From Potato Chips to Vegetables

In August 2015, my colleague Tammera Race transitioned from her role as the science liaison librarian to Systems, Assessment, and Metadata Librarian, which allowed me to join the college and fill her original position. We worked together to make the change cohesive and understandable to the campus community. One of our efforts toward this goal included co-teaching an information literacy workshop for two sessions of an introductory biology course.

In the biology course, students created wiki posts on cancer, where they researched things that “cause” or “cure” cancer. Tammera and I revamped a presentation she gave to previous biology classes to create a flipped classroom for the workshop. We asked students to watch a video that introduced them the basics of using public health and medical literature, including primary and secondary sources, before coming to class. Students created their bibliographies of sources about what “causes” or “cures” cancer before watching our video and attending the in-person workshop. Afterward, they updated their bibliographies.

I compared the bibliographies published before and after the session. Within the class wiki, I offered feedback to all students about their sources. Proud of our efforts, my colleague and I published our effort as a recipe in The Firstyear Experience Cookbook, edited by Raymond Pun and Meggan Houlihan (ACRL, 2017).  

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Mixing Bowl: Our draft recipe in Google Drive

This was the first instruction session I’d led at this job and the first time I’d used a flipped model in a class. Looking back, there are some things I would change. These include:

  1. Make the video shorter. Clocking in at almost 27 minutes, this is a long lecture, which may lose students’ interest. Creating shorter videos may help increase enthusiasm and retention.
  2. Use meaningful assessment tools. I assessed the students’ pre- and post-workshop using their posts to the course wiki. I compared their initial bibliographies with the ones they created after viewing the video and participating in class. This was a worthwhile experience, and provided meaningful feedback, but I did not use a rubric or similar assessment tool. Improved assessment might help instructors see what worked, as well as communicate more effectively with students about their research.
  3. Create a more interactive online element. To make the online aspect of the flipped classroom more interactive, activities could be included. For example, a quick quiz after each short piece of the video could provide immediate feedback for the students about what they learned, reinforce the lessons, and provide the instructors with assessment about each module.
  4. Be kinder to students. While no students commented on this matter, reviewing my responses to them I see that I could have been friendlier and gentler in my commentary. One can never be too kind to students, especially in an environment where they are scared to ask questions and are unfamiliar with librarians. Creating better flipped materials is one part of practicing this kindness.

Overall, the students and the faculty members found the instruction session beneficial and my colleague and I enjoyed the experience of working together on it, but there is still room for improvement.

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Final recipe, from The First-Year Experience Cookbook



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