Creating Passionate 11th Graders

Here’s an article describing the information literacy efforts at St. Bernards School in Gladstone, NJ, based on the research of Carol Kuhlthau and put into practice by librarian Randi Schmidt. Can this transfer to higher ed? I’ve tried approaches like this in some of my classes, but I only see the students once or twice, not three times like Schmidt. And I don’t have time to do 5 hour one-on-one consultations or to read all the final products and give a library research grade. If we really want to see students put effort into their library work, wouldn’t they have to be graded on it? Is this kind of information literacy work by librarians really practical on a large scale?

Five hours of one-on-one tutoring and guidance from the library staff is common. If the librarians hadnt intervened, Puglisi says, I would never have been able to do this no way. They kind of remind me a lot of parents. They dont exactly tell me what I have to do. They kind of study me until I see what has to be done.

At the end, each student receives one grade, 50 percent from Schmidt and 50 percent from their science teacher. The teacher grades the content. Schmidt grades the quality of the research and the enthusiasm with which students tackle the information search process. I have to take two days off to read all the papers, she says.

One thought on “Creating Passionate 11th Graders”

  1. This is inspiring. I think we need to bear in mind that our students return multiple times to the library and (sometimes) stop by the reference desk for Library Session Parts II, III, and IV. This happens a lot in specialized branch libraries – I’ll bet many science librarians know students working on big projects on a first name basis. But we not only don’t grade the final product, we rarely see it (and so don’t have a chance to add our perspective to the grade – or to adjust our teaching or redesign our Website if something obviously failed to click).

    For another take on this idea, making first year seminars more academically based and an introduction not to college life but to academic ways of thinking, see Doug Brent’s article, “Reinventing WAC (Again): The First-Year Seminar and Academic Literacy.” CCC 57.2 (2005): 253-276. You can download a draft from his Website, which is chock full o’ good stuff.

    What’s interesting is the difference in understanding between students who do research because, well, they have to write a paper with references, but they don’t really know why or care, and those who spend a lot of the course doing research about real topics. It’s not that they become fine writers or researchers, or even necessarily passionate about it, but they get the idea that research is about tapping into a network of conversation, not just a matter of writing something, sticking in some quotes, and documenting it. They’ve learned something essential about the academic approach to the world that you can’t grasp until you’ve done it.

    What would be interesting would be to revisit these students in a few years – to see if by getting that insight early, students became better (more accomplished, more engaged, more passionate?) at academic work generally by having this experience in the first year.

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