November 1, 2012

Meme-themed CRAAP Test

As part of my work in identifying and supporting student retention/success efforts on campus, I have been providing workshops to athletes as part of their mandatory study table hours. This semester, I am working with the football players and just finished up my second visit with them. We are really only given a half hour since they are busy getting homework done, and oftentimes, attention spans are short. This means I have to plan out lessons that are quick and to the point, and preferably engaging and hands-on as well.

I plotted out the three sessions to cover topics at point-of-need in the semester. First, a colleague and I went over library resources available to them and how to get started with research (catalog and databases). This session was directly tied to assignments in classes the majority of the athletes take in their first semester. The session I covered this week was evaluating sources, and the final session next month will be on citations and avoiding plagiarism. The latter two sessions are not directly tied to a particular assignment, so the challenge is to get their attention and make the workshops relevant.

Since over the summer, the competition was fierce when we used a BINGO-like game to teach the athletes about library services available to them, I figured using a game again would appeal to the football players. The plan was to review search tips from the first session briefly, cover the importance of evaluating sources, show the students the CRAAP Test from CSU Chico, and then with these skills, let them loose on the game.

Students were broken up into groups of 3 (out of a 24-person class), and each team was given a different meme. The athletes would need to use their newly-acquired searching skills to find a source that explains what their meme means, and then use the CRAAP Test to determine if the source is credible or not. The first team(s) to finish, and then accurately explain their meme and credibility of their source would win candy (bribes do help).


They seemed to perk up a bit when I mentioned memes. Some of them weren't sure what they were at first, but once they saw an example, they knew. Because it was such a short session, it was acceptable for them to use web sources. This made it easier for them to explain the meme but seemed more difficult for them to assess credibility. Also, in assigning different memes to each team, some of the ones chosen were more difficult to explain than others, so this gave an unfair advantage to certain groups. I tried to choose ones with cultural or historical significance that would have more content available when researching, but this wasn't always successful. Another issue was students simply locating pieces of information on the site and then regurgitating this on their worksheet, rather than using critical thinking skills to examine credibility. After noticing this, I made an announcement to think critically about what they're finding: instead of just writing down the year of publication or author name, think about if having more recent information on the topic is essential, or what affiliations and expertise the author has.

Using this lesson a second time with pre-business freshmen in an MIS class, the colleague I delivered the instruction with to the athletes and I instead required using the CRAAP Test on library resources only, requiring the students to search the databases. A problem with memes and researching pop culture of course is that it's brand new, so it's not likely there are scholarly sources. We permitted use of news articles instead because of this. Because of the class and revision of the lesson plan, it seemed to be more successful the second time around.

And today was the third trial with this lesson, on the second section of the MIS class. Instead of assigning a different meme to each group, I chose the two memes most conducive to research, divided the class in half, and then broke each half into teams of three. The first team in group 1 to explain the meme and source credibility would win, as would the first team in group 2 to do so. This went much more smoothly and it generated more possibility for discussion when groups explained their results.

I have to say, after working with the athletes especially, my classroom management skills are really taking off.... dealing with students not paying attention, talking, doing other homework.... I'm finding a silent pause with direct eye contact, asking discussion questions so students have to pay attention to each other if not me, and saying stuff like "come on guys, really? this is to help you finish your homework faster" seems to help a little. I think the library instruction sessions will always be perceived as boring and irrelevant by a number of students, unfortunately (I certainly thought so for a good portion of my undergrad years), but if we can mix things up with games and interactivity, it definitely can start to change those perceptions.

Lesson plan - Original - added in more discussion of aspects of CRAAP Test: students seemed unsure about certain terminology, like currency, relevance, and authority

Individual handouts

Group activity - memes - Original before revising to only include library resources and handing out only the memes: casually pepper spray everything cop and Neil deGrasse Tyson reaction