Our research path in the Assessment of Student Learning Lab has been exciting, challenging, and very beneficial. Now that we are about ¾ through this academic year, and correspondingly ¾ of the way through our research projects, it is an interesting time to reflect on our progress. When we began early in the fall, we mapped out plans for our research projects with some fairly good ideas of what we wanted to learn and what our timelines would look like. Flexibility, worthy goals, and determination are invaluable in bringing a research plan to fruition.
Librarians and fellows together launched into a nebulous process of mapping learning outcomes of the library’s English 125 courses and of online psychology modules into potential survey questions. Fellows in this lab learned new tech skills, like how to create content in the learning management system, Canvas, as well as new tricks in Qualtrics. These fellows also learned really valuable skills around negotiating a research path. Perhaps that one question you really liked was edited, or one of your colleagues did not know how to accomplish a task so you had to take extra time to provide them with some training These are all very important parts of belonging to a research team. Everyone brings different types and levels of expertise, and we all learn from each other in the goal of producing quality research.
In thinking about our path, there are a number of highs and lows. First the lows. While we are in the process of running our study of learning outcomes for the psychology online modules, we are behind where we had hoped to be. In creating instruments to assess student learning, several steps too much longer than anticipated. In addition to our own learning and experimentation around designing the instruments, members of the psychology department and our psychology librarian vetted the instrument at several points in the process. While it is taking longer to get the results of this particular research project, it benefits our lab in two ways. First, I think the survey instruments ended up being very well done partly due to having extra contributors and extra time to reflect upon them. Second, our fellows had the opportunity to encounter competing timelines that were out of their control and to negotiate adapting our research plan based on the needs of outside stakeholders. Our hope is to collect a rich dataset for our next group of Fellows to analyze.
Now for the highs. Concerning data and analysis, we have collected and analyzed data from the English 125 study that proves to be informing on what learning goals are being achieved.. With the longer timeline on the psychology project, an unexpected opportunity was that all of our librarians and fellows came together to work on both projects instead of staying on different trajectories. All team members could focus on developing a methodology and survey instruments for each of our two projects. Later in the project, as work paused on the Psychology study, we also came together again. We decided to create an interview instrument that could be used by both the English 125 and the Psychology modules studies. So all of our fellows had better insight into both projects. The team will work together through the interview and data analysis phases with the opportunity to learn much from each other. All of these experiences contribute to learning about library research through planning, iteration, and more planning.
Doreen Bradley obtained a B.A. in French Literature, Linguistics, and Translation from the University of Toronto and a Master of Information and Library Studies (M.I.L.S) from the University of Michigan. She has over 17 years experience as a health sciences librarian, and for the past 9 years has focused on information literacy particularly for undergraduate students. She is the Director of Learning Programs and Initiatives unit in the U-M Library.