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European Conference on Information Literacy


Saint-Malo, France

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H. Weinreich, Hamburg, Germany


One of many shifting areas for academic librarians is their role in the design of research assignments. While many librarians possess both expertise and the desire to engage in assignment design, doing so in practice requires deep collaboration and careful role negotiation with discipline faculty. Faculty, who themselves have varied degrees of formal pedagogical training, may not recognize librarians as teachers with this instructional design expertise. Finding the “collaboration sweet spot” can be difficult to achieve in spite of best intentions (Junisabai, Lowe, & Tagge, 2016). However, librarian participation in creating authentic, scaffolded research opportunities is crucial if we are to have a deeper impact on student learning.

In order to provide structured opportunities for feedback and collaboration at the assignment design level, librarians at Utah State University facilitated a full-day workshop for 24 interdisciplinary faculty and six librarians. Drawing on methodologies from the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), the workshop included discussion and reflection on scaffolding research processes, faculty and librarian review of their peers’ research assignments, and small group feedback sessions called charrettes. Following the workshop, faculty revised and implemented their assignments. Researchers conducted post-implementation interviews with faculty regarding their revisions and workshop experience, and assessed a sample of student work. Due to a generous grant from the University Provost designed to promote curricular innovation, the library was able to compensate faculty for their participation in the study.

This presentation will discuss the impact of the workshop on faculty and librarian practice and philosophy, shedding light on the mutual gains that occurred through collaborative research assignment redesign. Skills like working collaboratively and sharing information with authentic audiences arose as common assignment objectives across disciplines. As a result of the workshop, faculty were able to partner more easily with their subject librarian for integrations in the classroom. Librarians gained insight into the skills that faculty were focusing on, prompting discussions of scaffolding and considerations of how 21st century workplace skills are being developed across programs and across the university. Observations from workshop conversations and post-implementation interviews also revealed how learning opportunities are translated through assignments, and how different styles of teaching, designing and thinking about learning are evident in this process.

While the workshop positioned librarians as a voice that belonged at the assignment design table, the more encompassing message of the event reiterated the value of collaboration, the importance of making research tasks explicit, and the benefits of including a range of expert voices in the assignment design process. A representative comment from a faculty member about major takeaways from the workshop reflected those values: “Faculty here (including librarians) are really committed to their teaching work and are willing to learn from each other and share expertise.” These findings do not diminish the value of librarian leadership and involvement. Rather, they emphasize the opportunity and importance of the library in filling a niche – providing a place and forum, as well as expertise, for faculty collaboration on assignment design work.