Project Planning

I have to do a research project for my PGCert. I’m not in a position to write at length at theBowskill moment, but I can say that it will concern finding effective ways to engage students in library induction and instruction.

Nicholas Bowskill, Student-Generated Induction: a Social Identity Approach: a Staff Development guide (s.l.: Nicholas Bowskill, 2013) ISBN: 9781480113299

I wrote about this approach a couple of weeks ago, when I put together a Storify about a conference I’d read about.  In order to be able to quote it later, I’ll give details here:- my Storify is entitled,

Shared Thinking: Student Induction Event (mainly as reported by Sue House)

This is my introduction:- ‘I am myself thinking about student engagement in library-led seminars and tutorials – it’s the focus of my PGCert project. So when I read librarian Sue House’s tweets from a Shared Thinking event at York on Tuesday 5th July, I sat up and looked, because she cites lots of useful info & references.’

and the link is this:-

I got the book for the library, and have only read the first chapter or so, to date.  Two caveats: it is about student induction to university, not just to the library. Secondly, it relies on electronic voting software to a quite significant extent. That is not going to happen in a library situation, where 20 students are standing crowding round one librarian!  Neither will it happen when the librarian is given ten minutes to introduce a concept at the beginning or end of a lecture.  Still, the idea of constructing a “group view” – based on something the author calls SharedThinking – is something that interests me. I’ll reflect on it at greater length another day.

My internet connection is so slow that this posting has taken 28 minutes, including uploading one wee picture! Another reason for calling it a day.

More observations as I continue reading (11.1.2017):- the book is based on social identity theory, and can be used to run a workshop for staff involved in conducting induction sessions.  Thus, the course itself models future induction sessions.   A course organiser should aspire to ‘curate the social identity of the group’ and encourage the formation of peer relationships.  The intention is that induction should be participative and social, rather than just ‘telling students what they need to know’.  The theory is based on ‘the discipline of social psychology’, but this practice is supported by – yes, ‘classroom technology’ – clickers and interactive whiteboards.

My initial reaction, as before, is that this won’t work in a library tour setting. Students aren’t seated, and they can’t write down their personal view, move into small groups, share views, feedback to the whiteboard, create questions, vote on significant aspects and have a plenary discussion on issues arising.  I don’t doubt that it is a good approach, but not for an initial library induction.

In terms of induction design, Bowskill lists the disadvantages with ‘an individual view of induction’ (the Piagetian principles of working out what it takes for an individual to make sense of what they are being taught), or ‘a structural view of induction’. My favourite constructivist theories are being demolished! Bowskill thinks students will be overwhelmed with a series of presentations on different aspects of induction by different staff. Too much information.  So, we come to Bowskill’s ‘identity based view of induction’, based on social identity rather than personal identity, ie forming a shared sense of social identity in the group – an ’emotional sense of togetherness’ which will support student retention. (Bowskill, p.15).  It’s based on student-generated induction, and classroom technologies.   He also cites two articles by V. Tinto, on learning communities and collaborative learning.  (My reading list gets longer all the time!

  1. Tinto, V, ‘Learning communities, collaborative learning and the pedagogy of educational citizenship’, AAHE Buylletin 47 (1995), 11-13
  2. Tinto, V, ‘Learning better together: the impact of learning communities on student access in higher education’, Journal of Institutional Research 9(1) (2000), 48-53)

Tinto apparently talks about developing the students into learning communities.

Bowskill adds that students are most influenced by their peers, so without taking this into account, we could be wasting a lot of time trying to influence them ourselves.  He does emphasize that after students have together come up with their own information needs for induction, the tutor has a responsibility to add anything that the students need to know but have not asked about.  ‘Our relationship with the group becomes one of supporting and supplementing their conversations with the things they couldn’t know about. It’s the idea of induction and support coming from within the group.  This is a long way from the idea of us telling them what we think they need to know.’ (Bowskill, p.38)

As Sue House was tweeting from the conference, she observed that a good idea was to start an induction session by asking students what they hoped to get out of it, and ask at the end if it had been helpful.  Yes, we could do that.  Sue commented (5th July 2016, 4:33 pm), ‘Different identities can be switched on and off depending on cues in the environment.’  The aim is to encourage the students to form a social identity of ‘we, all new students here’, rather than a feeling of being a lone individual.

I think I’ve read enough, here.  I can’t read a whole workshop script from beginning to end.  (There are slides for reproduction onto PowerPoint, at the end of the book, and there’s a bibliography including the Tinto articles I cited.)  I do see the basic principles, and the purpose for doing induction this way.  The book can go back to the library.  And this blogpost hyperlink can go into the blogpost dated 2017.01.11.


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