The “Lifelong Learning” Problem


We’re a couple of weeks into our spring semester at school, and I’ve had the opportunity to teach a few classes so far. These have been typical one-shot library research classes, although the databases discussed in each session have varied according to the program of study. My perceptions regarding the success of each class have differed, too. In general, the potential for success is the result of the following factor. If the instructor has given both the class and myself an idea of the assignment for which they will be conducting research, then I am able to do a pretty good job of demonstrating the relevance of library resources and teaching the students how to find the information they will need to complete their assignments.

This is all well and good. Plus, I’ve developed some resources like our Best Bets for Finding Articles in Databases LibGuide that breaks down the myriad electronic resources available through our library into simple sets of choices according to the subject area. In the end, however, I’m left with the feeling that the scope of these efforts is limited to the specifics of the courses in which the students find themselves. I find myself asking if I am making any sort of impact on these students outside the classroom. Am I contributing to their ability to be lifelong learners?

In the end, I think I’d rather be teaching our students how to find and use open information resources instead of databases that exist behind paywalls. Free, publicly available resources are what they will most likely use for information after they leave school. Aren’t these the resources I should be teaching our students to find and use?

For starters, everyone should now how to use Google for more than just the most basic keyword searches. Google Scholar and Google Uncle Sam are additional variations to explore. Wikipedia is a go-to source for many, and instead of being dismissed, a deeper understanding of the process behind its production should be taught. These suggestions are just a scratch on the surface of what’s out there. More and more journals are being published under an open access model, and they need to be publicized. Social media, whether forums or feeds, provides additional avenues to the information that students can find and use.

I’m certain that these statements merely echo what others have already said, and someone else may be composing the exact same sentiments as I write this. For myself, it’s important to put these ideas into my own words, because it’s with these words that I hope to begin transforming my thoughts into actions. If my real goal is to be the creation of lifelong learners, then our students should be able to make the connection between what I teach and the rest of their lives beyond the research assignment at hand.

I’ll return to the “lifelong learner” issue again, perhaps with more examples and data next time.


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