Librarians at UNLV have a history of working closely with faculty from across the disciplines to develop courses and assignments that integrate critical thinking and inquiry skills. Librarians have also long been engaged in direct instruction for students, guiding them through the research process and introducing tools and techniques for finding, evaluating, and using information. Working with both students and instructors, our aim is to improve student success.
Our work in these two different types of teaching and learning activities has led to an important partnership with Mary-Ann Winkelmes, UNLV’s coordinator of instructional development and research. Librarians are working with Winkelmes and other campus partners on a series of workshops and faculty events aimed at designing assignments and learning activities that promote students’ curiosity and critical thinking in ways that have been correlated with improved student success.
“Some of the most forward-thinking Tier 1 universities now understand that the traditional divide between faculty development and student services limits the ways we improve student success,” says Winkelmes. Her aim at UNLV is to bring together stakeholders who work with students and those who work with faculty in a united mission to improve student learning and achievement by implementing research-based best practices. Librarians, who work with faculty and students across the curriculum, in multiple disciplines and all levels, are especially well-positioned to assist in this effort.
One of the initiatives from instructional development and research in which librarians are participating is a seminar series aimed specifically at early-career faculty and instructors. In these workshops, campus experts, including librarians, will offer important advice in a collegial atmosphere on topics including locating funding opportunities, lecturing for learning, and grading and responding to students’ work.
Topics for workshops are based on responses to a UNLV faculty survey in spring 2014 and on Tier I research universities’ faculty development programs. See the instructional development and research website for upcoming events and registration information.
One of the first workshops in the seminar series is titled “Research-based Assignments that Inspire UNLV Students,” and it will take place from 9-11 a.m. on August 21 in the Goldfield Room, 3rd floor of Lied Library. The workshop is open to all members of UNLV’s teaching community. The workshop will offer participants an understanding of the state of research, a draft assignment for one of their courses, and a concise set of strategies for designing assignments and projects that inspire UNLV students’ learning.
Melissa Bowles-Terry, head of educational initiatives at UNLV Libraries, said, “Winkelmes' research shows that when instructors define the benefits of assignments to students in terms of what they’ll learn and they provide criteria for success in advance, students become more confident in their ability to succeed.” The workshops that librarians will be facilitating with instructional development and research will help instructors design assignments that are transparent to students and thus improve student performance.