Collaborative Library Workshop: Improving Research and Critical Thinking Skills

During the Fall semester of 2019, Anne Kristiansen, Art History instructor and I collaborated on “something completely different” for a library session.  Previously, I had been working with Anne to create assignment guides that link to resources relevant to her essay topics.  As a guest speaker, I would also present for about 30 minutes to her students, showcasing the guides and speaking about research strategies. One-way delivery was the practice.  While occasional surveys indicated that students found the presentations and the guides helpful, the gap connecting the resources with critical analysis has become more prominent, especially with the diverse academic experience emerging among our students.   To bridge this gap, Anne and I decided to co-teach a two-hour workshop during class time. During the session, we provided a brief introduction to the assignment, including search strategies and resources.  The majority of the time, however, involved circulating through the lab and working with students individually while they began working on or researching for the assignment.  The main focus of the one-on-one was to help students develop their topic ideas and conduct relevant hands-on research.   The session was offered to three sections of Art History with class size ranging from 28 to 34. Pre and post questionnaire results suggest that students gained more confidence in a wide range of skills from the session:






From my perspective, the benefits of collaboration were multifaceted:

  • Initiate opportunities for individual engagement between faculty, librarian and students
  • Provides instant feedback to students about their research ideas and connecting them to scholarly publications
  • Demonstrates a learning process in which critical thinking and research is a dialogue

Overall, the assignment submissions improved in academic quality and selection of appropriate sources.  However, in-text referencing remained a noticeable issue.  In the upcoming Spring 2020 semester, students in Anne’s classes will create a “tableau vivant” instead of writing a research essay. Scholarly research and writing, though, will remain an integral part of the assignment.  Learning from our experience, we will be collaborating once again with a hands-on research session while adding a bibliography and citing exercise to the process.

Interested in a collaborative research session? Contact your subject librarian:

For more information, contact Joyce Wong Creative Arts Librarian

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