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Science Information Literacy and You!

October 22, 2019

In my last post I discussed increasing our first year students’ science information literacy skills by offering a joint presentation with my campus’s Quantitative Skills Coordinator.  I am pleased to report that the session went well but we had fewer students in attendance than we anticipated (only ten).  That wasn’t a total loss however, because it allowed us to have more meaningful conversations with those who did attend.  We were able to gain valuable feedback from those students on how we could improve if we held a similar session in the future.  The attendees’ main feedback was that they wanted more information on how to locate study resources to supplement their required class materials.

Since that original presentation in January 2019, I have offered two more science information literacy sessions on campus.  The second session was similar to the first in which I collaborated with the quantitative skills coordinator and we discussed STEM study resources available both in the campus library as well as the campus learning center.  We set the maximum capacity to 25 first year students and the session filled up quickly.  Due to the feedback from our original presentation, I created a new handout with tips and tricks on how to navigate our library catalog to locate additional study materials for various science disciplines.  Students were able to locate workbooks, practice problems, and exam preparation materials and several students borrowed those materials from the library immediately after the session.   My colleague was able to provide students with instructions on how to create a profile and schedule peer tutors for their science courses.  At the end of our brief presentation, we surveyed the students using the same brief questionnaire that we had previously used.  All 25 students provided feedback and overwhelmingly said they learned something new during the session.  I would recommend this type of presentation to any colleague who is interested.  It is a low stakes presentation and with just a little added effort by creating the new handout, we were able to demonstrate high impact according to student responses.

After attending a few departmental meetings with our biology and engineering faculty on campus I gained insight to what the students in my college are struggling with and began thinking of ways to better address these concerns.  A few weeks later I offered a third workshop entitled, “Science Information Literacy and You!”  This event was intended for science majors on campus and two of the biology faculty offered extra credit for their students to attend.  Admittedly, I threw this session together rather quickly between my instruction commitments and planning for the 2019 PaLA conference but I was encouraged by the faculty’s support.  I was blown away by the attendance: 53 students; 51 of whom were currently enrolled in the school that I liaise with and serve.  I began the session by proposing lofty questions to the students, “What is science?” “Who creates science?  And how?”  These questions prompted a brief, but lively, discussion about the philosophy of science (I did not see that one coming) and a general discussion about navigating the differences between junk science and legitimate science.  We discussed the science-related headlines that they often see in newspapers and on social media platforms.  I then asked the students to locate one science-related resource that was of interest.  Once they found an interesting resource, I walked them through an activity that I created in order to evaluate the contents of that resource and the associated article headline.  The session was only 50-minutes long but, as a group, we were able to learn from each other and get a sense for what we mean when we discuss science information literacy.  I did not pass out an assessment survey since our discussion left us with limited time, which was fine by me.  On the students’ way out a handful of them informally shared their thanks for the session and had thoughtful comments to share with me.

Overall, I am encouraged by my efforts to lead these science information literacy workshops on campus.  Feedback from both the students and the faculty members have been positive and I am inspired to continue my efforts on this front.  If any readers have suggestions on how to improve these sessions with new and engaging topics please feel free to contact me.  I am always happy to share my experiences and collaborate with colleagues.

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