First-year Student Essays Shed Light on their Experience of ACRL Framework Threshold Concepts
A Review of:
Dempsey, P. R., & Jagman, H. (2016). I felt like such a freshman: First-year students crossing the library threshold. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 16(1), 89-107. https:doi.org/10.1353/pla.2016.0011
Objective – To synthesize student narratives on searching for an item in the library and to identify information literacy threshold concepts students encountered during their searching.
Design – Constant comparative analysis.
Setting – Academic library at an urban American university.
Subjects – A sample of 97 1-to-2 page ungraded first year student essays.
Methods – A library assignment was developed for first year students in a required academic skills course. Students wrote the essay for peer mentors. After completing the essay, students were asked if they wanted to participate in the study. For the assignment, students were asked to find a library item of interest and write a reflective essay on the process. Essays were analyzed using NVIVO software. The researchers developed codes independently, then came together to review, discuss and recode the essays. Using the constant comparison method, themes were identified from the coding. Narrative analysis was used to understand the coding in the context of the students’ experiences.
Main Results – The authors outlined various search paths that the students described in their essays. The main emotional responses in the essays were surprise, confusion, and excitement. Three ACRL Framework IL concepts were identified in the analysis: Scholarship as Conversation, Searching as Strategic Exploration, and Research as Inquiry. Scholarship as a Conversation was exemplified through students’ selection of a library item. Students chose topics that were of academic interest or associated with personal identity. In the essays, students explained their connection to the item they found, making the connection to the ongoing scholarly conversation. Searching as Strategic Exploration was expressed through student descriptions of connecting the call number to the subject classifications. Some students sailed through, whereas others encountered challenges. Some found that previous library mental models failed, found the catalogue overwhelming, or thought the organization of material was at fault rather than their own skills. Some students described how they overcame their challenges. Students also discussed balancing self-reliance and seeking help when searching for an item. This related to the ACRL frames of Research as Inquiry and Searching as Strategic Exploration. Attitudes on seeking help ranged from complete reliance to anxiety.
Conclusion – This library assignment offered students the opportunity to pursue their own interests and goals. It also encouraged exploration, problem-solving, and reflection. The assignment design allowed students to grapple with information literacy threshold concepts in a safe and independent environment, demonstrating learning and engagement with academia.
Copyright (c) 2019 Heather MacDonald
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