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The LibRAT Program: Peer Reference and Basic IL Instruction

Peer to Peer Instruction Sessions

The LibRATs, in addition to staffing the Research Help Desk, began leading instruction sessions for lower division GE English and Communications courses in Spring 2011.

We weren't sure how well this would work, but we were so encouraged by the early results of online evaluations that we launched all of them into instruction.  They succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.

In Spring 2011, the LibRATs led 18 sessions.

In Fall 2011, they delivered 40 sessions.

In Fall 2012, they delivered 72 sessions. Combined with sessions led by librarians, the GE team covered 94 sessions in fall 2012, reaching nearly 2,100 students in a single quarter.

In Fall 2013, LibRATs delivered 35 out of 82 sessions.  This was the first quarter when their schedules did not align perfectly with instructional requests.  The drop in session requests had to do with the lack of available instructional space as a room was out of commission during the process of a remake. All outreach for Fall 2013 to instructors ceased in August, and we still had 82 sessions!

In Fall 2014, LibRATs continued on their stellar path, teaching 38 out of 89 sessions.  Perhaps most importantly, as a token of the success of the program, a new librarian position (Foundational Experiences Librarian) was created and filled, and this librarian now coordinates the teaching aspect of the LibRAT activities.  This librarian, Kaila Bussert, designed interactive modules and training to make their teaching even more versatile and effective. If you wish to view workshop slides, handouts, and notes, you may do so on the Research 101 library page.

In the 2015-2016 school year, eight LibRATs taught 91 workshops including Orientation and Research. For more information on the GE A1-A3 Library Research Workshops offered, visit our library webpage here.

In the 2016-2017 school year, 11 LibRATs taught 177 workshops, a significant increase from the previous year.

In 2017-2018, 12 LibRATs taught 178 workshops and a few of the LibRATs began teaching specialized workshops including Finding and Citing Images and Data Visualization. Excitingly, a total of 3,151 of 3,979 (reached) students participated in peer-to-peer instruction for Fall, Winter, and Spring quarters.

Currently, in 2018-2019, we have 12 LibRATs teaching workshops and as of the winter quarter, an additional four LibRATs hired and in-training for both instruction and the Research Help Desk.

Quantity is not, of course, everything, so to see how the LibRAT-led sessions have fared in evaluation and assessment, visit the Evaluation Tab of this guide.

Instructional Plan AY 13-14

Based on feedback received on evaluations in AY 12-13, the 13-14 rollout includes a brief, very interactive database exercise - something to parallel the one-book treasure hunt in the database environment.  The exercise, suggested by Cal Poly's CAED librarian Jesse Vestermark, and tweaked by the LIbRATs, has the students explore various limiters (date, subject headings, peer-reviewed, etc.) to acheive a randomly chosen number of results in quest of a lollipop reward.  The students then email a pdf and pursue the article linking options where full text is not available: total time: 5-6 minutes. 

To make room for this exercise, we dropped the pre-test component from the previous year.

Basic Teaching Tools

Part of the training for the LibRATs includes an introduction to the ARCS model of instruction, emphasizing the need in teaching to grab Attention, establish Relevance, create opportunities for students to gain Confidence, and to feel Satisfaction. 

They read limited but extremely useful extracts from Trudi E. Jacobson and Lijuan Xu's Motivating Students in Information Literacy Classes (Neal-Schuman, 2004).  

With the above in mind, the LibRATs are given a list of several essential tools and concepts to cover, but with  the freedom to do so in a way that suited each

In late spring 2011, the LibRATs who had led sessions presented sessions to those who had not yet done so, and just before fall quarter 2011, those who hadn't yet led sessions had a chance to practice in front of the other LibRATs and several of the peer tutors from the University Writing and Rhetoric Center.  In fall of 2012 the seasoned LibRATs coached the new LibRATs in one-on-one sessions in the instructional labs.

Many have chosen to use the Freshmen 101 Research Guide as a tool for shaping instruction. ( This guide, by the way, received over 25,00 views between September 1, 2012 and March 1, 2013.)

All the students have adopted the use of lollipops as rewards for the first  teams of two students who come back after taking a photo of a book on the shelf, having previously used the OPAC to identify the book.

A Basic Handout is also issued at the beginning of the session, and the sessions conclude with the online evaluation, itself embedded in the Freshmen 101 Research Guide. 

On occasion, instructors ask for a second, follow-up session, in which the leaders then act as guides-on-the-side, helping individuals with a variety of stumbling-blocks - topic-selection, citation, getting to the full-text, locating a journal or article, etc.  As this is a much more informal setting, no evaluations are tendered to the students.  Questions regarding these follow up sessions are included in a survey tendered to the faculty towards the end of the quarter.