We’re having a three-day Learning and Teaching Conference here at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland this week. Today, Information Services department gave some quick updates. Here was my invitation to teaching colleagues to make the most of the skills that we Performing Arts Librarians can share with students at appropriate points in their courses. I am quite keen on the Biteable format – it’s quick and snappy, and it seemed to go down quite well!
A query in the cafe-bar yesterday concerned how to write a research proposal. I gave a few quick hints and promised to investigate whether we had anything in the library that might help with this task.
On Thursdays, I’m a researcher in the morning and a librarian in the afternoon. It wasn’t until I got back to my library desk that I started to think about the query properly. We do a lot of practice-based research at the Conservatoire, whilst my own PhD (now some years ago) was plain musicology, so I wanted to ensure that my advice suited the enquirer. Then I remembered – when had I last written a research proposal? Well, I’d done my successful application for an AHRC Networking Grant, of course – but I had also written a research proposal for my PG Cert project. To my delight, when I retrieved the appropriate documentation for the latter, I discovered I had used tracking on my Word document to keep myself right at every point of the process. There were my headings, and margin comments amplified what I should be doing under each one.
Then I turned back to the library catalogue, and tried a couple of searches, one of books and e-books, and the other using our discovery-layer, Catalogue Plus. This was looking promising. Finally, I put all my advice into a blogpost on the library blog, Whittaker Live. If I was giving a serious bit of guidance, I thought, then I might as well make it available to anyone else with the same question! I had actually worn all three of my “hats” whilst answering this query – librarian, musicologist and teacher. Some HE establishments have the role of “tutor librarian”. That’s not my title, but it’s one of the areas in which I feel most effective. That, and my research existence!
Writing a Research Proposal (blogpost on Whittaker Live)
I have often thought that when students have problems using Shibboleth institutional logins for our e-resources, the best solution would be to go for a Costa coffee – then we could practice logging in and searching the different resources. There’s only one problem – I can hardly ask students to take me out to coffee, and also, they’re often distance-learners.
Yesterday, we solved one of those problems. We took a class out to coffee, admittedly not Costa, but by arrangement with a nearby cafe – they sold 30-odd coffees, and we all played with our various electronic devices in search of specific keywords that I had set the students in advance. I won’t go into detail here – it might turn into an article later! – but suffice to say, I was delighted by how well the exercise went. It had involved a bit of advance preparation, first on my part and then on the students’, but it was certainly worth the effort. Away from the usual instant access via Eduroam, there was no option but to engage with the institutional access process, and these students had remarkably little bother with it.
Funnily enough, in years gone by, when I tried to teach catalogue use in a computer suite, there seemed to be too much temptation for students to play with Facebook or other social media. But yesterday, I didn’t give that possibility a thought, and because the students had an engaging task to do, it didn’t seem to happen. (If it did, then certainly not to any noticeable extent!)
Active learning? Certainly. Scaffolded learning? Arguably, yes. We started with what the students knew, then I offered some more suggestions, and these were added into students’ own search strategies, with improved results.
I gave two short talks about my PGCert project, in recent weeks. Firstly, for a day organised by the Scottish Library and Information Council, and then at the IAML (UK and Ireland) Annual Study Weekend 2018, for music librarians.
The short talks (click on the link to see my slides), were entitled “From PGCert to PG Certainty” went down well, and I was asked if I’d share them on the IAML (UK and Ireland) blog. The posting went live today, so here it is:-
This is just a brief summary – I hope to write a longer article in due course, but haven’t yet had time to give it the attention it deserves!