Provisions Fellows Introduction

As the Provisions Fellows for 2014-2015, we invite you along on our journey of thinking, inquiry, and discovery through our blog posts, which will be published here (at least) weekly.  The theme for this year’s Provisions’ Fellowship is “First Year Students,” and we hope that our students will follow us in the processes of thinking, inquiry, and discovery that we will undertake through this fellowship.  Our blogging here will act a resource for readers, but also a space for us to learn more, through the act of writing, about our research, theory, and classroom practices.  Please read along and let us know what you think in the comments section.

Below you will find highlights from our Provisions Fellowship applications, as well as plans for what we’d like to experiment with and research this coming year.

Jennifer Marlow, Assistant Professor of English

I can think of few things more crucial to the long-term success of college students than their experience as a first-year student, including the foundational experience of ENG105 Expository Writing, Oral Communication, and Research Techniques, and their knowledge of the writing process. As a specialist in rhetoric and composition, I treat first-year writing as an opportunity to provide a curricular space for welcoming students to the college and as an indispensable introduction to writing and thinking skills that will support their entire college careers and beyond.

This semester in my ENG105 class I am interested in employing the concept of the “flipped classroom” and also pursuing questions of transfer between first-year writing and writing in other college courses.  Transfer refers to the ability to apply skills learned in one context to different disciplinary and professional contexts. The flipped classroom involves moving the work traditionally done inside the classroom (lectures, slideshows, videos, etc.) out of it and moving the work historically done outside the classroom (activities, problem solving, writing, research, etc.) into it, creating a more active and engaged classroom experience. In a first-year writing classroom, this would mean dedicating substantial class time to the act of writing.

In particular I am interested in any potential causal relationship (though, since this project isn’t — for now — longitudinal, I won’t be able to make any concrete conclusions) between additional time-on-task devoted to writing, as well as additional metacognitive exercises completed, in the “flipped” writing classroom and transfer of skills to other college classes or writing situations.  I am pursuing the question: Does a flipped writing classroom help facilitate transferable knowledge of the writing process?

Pete Koonz, Faculty Librarian

Research indicates that a majority of first year college students are ill-prepared to research and write college-level papers.  While Google and Wikipedia have made it simple to find information, students are expected to navigate a much more complex information ecosystem once they enter college.  This ecosystem includes library databases, academic journals, primary sources, authoritative web site, and many discipline-specific resources as well.  Not only does this represent a much larger and more complicated universe of information to new students, it also requires new strategies and competencies if they are to successfully retrieve and use information from these unfamiliar resources.

My inquiry for Provisions targets the role librarians can play in helping first year students become progressively capable of  finding and using appropriate and authoritative information in this complex world of information sources.  I will follow the discussion happening in the library community as it reconsiders the meaning of information literacy within an evolving networked world.  The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) has drafted a new framework for information literacy, utilizing the idea of threshold concepts and metaliteracy as anchoring components.

In part, this initiative by ACRL was sparked by a variety of trends and realities in higher education over the past decade, including an increased emphasis on collaborative learning, increased use of non-textual media, and a willingness to test new classroom strategies, such as the flipped classroom.

Not only do Jenn and I hope to explore the research in these areas and share what we are learning and thinking in this blog, but we will attempt to figure out how to best insert library instruction and information literacy support into her flipped classroom.

The bibliography of our readings for the year can be found as as a page on this blog.