been running a series of workshops aiming to teach students how to use the library to find resources for their first assignment. The assignment is made of two parts and so I run workshops tailored to each part running up to the due date for each. This assignment requires students to do research focusing on historic buildings and sites around Wellington such as Civic Square, City to Sea Bridge and Waitangi Park among others.
Civic Square, Wellington
Since this assignment requires students to search for specific information using local resources this project does pose a bit more of a challenge for students, as most of them are coming straight from high school where they most likely would not have done such specific research.
Before this year, I had anecdotal evidence from comments made by students who have attended the workshops and the Course Coordinator that these workshops are beneficial for students, indeed they often fill up faster than I can arrange them. However, I had never devised something that could allow me to measure if they really improve student performance in this assignment- this is what I did in 2018. As part of the workshops I created a survey which I asked students to fill out. This consisted of questions which gauged what students reported they learnt during the workshops.
For the information literacy part of the workshop this year I created an exercise in the form of a worksheet to evaluate what students were learning. This exercise comprised of students finding sources that were relevant to their project such as books, journal articles etc and filling out an evaluation sheet which asked them to explain how they found the source, three points in the source that were relevant to their topic and the reason they were using the source as well as the full MLA reference. One of these sources had to be one that they rejected as being unsuitable to use for their research as a way to assist students in identifying sources which are unreliable. Students were also asked to give the full MLA reference for the source.
The final part of the information literacy component for the workshops was a reflection on the research process. This worksheet asked students to reflect on what they had learnt about information searching, describe the search process they had used to find their sources and the greatest challenge for them in finding and evaluation sources.
I also created an evaluation survey which I asked students to fill out which formed the basis of the final data for this project. This survey was used in order to identify what students had learnt during the workshops, what search tools students were using to complete the information literacy exercise, general questions on how students went about searching for information and what if any students would change about how they went about information searching and evaluation after this workshop. Students said that they had learnt key skills and knowledge needed for the assignment and gained confidence in MLA referencing.
The data shows that students who attended both workshops got better marks than those who attended only the second one. However we need to keep in mind that these workshops are self-selective- perhaps students who are willing to attend two library workshops are simply better students and their higher marks do not actually reflect skills and knowledge they gained in the workshop. If this was the case, though, we would expect these students to perform better than others to the same extent on both parts of the assignment, however their marks were most improved on part one of the assignment. This suggests that the two workshops each provide specific benefit to students on relevant parts of their course work.
Teaching MLA referencing was a big part of the second set of workshops and those who attended these workshops got very high marks in referencing. This is important as this is a key area in which students typically receive low marks, so it is gratifying to see that for those who do attend the workshops they receive the skills to score highly.
The results of this project clearly show that these workshops are extremely beneficial to first year students. I am very pleased with these results as there has been a bit of a push towards moving away from these kinds of workshops in recent times while I am still keen to pursue them. The results of this project show that librarians teaching information literacy leads to benefits to students.
Subject librarian, Victoria University of Wellington