project curve, part two: research guidance rubric remix.

Continuing a project-focused series on my initial months at the Claremont Colleges Library (I first wrote about Maker Breaks, our button press goings-on), this post explores an example of one of my favorite pastimes: repurposing the good work of others in order to avoid reinventing a wheel.

The wheel in question is a very well-designed and useful Research Guidance Rubric (RGR), created by a pair of librarians at Grand Valley State University, Pete Coco and Hazel McClure. This rubric presents a practical, faculty-focused approach to addressing the increasingly well-documented problem of poorly designed research assignments (see Project Information Literacy’s report, Assigning Inquiry: How Handouts for Research Assignments Guide Today’s College Students (PDF) and the frustration they create for students (and librarians, by extension).

the rgr at gvsu

My colleague Alex Chappell attended LOEX 2011 and was impressed by Pete and Hazel’s work as presented in their session, “Rigging for Rigor: Guiding Classroom Faculty Towards Richer Research Assignments with the Research Guidance Rubric.” A program description from the LOEX 2011 site:

Proceeding from Project Information Literacy’s recent report documenting student needs being left unmet by many research assignment prompts, two librarians developed a tool for faculty to self-assess their assignment prompts. The Research Guidance Rubric (RGR) functions both as a self-evaluation tool for faculty and as a “conversation-starter” between the disciplinary expertise of professors and the information literacy expertise of liaison librarians. We’ll discuss assignment collaborations as we plumb the questions that premise the RGR: what makes a collaboration successful and how can librarian-created tools move the conversation on research assignments toward better student outcomes?

Parts 1 and 2 of their preso are available via YouTube.

Pete explained to me that one of their goals of presenting at LOEX was to “get the RGR into the hands of other librarians for their use and local adaptation… All we ask is 1) attribution, 2) a web link to our original with any adaptations and 3) that you keep us posted on your experience with it.” He and Hazel have “plans to create a companion document for students and a web version that includes examples for users as well as boilerplate text for some of the elements of an assignment prompt… We’ve begun collaborating with our own writing center on the RGR and it seems like an avenue rich with opportunity. Hazel and I both come to librarianship from the writing classroom, so its always nice to see our work resonating with those folks.”

Finally, from Pete: “We really appreciate your advocacy for the tool and, more broadly, the sort of librarianship it envisions.” Hear hear: a librarianship built on shared solutions and local customization.

modifying the rgr

On hearing Alex’s recommendation, I reviewed the RGR and found it to be a tool that could be put to immediate (read: last-minute) use in a faculty planning seminar related to library instruction in Critical Inquiry ID1, the common first-year interdisciplinary course requirement at Pomona College. When asked if my colleague Gale Burrow and I could modify the RGR with attribution and expand it to include potential librarian/faculty collaboration scenarios based on a course and its assignment outcomes, Pete and Hazel not only generously (and quickly) agreed, they supplied a .doc version of the RGR to aid in our 11th-hour remixing project.

ID1 has long had a collaborative (and highly individualized: all syllabi/assignments are unique) library component that often consisted of one-shot sessions and some individual librarian/student appointments, but the Library now finds itself operating with increased instructor capacity (three new teaching-focused librarians) and in the process of developing new e-learning tools and research support avenues. We therefore wanted to use our time with Pomona faculty (one hour) to advocate for a more collaborative and customized approach to library engagement in ID1, supported by well-articulated and scaffolded research assignment prompts with clear outcomes and applicable library instruction strategies. Here is our modified “Research Assignment Design” (RAD) rubric:

We embedded the RAD rubric in our faculty presentation and distributed it in print as a takeaway, using the document primarily as a platform for engaging faculty in a discussion about effective research assignment design and low, medium, and high-intensity librarian collaboration scenarios in the context of ID1.

The strategy and rubric were well-received and relatively successful within the context of the faculty workshop, but our sense is that ongoing revisions to Pete and Hazel’s original are still needed on our end: we changed the RGR to make it align with a different desired outcome (suggesting collaboration methods as well as assignment design guidance), and still have work to do to facilitate said outcome. We plan to continue tweaking RAD to include concrete librarian collaboration scenarios that help faculty imagine beyond the one-shot concept.

When using the rubric as a faculty presentation engagement tool in the future, it struck Gale and I that we should devote more time to exploring its design and applications rather than covering it glancingly, and/or use it to engage faculty in discussions about library collaboration and assignment design at the individual level. Finally, we’re going to suggest the RAD rubric as a resource to teaching librarians at our own ID1 library instructor retreat later in the summer, and will post it to our own website when it’s in a more ship shape and in a version universalized to all of the Claremont Colleges.

Stay tuned for project curve, part three: profdevlib.

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