Me, a Social Scientist?

Thinking about my PGCert project, I am constantly reminded that educational research is very different from musicological or historical research.

Nonetheless, this is one of the paths I must tread for the next few months. So here’s my challenge: to establish how effective our e-resource training has been and to gain some insights into how much more effective it might be.

I’m hoping to use three kinds of data:-

  1. Data from library surveys, 2009-2016
  2. Data from a SurveyMonkey questionnaire which is yet to be written, and which will be distributed amongst my PGCert/MEd peers.
  3. Transcriptions of a few short interviews.

Since (1) is historical data, not gathered for the purposes of the present project, I realise that it may not offer much depth of detail.  I hope to establish if more people, generally, have used our growing e-resource offering, year on year, and to see what insights I can gain about what specifically is being used or attracting more attention.  Some of the surveys asked which resources the respondents would like to know more about.  I might be able to infer which kinds of resources have tended to be most popular.

The disadvantage of such data is that I have to use summary reports.  I won’t be able to get much granularity of detail as regards different categories of students, whether by subject or their course level.

Specifically, I won’t necessarily be able to tell whether postgrads have been heavier users – or more confident users – of electronic resources.  Neither will I be able to tell whether the age and length of time out of full-time education for first years (of any degree or diploma) affects their confidence levels.  I can certainly ask questions to unearth this factor, in my own SurveyMonkey questionnaire (2) and subsequent interviews (3), though.

To date, I’ve got my copies of all the library summary reports from 2009-2015, and raw data (not yet summarised) for 2016.  One of my first tasks, after I’ve finished the documentation surrounding the project proposal, will be to see what I can glean from this data.

 

Lectures versus active learning

Pickles, Matt (2016), ‘Shouldn’t lectures be obsolete by now?’, BBC News: Business, 23rd November 2016 (oneline) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-38058477 [accessed 23.11.2016]

I read an article on the BBC News Business pages today.  The author, Matt Pickles, expresses surprise that the lecture format persists, despite demonstrable evidence that they’re often not the most effective way of teaching students, and that active learning works much better.  Some universities are catching on, but it seems others aren’t bothered, because they’re more concerned about their scholars’ research profile than their teaching skills.

That’s not true at my institution – for a start, we’re a conservatoire, so whether you “do research” or are an expert practitioner and perhaps don’t consider your practice as research, much of the work is practice-based in any case.  And secondly – we wouldn’t be studying for PGCerts if we didn’t think teaching was important!

I’m a bit atypical in being a musicologist, and although I like to get my research performed, my research isn’t actually in performance or composition.  I’m also atypical (oh, I love being a nonconformist!) in studying for a PGCert with the aim of improving my teaching for the librarianship side of my work first and foremost. My research takes place on one day a week, and any spare home time I can fling at it, but I only get rare opportunities to teach my research interest.

But what I can say is that I much prefer to speak to groups small enough to be able to converse with students rather than lecture them.  And if I’m teaching how to use e-resources, or bibliographic /referencing skills, it’s infinitely easier with a group or even a single student.  You can’t converse in a lecture, and my minor hearing impairment makes it even more difficult.  (Why would I pose a question to people at the back of a lecture theatre, when I probably couldn’t hear their reply?!)

HerStory Scotland? Yes, but under a different name

Idly scrolling through Twitter, an account called Herstory caught my eye.  It’s owned by Alice Wroe, a London feminist artist.

 Herstory
@herstory_uk
Herstory- set up by @alicewroe uses feminist art to engage people with the women’s history absent in the curriculum.
London

Being naturally inquisitive, I had to find out who Alice was:-

Alice Wroe

@alicewroe

Feminism / Art / Education. See my project @herstory_uk

Peckham

It got better.  HerStoryIreland spotted my retweet, so I thought I’d see what was happening over there, too:-

herstory

@HerstoryIreland

Herstory is a new cultural movement created to tell the lost life stories of extraordinary women from history and today.

Dublin City, Ireland  ·  herstory.ie

So the obvious question was, what about Scotland and Wales?  We certainly do study women’s history ‘over the border’ – and although there isn’t a Twitter @HerStoryScotland, there is Women’s History Scotland @womenshistscot, not to mention the amazing Glasgow Women’s Library @gwlkettle.  (I must admit I’ve never really thought about what goes on in Wales, as regards feminism or feminist history. Shocking, considering my Welsh Borders ancestry, but I have only ever lived there for one academic year.)

I keep an eye on the Women’s History Scotland group activities, but I’m already 11228598145_661aa7a45d_zjuggling being a music librarian, musicologist and PGCert online student, so I’m a bit pushed for time at present.  Women’s place in history is an interest of mine, but not my main focus.  My current research is into historical music copyright collections.  From time to time, this does lead me to think about women involved with music.  In my doctoral research, I encountered early 19th century song-collectors in the Hebrides, and more recently I’ve discovered a lady music cataloguer in early 19th century St Andrews, and a deserted Scottish mother who supported herself and her daughter in London by teaching and composing harp and piano music. She also sold her deceased, deserting husband’s compositions (nice work, Sophia!), and established a music school with her second husband.  Quite a lady.   (Oh, and there was the English lady concert promoter who tried to get in on the first Edinburgh Musical Festival.  She didn’t get anywhere.) Then there were my English lady song-composers who set songs about the pastoral life, romance, sensibility … and the Napoleonic Wars!

Meanwhile, in my capacity as music librarian, I’ve boosted our stock of books about women in music, historical or otherwise, in the past year or so.  And I have research colleagues outwith the library, who study women in music whilst simultaneously composing music, and suffragette women in politics whilst animating live theatre events.  But this is just in my small corner of Western Scotland.  There is bound to be lots more activity that I don’t even know about.

Update: Claimed From Stationers Hall, Music Research

I’ve just written a summary, partly as a record for myself and my department, but also as a progress report for all the researchers and librarians that I’ve been talking to about my latest research project.  One year on, it felt like a good time to write a short summary of progress so far.  Read it here. (It’s on a separate page on this blog – see the tabs above.)

When a Tweet Provokes Thought

I’ve just found this tweet in my feed, and it set me thinking.  The person who posted it (Cristina Costa, at the University of Strathclyde) has been at a Scottish information literacy event.  I was aware of it through following Twitter, but didn’t hear about it in time to consider attending.

The image attached is a circle divided into four quadrants:-

  • Develop Skills – Educators, Skills and Confidence
  • Improve Access – Learners,  Access [??]
  • Empower – Leaders, Drive Innovation
  • Enhance – Curriculum and Assessment

So, in my rather unique position as simultaneously academic librarian, postdoc researcher and PGCert student, where do I fit in?  Today, I was talking to third year undergraduates about online resources, referencing and bibliographic referencing software.  We didn’t go into any details about how exactly RefMe,  Mendeley or Zotero work – in an hour to cover all the above, it was enough to mention that they all do roughly the same thing, and are worth considering.  In a sense, it was ME developing my skills as an educator (1), at the same time as I was improving the learners’ access (2) by informing them about what was available and how best to exploit it.

Their regular course-leader was sharing the seminar with me, so I like to think that sharing knowledge about the library’s online resource provision was empowering my colleague (3), whether by providing reminders about facilities or imparting new knowledge.  That, naturally enough, would (hopefully!) enhance the curriculum (4), and the assessment of student projects will in due course also demonstrate just how much they used the information we had given them (4 again).  However, I am not involved in the final assessments, so on this occasion I just have to hope that what I shared will prove worthwhile.

AN ASIDE, ABOUT REFME

On the subject of RefMe, I should mention that although we looked into the institutional, enhanced version, the cost was too high, so students will have to make do with individual free access.  RefMe does have impressive capabilities, and is easy to use.  I haven’t embraced it fully myself, because really, one needs only one bibliographic referencing tool, and I have Mendeley on every single device I ever use.

However, I downloaded RefMe to my android phone earlier this week.  I wanted at least to be able to demonstrate it to students.  Disappointingly, it wouldn’t scan ISBNs, wouldn’t retrieve details of books that I was pretty sure should have been retrieved, and although I’ve emailed the RefMe helpdesk, they haven’t responded yet.  I hope there will be an easy, obvious answer, because I hesitate to recommend it to students if there’s an android glitch that isn’t being talked about.  Meanwhile, I’ve uninstalled it, and await a reply!  I’ve also tweeted a query. No reply to that, either.

I downloaded a research paper about RefMe, a couple of months ago. Sat down to read it properly just now, and – well, yes, I had already added it to my Mendeley bibliography. (Shh, don’t tell RefMe!)  But it’s impressive, it really is.  The accuracy rate is hugely better than asking students to do their referencing manually using sample templates.  Here’s the report.

Hakim, Yaz El et al, 2016, The impact of RefME on the student experience. Online. https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/719144/Time_Saver_Whitepaper.pdf (Accessed 2016.11.20)

 

 

But I’m still waiting for my reply as to why I can’t scan barcodes or search for items on my Android. So I’m still wondering whether I ought to recommend it to Android users!  Frustrating.

 

 

Half a Day in the Life of an Academic Librarian

I was working from 1-5 today, because I was owed a few hours.  So, I had planned two meetings, one in my capacity as music librarian, and the other regarding a research grant application.

What happened? Two more people came asking for help in the 15 minutes before my first meeting. I helped the first – it was a quick question – and asked the second to come back later.  The first scheduled meeting happened, the second didn’t happen for unavoidable reasons, and then I had what I hope was a helpful second student consultation with the person whom I hadn’t time to help earlier.

And then I blogged some notes on my afternoon, on the library blog – Whittaker Live. Reproduced here, to avoid duplication of effort.  But before I do that, I’m just going to comment that it made me realise – again – how enthusiastic our postgraduates are, and how eager to get things right.  Also, I was reminded that logging into e-resources, and referencing and citation, are things we librarians just take in our stride.  They’re much bigger hurdles for our students, especially if they’ve been out of education for even just a few years.

In library terms, we would refer to these incidents as queries, though ‘consultation’ is probably closer to the mark.  In actual fact, it’s 1:1 teaching, though some of our RCS teachers probably assume that teaching only takes place in classrooms or studios!

Day in the Life of a Music Librarian

E-RESOURCES: ACCESS
This afternoon saw a quick question about our students accessing online resources from outside the Conservatoire – and a quick answer.  RCS staff and students need to go to our Library web-pages, click on the appropriate e-resources link, and then pick their chosen e-resource (or e-book, or e-journal).  Use Shibboleth institutional access from there – pick the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, then your usual RCS login.  We don’t use Athens – so avoid anything mentioning it.

REFERENCING
Then came two two individual consultations about Karen’s favourite things.  First, a fairly in-depth discussion about saving citations, then using the Harvard referencing style, and creating a bibliography.  The Whittaker Library has guidelines about Harvard referencing on our part of the RCS Portal.  (Find them here.  If you need more, just Google “Harvard Referencing”, and you’ll find plenty of other guides!)

If you’re referencing a lot of non-standard formats, the best advice is to find an example for something approximately close to your reference, then tweak the example to fit your purposes, making sure the author’s name and date of the source are listed first.  If you’re referencing something online, then you’ll need to give a hyperlink, and also the date you accessed the item.  All this is in our guide.

E-RESOURCES: RESEARCH

The next query was back to e-resources again, but this time about content rather than access.  We talked about finding info about specific musical works.  Naxos sleeve notes are useful.  JSTOR can be useful, too. Oxford Music Online is better for facts about the works’ composition dates, opus numbers, where they stand in the composers’ output, etc, but may not necessarily give you anything in-depth about individual works.

So, having delved briefly into online resources, we also looked at CD and vinyl sleeve notes – plenty more info in that direction!  And good old Cobbett’s Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music.  It may be old, but could be a good starting place.

Face to Face Study Day

On Saturday, the PGCert and MEd cohorts had a “live” study day at Speirs Locks.  We talked about ethics and forms of questioning, and about sourcing reading material, and citing it.

Questions of ethics are a new area for me.  Really, ethics feature more in the social sciences; they hardly crop up at all when the subjects of your research are not only very, very historical, but their descendants- if traceable – are usually flattered that you’re researching their ancestors!

Forms of questioning?  Well, it made me think about my research project, because I’m beginning to think I’ll need to use several modes of information-gathering.

  1. Draw on anonymous library surveys already done
  2. Use Survey Monkey – probably surveying the students in my own cohort, because they will appreciate what I’m doing (and why), and will also have a vested interest in anything I can organise to help them with their own research efforts!
  3. A few short interviews.  If – at the end of my Survey Monkey survey – I can ask whether respondents consider themselves “highly techie”, “moderately comfortable with online technologies”, “quite uncomfortable” or “tech-averse”, then hopefully I could conduct interviews with one or two of each.

When it came to discussing sources of information and referencing, though, I quickly found myself halfway between teacher and student, because librarians really do have a head-start in this field.  We had some interesting conversations – and it became quite clear that if students don’t initially have a satisfactory experience, they’ll quickly look elsewhere, or use Google/Google Scholar, or beg assistance from a friend at another institution.

My concern, therefore, is that students should learn how to use what we have, even allowing for the fact that our syndicated subscriptions do mean we have patchy coverage of some e-resources.  If a publisher allows the SHEDL group full access to certain journals but not others, or certain years, then it can be a frustrating experience for the reader.  We can’t avoid that, but we can try to ensure that students know what they’re doing so they won’t fail at the first login request.

It would be lovely to go to Waterstones with each student and their tablet/laptop, to help them practise logging in from outwith the Conservatoire.  Sadly, there aren’t enough of us library staff to do that!  (Nice idea, though ….  I wonder if it would be feasible with groups of students?  But then again, distance learners aren’t all local and certainly aren’t all around during office hours. Ho-hum … )

It’s always good to get together with the rest of the cohort, though.  It helps make our studies feel “real”.  Sometimes it’s hard to remember that you’re doing a certificated course, unless you meet the others and talk about common interests.