Tuesday, March 31, 2009

LILAC report: using student learning journals

Claire McGuinness was talking today about using student journals to develop an information literacy module. I use students' reflective reports as assessment in a number of modules, so I was interested to hear about Claire's experience.

Students are required to write reflective research journals which Claire sees as authentic assessment, encouraging students' reflection on their learning. This also encourages a reflective approach to teaching practice, since the student reflections can stimulate the teacher to change his or her learning, teaching and assessment methods. Caire talked about how reading the student journals can challenge your assumptions and trigger changes in your teaching practice.

Claire emphasised the need fornauthentic assessment: this concept is described by Callison as "an evaluation process that involves multiple forms of performance measurement reflecting the student's learning, achievement, motivation, and attitudes on instructionally-relevant activities." (taken from the article here: http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/aasl/
When discussing the need for reflective learning Claire referred to the different kinds of knowledge: declarative knowledge (knowing what to do); procedural knowledge (knowing how to use strategies and skills in a given context) and conditional knowledge (knowing when and why to use the strategies). Planning, monitoring and evaluating are seen as skills that can help you develop this metacognition.
Claire referred to the work of Jennifer Moon who is a key person in the field (e.g. A Handbook of Reflective and Experiential Learning: Theory and Practice (Routledge, 2004) and to some recent articles from librarians e.g. Diller, K. and Phelps, S. (2008) "Learning Outcomes, Portfolios, and Rubrics, Oh My! Authentic Assessment of an Information Literacy Program." portal: Libraries and the Academy, 8 (1), 75-89.
Claire herself runs a first year class in information literacy. To start with she used Stripling & Pitts' model of the search process as the structure, but now she has backgrounded this. Assessment is by essay, journal, and (15%) tutorial attendance. There are weekly diary entries over 6 weeks, with goals, activities, readings, and at the end questions such as "What did I enjoy most" "what have I learnt". Reading about what they found problematic or enjoyable was useful feedback for teaching.
One area that students had problems was narrowing down the topic for their essay. Students were given broad topic areas and had to each choose a narrower topic to focus on. At that point she reviewed whether this was central to the aim of the class, or whether this was something that was providing an unneccessary barrier to confidence and development. Therefore she now gives more clearly defined topics, so they can focus on other important areas. This shows the need to review even those subjects or activities that you start by thinking is essential. The other change that she picked out was using e-portfolios, with different types of material included, such as class exercises, with more specific requirements for the reflective postings.
An article that Claire wrote a couple of years ago on this subject is:
McGuinness, C. (2007) "Using reflective journals to assess the research process." Reference services review, 35 (1), 21-40.
Photo by Sheila Webber: Tulips and pink forget-me-not in Cardiff today.

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