Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Use of Analogy in Instruction

I got to thinking about my use of analogies for library instruction recently; as a way to relate info lit concepts to student experiences. I need to do this more often (another way ACRL Immersion had an effect on me).

Here are two I use, in brief (keep in mind I teach adult learners, so the analogies reflect that):
  1. Information evaluation is skill you already possess. E.g: How many of you go grocery shopping? When buying milk or a piece of meat, what do you look at before buying? Expiration date, brand, price, nutrition information, right? No one really had to teach you that skill. You just don't want to end up with spoiled food. Same thing applies to information. You just need to think a little more deliberately about it at first and then you'll start doing it naturally and make sure you don't include any rotten or spoiled pieces of information in your paper! (handout related to this)
  2. Research requires planning and adaptation. If you've ever put together or even attended a dinner party, birthday party, shower, or wedding, you probably know that at least in part, a failed party was due to poor or non-existent planning, or perhaps too rigid a plan, right? If some thought wasn't put into what supplies and entertainment and floor planning was needed, or if some flexibility wasn't intentionally built into a party plan, allowing for things to change if needed, disaster can easily follow. The same thing applies to doing a research assignment. Your professors can spot a poorly planned paper from a mile away and your grade will often reflect that. So I'm here to tell you, start thinking strategically about your research assignments in advance. What information do you need? When can I devote time to doing that research? But also think of doing research as a loose plan that can and often does need adjustment. If your original research topic or thesis doesn't fit what you're finding when you start searching and reading the literature, think about adapting your topic. If your search strategy isn't finding any relevant information, think about adapting your search strategy. Am I using the most effective search terms? Have I combined those terms in a way the tool I'm using can understand?

What analogies do you use?


Amy said...

Thanks for posting this. Those are great analogies where most traditional aged students could also relate.

Galadriel Chilton said...

Thanks for sharing; analogies for instruction can be so beneficial!

I've noticed that students often have a very hard time understanding what is a database vs. what is a vendor (e.g. I found this great article on EBSCO / ProQuest). So, I've started using this analogy:
Databases to vendors are like automobiles' make to model -- Taurus, Ranger, Mustang = Ford; Accord, Civic, Insight = Honda.

Anna said...

i love the use of analogies in teaching, esp. for the "non-traditional" aged students, which is my new audience these days.

one i used to use with undergraduates to give a bit of background re: databases and their content was that where google was like basic cable -- "everyone" has access to it." the databases were like "pay per view" and the university was floating the bill.

also, when it would come up -- why are there 3 databases for one subject (MLA, LION, ABELL, etc.). i'd talk about the company/vendor factor behind the dbs (similar to galdriel's comment). .... and i'd say, it's sorta like coke and pepsi. two different companies offering their variety of the literature.

great post, dana! i hope others share analogies they use!

Dana said...

Galadriel - thanks for sharing! Another possible analogy (I haven't used but want to): a library database is similar to a phone book. When you search it, rather than paging through a long list of names, you can just tell the computer to search for a specific name. And instead of just names and addresses and phone numbers, the database contains article citations and abstracts and sometimes even the full-text, any or all of which you can tell the database to search through for the specific information you want.

Dana said...

Anna - another great analogy - I want to steal everyone's ideas!