Writing Support

During my past two walk-in hours I have had someone come to me with a direct referral for writing support. One was from a SMART Commons staff person at Wilson and the other was from a Center for Writing staff person.

If staff are having trouble distinguishing PRCs from SMART writing support tutors on the SMART website, it seems likely that students are having the same problem. I think that it is very important that future PRCs are not classified under WRIT 1301, because it causes confusion about what service we provide.

One solution would be to have the WRIT 1301 link to another page asking if students are seeking writing support or research support. This may clear up the misunderstandings about our role in student consulting.

Slow down

My walk-in hours have been very slow for the past week and a half. I've had about 1 student on average coming in to see me. My theory is that our lull will end next week when the students who have been putting off their research panic and need some help finding resources. It's kind of a bummer not having a lot of people come in after 3-4 weeks of heavy traffic.

Extra Credit/ Assignment Consulting

Last week we had our first run-in (this semester) with students from a FYW class who were coming to visit us as a class assignment. Between Francisco and I, we signed 10+ certificates. When we talked last Wednesday, Tony hadn't worked with anyone who needed a PRC certificate, but I'm sure he will :)

The structure of the sessions that are required are different from the ones when students come in with questions. The students that came in for an assignment had no expectations for the session, and just sat down to say "Hi, I need to come meet with you for a class." At first I was kind of lost, because usually I base my sessions around what the student already knows about research and the questions that they come in with. Most of these students had not started their research yet and couldn't identify the roadblocks they would encounter.

After working with the first of 5-7 students from the same class, I had a good idea of the expectations the instructor had research paper. I covered most of the same information with each student after that, but with a slightly different focus depending on their topic and how much information they had retained from the Unravel 2 online workshop they all had done. I showed each of them some basic mistakes people can make on the Library's homepage, introduced them to Academic Search Premier, and explained how to link GoogleScholar with the U's library databases.

Trade Off

As we're getting closer to the end of the semester, I haven't been blogging because I've been really busy! During every set of walk-in hours last week I saw at least 3 students.

With the increase in business comes a trade-off. When there are other students waiting to ask questions about their projects, some students might not get to spend enough time working with us to build the skills they need to do their research. Often, when there is no one waiting, I spend more than 30 minutes with students and make sure that they are comfortable with the strategies we covered before they leave. When there are others waiting, it isn't always possible to get to this point. I know that students still leave with a better understanding of how to use the resources available to them through the library.

This is a contradiction that is hard to balance, because we want as many students as possible to use the service, but we also want them to build as many skills as possible by meeting with a PRC. There's no easy solution. I've been taking it on a case-by-case basis with general rule of 20 minutes per person when there is a line.

Lots of Consultations!

This week we've had (or at least I'VE had) a big increase in business. There have been a number of students from a specific FYW course, and I think that the professor has been suggesting that her students visit us when they meet with her one-on-one.

On Monday (3-8) I worked with three different students, and another was hoping to talk to me, but had to leave for class before his turn was reached. Three out of these four were FYW students, and the other was a senior. Tuesday, I worked with one student for over an hour, because no one was waiting and I was able to introduce her to many new search skills.

Also I did another class visit today (and have another on Th). This one was for a non-native speaker section of FYW. After my presentation the students had questions and many seemed very interested in the service.

I'm excited because I think that the combination of our outreach/advertising and impending research paper deadlines has worked its magic and we'll be spending more time working with students from now till the end of the semester.

Group work

The instructors from the leadership course I did a presentation for said that visiting a PRC would be a requirement for their students. The project their class is working on is a group project, and  the instructors were encouraging the students to come in with their group, part of their group, or individually.

Because we know that groups of students will likely be coming in, I think it would be a good idea to include some things about collaborative work that the students may not be familiar with. I just recently learned about options like googledocs and netfiles that can make sharing information between group members really easy. 

Maybe it would be possible to go over some of the other tools covered in the library's Extreme Googling: Collaboration Tools workshop during our bi weekly training/ staff meetings.

First FYW students!

This week I had my first meeting of the semester with a FYW student. Our consultation reinforced my belief that we are providing a VERY valuable service for students. At the beginning of our time together the student seemed lost and confused about starting his project, but by the end he was ready (and excited!) to get started. Most of his anxiety was coming from not knowing how a research paper should be put together and what kind of information he was looking for, and after we addressed those topics and where he could find that information he seemed quite confident.

The student I worked with today is also a testament to the importance of building relationships with other programs on campus, especially with the FYW instructors. This student came in after getting a direct recommendation from his instructor. This instructor also has a link to the PRC schedule posted to the Moodle page for the class, right next to a link to SWS at the Center for Writing.

Business this week seems to have picked up a little. I talked to Francisco at the end of his shift and he had worked with two FYW students today.

Classroom Visits

This week I did two classroom visits to promote the PRC program. One group was a FYW class and the other was the first course in the Leadership minor. The instructors for both course were VERY enthusiastic about promoting the program to their students. The instructors for the leadership course are going to require their students to come in and work with us and the FYW instructor is considering making it an extra-credit option for his class.

In the presentation I included an overview of what the program is, our hours and locations, what I think we can help students with and time for questions. Both were done in in 10min or less.

U of M Center for Writing

Today I met with Molly, a graduate student who works as a consultant for the Center for Writing. The consultants there do a professional development project each year and she chose to focus on research skills and specifically our PRC program. Having taught FYW classes in the past, she is a big fan of the PRC program!

The problem that led her to study our program was a struggle about whether to/ how to tell students that their research is not as good as it should (and could) be. The Center for Writing staff has a lot of students come in requesting help with grammar, but on top of that the sources they have based their paper on are not solid. Molly said that many students cite Wikipedia in their papers without knowing that it isn't a credible resource.

Through Molly's project, the Center for Writing staff will get a glimpse at what PRCs are and how we can complement their program.  Also through her visit I was able to learn more about the Center for Writing and what the expectations are for incoming students.

This was a great review session for me about the service we offer as peer consultants. Molly forced to consider the process I follow as a consultant and the strategies I use with students.

Target Audience

The first part of the semester has not been going so well for getting our target audience of First Year Writing Program students in. To my knowledge we haven't done any class visits for them yet, but I've been making announcements in the Unravel Workshops that I rove for. Hopefully the information will stick, even without flyers.

Even though we haven't been getting many (any?) freshman students in, I've had consultations with two seniors and a graduate student. I've heard from Franscisco that he's also met with at least one graduate student this semester. I see why our program is geared toward first year students- they are completely new to doing research and our service complements the program well. However, I've come to see that there is absolutely a demand for our service at a higher level of student research as well.

It seems more likely for an advanced student to seek out help from a librarian (and also more likely that they'll need aid from a subject librarian rather than a PRC), but I've also seen in my classes and through my consultations that students outside the 1201 and 1301 classes are also lacking the basic research skills that we are seeking to build.