January 3, 2013

Workshop for Faculty: Designing Effective Research Assignments

Designing Effective Research Assignments from Nicole Pagowsky

Today, myself and a colleague presented a workshop to faculty on designing effective research assignments for student success. Since we consult with faculty often and see good/bad assignment design in action through library instruction and feedback from the reference desk, we were proactive and offered this session as part of the Office of Instruction and Assessment teaching academy offered each semester. We thought this would be a great opportunity to work more closely with faculty who might not know about library services or best practices / pitfalls.

If you download the PPT instead of just viewing it on SlideShare, you can see our presenter notes, detailing what was covered in each slide. We started off talking about issues students have with research and research assignments through looking at the ERIAL Project, Project Information Literacy, and Kuhlthau's Information Search Process. We discussed how faculty and librarians overestimate students' skills in research (ERIAL), how students overestimate their own skills as well but are anxious about research (and even dread it, PIL), and then how to understand this affective learning and when/how to intervene (Kuhlthau). Applying this knowledge to ACRL Info Lit standards, we had faculty start to think about current assignments they are using, or assignments they would hope to use, in this new context.

Next, we covered specific design pitfalls and best practices, breaking best practices down into: scaffolding, transparency, context, critical thinking, process over perfection, and embedding academic integrity.

As part of hands-on activities, we, as I mentioned, had instructors use a worksheet to think about their own assignments and evaluating their effectiveness, then we also had them evaluate a sample assignment using criteria related to being specific, transparent, and encouraging critical thinking.

The session went very well, we even received applause at the end with many thank yous. There is really nothing I can think of to modify at this time, other than spending more time hearing about what kinds of assignments instructors are using. We will be getting formal assessment back soon from the Office of Instruction and Assessment, who hosted the workshop series. We will be offering this workshop again in a month or two and am looking forward to working with more faculty.