Friday, March 18, 2011

Meeting with Physics

I invited the (newly-hired) chair of the physics department along with the past-chair, who has also served as the library liaison and self-identified as having interest in information literacy.

I arranged with our events coordinator to have catered box lunches (sandwiches). The physics faculty members were extremely quick to e-mail me their lunch preferences, btw! Anyway, the events coordinator was out sick today, and for whatever reason, the lunch never arrived.

So, we tried to go our University Club (aka faculty club, but really, anyone can walk in), but it's closed today. So, we ended up dining at the student dining hall. It wasn't too crowded and we got a table to ourselves, so it worked out just fine.

I explained what I saw as part of my job - to ensure that students in the science majors graduated with an appropriate level of research skills. I brought along the ACRL IL Standards, but I've never actually referred to that, and it didn't come up today. I also brought physics' strategic objectives and assessment plan for their department, since it maps out what they aim to teach students in their major, and how they will measure whether that's working or not - so IL fits right into that.

They acknowledged that IL was something they hadn't really coordinated very well, either in their plan or in their classes. They agreed that the first required physics class was a great place to include some of these skills, and that the senior capstone (also required of all physics majors) would be good for the most specialized, advanced skills (including citation management through something like EndNote or Zotero).

I asked them to come up with a list of skills (aka learning objectives) relating to IL for each of these classes, and from there I could work with the professors to come up with ways to implement them in each class. They're going to take these ideas back to the rest of the department to make sure everyone agrees that IL is worth teaching, and will come up with the lists together.

Can I just say how awesome physics is? :)

It really helps that they are a relatively small and extremely cohesive department. They routinely work together already to make sure that their classes are on target and work well with each other, so I had high hopes that the meeting would go this smoothly.

After the IL discussion, I talked a bit about collection management stuff, and walked away with some good ideas on how I can better support them, and what kind of information they use on a regular basis ("Books, increasingly less", as one of them said).

If anyone wants to hear in more detail what they use and to what extent, feel free to send me an e-mail or leave a comment and I'm happy to expound on that.

BTW, best practice tip - after this kind of meeting, type up as much as you can and save it somewhere! I know I won't remember most of this, and my notes are not nearly as extensive as my memory is right now. It will definitely help to have something to refer back to in the future.

One final note, I've started getting more e-mails and appointment requests directly related to 4 classes in environmental science and biology that I've taught this semester. I always wonder where they were going for questions in the past, but it's very gratifying to know that the students are remembering me and know to go to me for questions.

Still to come: psychology. I was supposed to meet with the department in January, but it's been delayed .. well, several times. I've been told that I'm still on the agenda, and I don't want to be too annoying about reminding them. We'll see. Also need to start formulating a plan of action for math!


  1. So what objectives did you create? I am curious to know if you don't mind sharing. Thanks!

  2. For the meeting? My objectives were:
    - initiate communication with the physics department regarding my goals for information literacy
    - get their thoughts on the best way to establish some more formalized information literacy components into the curriculum
    - map out a general overview of next steps
    - get a better feel for the research process in physics, particularly for undergraduates

    I also had some lesser goals, like picking their brain about collection management and get their advice on how to handle computer science (since they used to be the same department), but those were my main goals, anyway.

    In past discussions with other departments, I think goal 2 has been the hardest, since other conversations haven't led to department-wide curriculum mapping, but more at the course level (i.e., "we can try something with a class I'm teaching next semester" rather than "why don't we try something like all the Physics 200 classes next fall"), but this meeting definitely met and exceeded my objectives.