Critical Research Instruction

Custom-designed information literacy instruction

Library faculty design hands-on, interactive Critical Research Instruction classes tailored to your specific research-based assignment and student needs. Using a “just-in-time” approach, we teach students the skills, strategies, and sources applicable to your research-based project. This section provides additional details regarding our instructional program.

Critical Research Instruction

As part of our instruction, we create processing materials that help hold students accountable for their learning and progress throughout the lesson. We will identify “best fit” resources for each assignment and include active learning strategies during the class. Critical Research Instruction sessions are designed for the full 75-minute class period.

  • Don't assume your students know how to research or that they've learned these skills in another class — devoting time in class to information literacy development shows students this is a skill you value and an expectation you have for their learning.
  • Place a priority on acquiring this knowledge. By devoting class time to information literacy development, you’re demonstrating to your students this is a skill you value and an expectation you have for their learning.
  • Time to prepare. Book Critical Research classes ahead of time — it's never too early! We know inspiration can strike at unexpected times, so we will try to accommodate you. However, we require at least one week in advance to schedule an instruction request.
  • Use “scaffolding” — breaking assignments into smaller parts and coming to the library several times throughout the semester so that the instruction is closely timed with the students' application needs.
  • A copy of your assignment identifying specific source requirements (and preferably student topics) a week before the Critical Research class.
  • Your presence during the session — faculty come with their classes and stay during the lesson to answer questions, clarify requirements, and facilitate learning.
  • “Hot” students — those who have received the assignment ahead of time and come prepared with topic ideas. The Critical Research class is not nearly as effective if students are "cold," learning about the assignment for the first time during our session. For the same reason, scheduling Critical Research during the first and last weeks of the semester is usually not productive, due to the demands on students at those times.

Research, like writing, is an iterative process. Scaffolding is an instructional technique that breaks down the research project into smaller sections that your students can tackle one at a time, while learning to use a specific tool or approach. Advancing through each section forms a foundation for developing higher levels of more complex research skills.

To help us design a scaffolding structure for your session, we recommend:

  • Collaborating with library faculty on the desired student learning outcomes for your research assignment.
  • Dividing the research process into separate Critical Research experiences ahead of time.
  • Setting expectations for student accountability to each scaffolded learning activity, for example, Critical Research worksheet, journal entry, reflection work, graphic organizer, portfolio artifact, or outline.
  • Scheduling research and resource learning experiences close together, two to six weeks apart if possible.
  • Post session, reviewing with library faculty what worked and what could be changed.

Students taking night or once-a-week classes often feel disconnected from college life. The Library can serve as an anchor to their college experience. Your students use the Library more than you may think! Therefore, we recommend:

  • Scheduling your Critical Research Instruction as soon as you can. Instruction times can fill up quickly, especially for night classes.
  • Ideally, providing your classes with the assignment prior to the Critical Research Instruction, not the day of, or during the instruction.
  • Tailoring instruction to a specific assignment. Formalized Critical Research Instruction centered on a specific assignment increases students' awareness of credible sources.

We believe developmental education works best when it prepares students for higher level coursework. We do this in our Critical Research Instruction by acquainting students with rigorous research and writing practice skills, and encouraging the use of relevant college texts in assignments and projects. To assist developmental education students in acquiring academic skills, we recommend:

  • Incorporating authentic texts and assignments to align with 100-level classes.
  • Including more than one library/research-based experience. Research, like writing, is a recursive process. Many faculty include multiple library/researched-based experiences to help students become more comfortable with the library and college-level research sources, which eases fears and enhances affective learning. The focus of each experience can be designed to increase independence and build on skills learned previously.
  • Connecting library/research-based assignments to initiatives like service-learning, guest speakers, etc. Many faculty connect the library/research-based assignment to another project or assignment in class, such as "pre-reading" research on an upcoming guest speaker or follow-up research on a Service-Learning site or issue. For example, students might visit a food bank and then come to the library to research hunger statistics from multiple sources. Or do research for a poster or presentation they are creating in response to a One-Book theme, like censorship.