I really appreciate the freedom of choice and exploration of this week’s blog topic, as well the reference to the children’s book series, Choose Your Own Adventure. As a Gen X-er myself, I really enjoy Michael Stephen’s references (Fleetwood Mac, Twin Peaks, Cabbage Patch dolls, etc.) and the nod to this book series is another great example.
For my adventure, I am choosing the Hyperlinked Academic Library. Anne-Marie Deitering’s and Hannah Gascho Rempel’s reading, “Sparking Curiosity – Librarians’ Role in Encouraging Exploration” resonated a great deal to me. Their study looks at how to really engage college freshmen enrolled in a mandatory composition class to develop the critical research and writing skills necessary for them to move forward in their college endeavors. As a former Graduate Teaching Assistant in a junior-year writing seminar, which attempted to have students write “passionately” on a topic of their choosing, I greatly welcome their findings. Deitering and Gascho Rempel quickly hone in on the disconnect between assignments and actual student interest and investment that first-year students put forward.
Critical to their argument is changing language, a key example is to remove the phrase “write something that you are passionate about,” to language that is less daunting and more inviting, specifically – “curiosity,” “exploration,” and “learning.” While the term “passionate” is meant to be motivating, the writers found that students understood this to mean, choose a controversial subject, and students usually chose one that they had no real interest in learning more about or had already written a previous paper on. Another key element to their research is to scaffold the learning outcomes with opportunities that incorporate low stakes exercises in order to assist students with developing and understanding their own curiosity. One example is to “browse outside the journal literature,” with readings that facilitate and strengthen students’ interests and follow-up with group work that includes discussions on a reading, preparing students to eventually build critical analysis skills, and include self-reflective exercises that develop their understanding in “how they are curious.”
I agree with Deitering and Gascho Rempel’s assessment that these shifts in language as well as incorporating the librarians as collaborative partners to the teaching experience of a first-year composition class, can only go so far if teachers do not buy into this model. The researchers determined that it is imperative to have librarians “teaching the teachers” in order for this model to be sustained and successful. Instructional and research librarians are not grading the assignments, nor are they in the classroom every day, but it essential to help the teachers change their language, expectations, and methods for promoting curiosity by strengthening the connection between academic librarians to the teachers as well as to the students.
Academic librarians are uniquely positioned in the age of the hyperlinked library, in a role that allows them to bridge connections in order to promote curiosity, explorations, and affect within students and in the classroom. Through inventive and innovative uses of researching, making use of library databases and library space, academic librarians promote effective learning practices. Deitering and Gascho Rempel’s study demonstrates the important role that academic librarians have on impacting students and teachers in order to make real change for the future.
Deitering, A. & Gascho Rempel, H. (2017). Sparking curiosity.