Week 1 — Questions for Formulating Significant Learning Goals worksheet


I’m trying to work as systematically as possible through these questions, so I’m starting with the first piece:

“A year (or more) after this [lesson] is over, I want and hope that students will know that a database called Web of Science exists, they thus must access it through a subscribing library, that is indexes more than science topics, and they they can use it to find articles as well as analyze those articles in various ways.”

Foundational Knowledge

  • What key information is important for students to understand and remember in the future?

Students should know that Web of Science is a database that indexes articles and reports published in various fields.

Students should know that Web of Science is only available through a subscription, usually through a library.

Students should know that Web of Science is only one database and that it may not be the only one or the best one for their particular assignment or question.

Students should know that Web of Science can be used to do more than search and retrieve articles.

  • What key ideas are important for students to understand in this course?

Students should understand the way in which databases interact with research.

Students should understand that databases can carry and perpetuate biases.

Students should understand that databases are products that are ways for vendors to make money.

Students should understand that there are large debates surrounding publishing research and that databases are not insulated from these debates.

Application Goals

  • What kinds of thinking are important for students to learn?
    • Critical thinking: students need to understand how to determine whether or not they need to use a database and if so, which database; students need to understand how to think about choosing a database; students need to be able to analyze and track their own research process(es)
    • Creative thinking: students need to be able to think about assignments or questions in creative or unusual ways in order to formulate the most effective searches;
    • Practical thinking: students need to know the steps for accessing and using databases, even when superficial interfaces or institutional affiliations change
  • What important skills do students need to gain?

Students need to be able to access the internet.

Students need to be able to navigate in a web browser to access the database through the library’s website.

Students need to be able to run searches in the database and manage results, which may include downloading, printing, exporting, or saving lists or articles.

  • Do students need to learn how to manage complex projects?

Yes, though this particular lesson will not address this need. This less would logically be part of a larger curriculum that would take students through managing a research project.

Integration Goals

  • What connections should students recognize and make
    • Among ideas within the course: students should make connections between the library, the database under discussion, and databases as resources more generally; students should connect using a database with using the library as a variety of resources (human, technological, informational)
    • Among the information, ideas, and perspectives in this course and those in other courses or areas: students should be able to connect this database and library resources as an idea to other courses and other research-related assignments
    • Among material in this course and the students’ own personal, social and/or work life: students should being to understand that research is not and need not be confined to academic environments and that the ideas and processes that work in the context of this database will work in other contexts (work, personal, etc.); students should begin to understand that a database is a single example of a wider set of resources and processes that, when mastered, make all information goals easier to attain

Human Dimensions Goals

  • What could or should students learn about themselves?

Students should begin to learn about their own assumptions about research.

Students should begin to understand how they need to interact with information resources to achieve their academic, personal, and professional goals.

Students should endeavor to identify limitations they have about research (unwillingness, a bad experience, limited vocabulary, lack of experience) that they can work to overcome.

Students should strive to see themselves in competition with themselves only, and not others, when it comes to improving research skills.

  • What could or should students learn about understanding others and/or interacting with them?

Students should learn that other people will approach the same question differently from themselves and that this is often not a value judgement.

Students should learn that often research is more effective when done collaboratively and/or with open communication and sharing.

Students should learn that their instructors are also researchers and that this is a different mode than they may be used to.

Students should understand that everyone has strengths and weaknesses when it comes to research and that there is no “one way” that always works or is “right.”

Caring Goals

  • What changes/values do you hope students will adopt?

I hope that students will become more interested in research as an activity with its own rewards.

I hope that students will become invested in how information is shared (or not shared) in their communities and nationally and internationally.

I hope that students begin to feel or reinforce positive feelings about research processes and information resources.

“Learning-How-to-Learn” Goals

  • What would you like for students to learn about
    • How to be good students in a course like this: I would like students to be comfortable asking questions and practicing these skills and processes frequently.
    • How to learn about this particular subject: I would like students to learn that database expertise comes through practice and use. I would like them to learn that if a database rarely or never meets their informational needs, then they have no reason to become an expert at using it and they should feel empowered to spend their time and attention with other, better resources for their needs.
    • How to become a self-directed learner of this subject, i.e., having a learning agenda of what the need/want to learn, and a plan for learning it: I would like students to learn that practice and use are valuable and they will learn more about their own needs as they explore their initial needs.




Week 1 — Situation Factors worksheet


I’m not entirely sure what my focus will be for this course, but I’m on the job market and have several teaching presentations coming up.

I think my focus will be on these presentations and the instructional framework they want me to address. For example, one presentation is about using an online tool I develop to teach a distance class about a database.

Using that as my focus, here’s the Situational Factors worksheet:

1.  Specific Context of the Teaching/Learning Situation
How many students are in the class? Is the course lower division, upper division, or
graduate level? How long and frequent are the class meetings? How will the course be delivered: live, online, or in a classroom or lab? What physical elements of the learning environment will affect the class?

This is already an issue. As an artificial teaching presentation, I don’t have an actual class to work with. Interestingly, I’ll actually be presenting to a group of librarians and other faculty, staff, and students who attend the presentation.

I do know that the presentation will be live, with a demonstration/explanation of an online tool used for the ‘actual’ instruction to the distance course.

I have about 30 minutes, so that would be the upper limit of the tool/instruction I present.

I have to present a database. My thoughts now are to use Web of Science as the database and I’m interested  in exploring making a guide on the side as the ‘tool’ I create.

I assume this would be no more advanced than a mid-level course (sophomores or possibly juniors). In order to create a meaningful presentation and a meaningful experience in this course, I will ask the search committee if they have thoughts about a class size or cohort information.

2. General Context of the Learning Situation
What learning expectations are placed on this course or curriculum by: the university, college and/or department? the profession? society?

It’s not clear why the search committee is looking for a database demonstration. I will also contact them to see if they see this demonstration as tying directly to an objective for all students.

3. Nature of the Subject
Is this subject primarily theoretical, practical, or a combination? Is the subject primarily
convergent or divergent? Are there important changes or controversies occurring within the field?

There are no controversies surrounding using a database, though it strikes me as odd to require a database demonstration as a teaching presentation. It has been my sense that demonstrations are not particularly valuable in terms of determining teaching efficacy.

The use of a database is both practical and theoretical. The individual steps needed to successfully perform a search or track citations are fairly clear and could be performed by rote. The decision to use a particular database, the construction of a search, and the use of results all require some theoretical knowledge about information, its organization, and the purpose searching for both the particular need and in general. Understanding the need for particular types of resources should foreground the use of a database.

4. Characteristics of the Learners

What is the life situation of the learners (e.g., working, family, professional goals)? What prior knowledge, experiences, and initial feelings do students usually have about this
subject? What are their learning goals, expectations, and preferred learning styles?

The students in this scenario are understood to be distance learners. We can assume that many if not most have used the internet before and primarily use Google or a similar search engine for most of the information searching. It is likely that many of the students have not used the particular database demonstrated and many may not have used any library database before this demonstration.

Since this scenario is divorced from an actual class situation, it’s not clear what the students have as learning goals or expectations.

I’m skeptical about “preferred learning styles” and I’m unclear what is meant here. Based on a keynote presentation I attended at LOEX this year, I’m unconvinced that “learning styles” is a useful characteristic to consider. Preferences about learning may be useful and it is safe to say that all of these students, being distance students, are at least assuming that they will be comfortable learning in an online environment.

5. Characteristics of the Teacher
What beliefs and values does the teacher have about teaching and learning? What is
his/her attitude toward: the subject? students? What level of knowledge or familiarity doess/he have with this subject? What are his/her strengths in teaching?

I believe that teaching is a collaborative process between students and teachers and that each person in the interaction has the possibility of being a student, a teacher, or “the” student or teacher, depending on how the interaction progresses. Flexibility is key. In this particular case, this is a challenge, as I’ll be presenting a ‘lesson’ artificially as I might teach it in an asynchronous (I assume) online environment where real-time collaboration isn’t possible.

I have a strong belief in the necessity of the subject (strong database use skills) but concerns about ‘database demonstration’ as an appropriate lesson focus. I am invested in students understanding the value of this database and its potential to help them with the schoolwork and non-schoolwork information questions. I do not have any particular attitude toward these ‘students’ as they are imaginary and highly artificial. I do think that distance students should not be assumed to be completely comfortable online and I try to be understanding of the technological as well as conceptual problems they may face.

I am very familiar and knowledgeable about searching in general and have a moderate to high level of felicity with Web of Science. I am always interested in teaching it since there’s lots to explore and student questions always end up leading to interesting discoveries about what the database can offer.

First thoughts


This is just a quick first post to keep a few ideas I already have after just the required reading.

1. It’s obvious to me that many instructors and many librarians do not use this type of framework when designing instruction.  In fact, it seems clear to me that much instruction cannot be fairly described as “designed” at all.

2. I can’t wait to get into the supplemental reading.

3. I already have enough notes and “remember this” annotations so that I’ve effectively pushed Drupal stress from work to the back burner–huzzah!

More from me later.  I’ll be grabbing odd hours for this course over the next weeks. When it rains it pours.