‘We Turn the Lens…on Ourselves:’ Assessing Digital Primary Source Library Instruction through the Lens of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

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University Libraries


Scholarship of teaching and learning, SoTL, Digital primary sources, Student learning, Digital archival literacy, Information literacy


The tenets of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) allow librarians to assess their teaching effectiveness through an evaluation of student learning. For the author, the sudden reliance on digital primary source collections during the 2020 pandemic lockdown provided a catalyst to examine her digital primary source instruction as a research project. In this case study, the author examines library instruction for a required course for third-year history majors.
The author collaborated with a history professor to identify “bottlenecks” related to digital primary source research, and to design two new library instruction sessions with in-class activities and assignments to address these bottlenecks. The professor and author then evaluated the assignments to determine if students had understood and incorporated the methods modeled during the research instruction classes.
Teaching undergraduate majors digital primary source research skills that will lead to the habits of mind of historians cannot be done in one academic quarter, for it takes time to develop disciplinary ways of thinking. Providing select core concepts more systematically earlier in the history major curriculum could make the enculturation into the discipline less fraught and confusing later, so that students begin learning foundational skills in their third year to carry them forward into their senior year when they write their theses.
Little has been written on digital primary source library instruction, which intersects with a variety of other research literacies. Assessing library instruction through the lens of SoTL is relatively new for academic librarians and has not been used in evaluating student learning in the digital primary source environment.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Publication Statement

This is an Author Accepted Manuscript of an article originally published by Emerald Publishing in Reference Services Review as:

Keeran, P. (Forthcoming). ‘We turn the lens…on ourselves:’ Assessing digital primary source library instruction through the lens of scholarship of teaching and learning. Reference Services Review, ?(?), ?-?. DOI: 10.1108/RSR-08-2022-0031


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