Last year, I was preparing to teach my first class in twenty years. I prepped my slides and discussed the in-person presentation with my boss. I was anxious, but didn’t realize a pandemic would completely shift how I had to teach my one-shot session – I had to teach via Zoom three weeks after everything shut down.
This year, we were prepared. In addition, the first-year research and writing class had been completely revamped, so all of the WRTR classes were reading the same texts and writing a research paper about conspiracy theories and their rhetoric and logic. This allowed SMU Librarians to create two modules that the WRTR professors could incorporate into Canvas before our librarian sessions (via Zoom) with their classes.
We met as a team to discuss what should be in the modules. The main module that we asked teachers to assign to their students was on information literacy – how to think about finding and evaluating information, particularly its reliability. The second module, on misinformation, was available but assigned at the teachers’ discretion. And a research guide with links to pertinent databases in psychology, history and political science, along with books on conspiracy theories and misinformation, was created for these classes as well.
All of these resources made planning my in-class session much easier (you can see the slides here). I used the first part of class to review the module and discuss its points about making connections between sources, good search strategies to use as they looked for more sources, and how to evaluate what they are finding and determine whether they are appropriate for their paper. I also made sure to connect what they had learned in the module with the prompt that their instructor had written for their class, like what types of sources could be used for different sections of their paper.
Then we split into break out rooms so that I could talk to the students one at a time, asking about their topics, where they had already looked for more sources, and whether they needed help. Overall, the students were in a good place for having just started the assignment, and this was confirmed when I asked them to put in the chat the most valuable thing they had learned during class – they liked the search strategies, how to evaluate sources, and were particularly grateful to learn they could schedule appointments with librarians for research help.
My experience confirmed that working as a team to help these students improved my presentations in class, as well as the students’ and instructors’ impressions of SMU Libraries and what we can do for the students.