Academic Upcycling:

Improving Student Scholarship through Assignment Design

Caroline Barratt and Nadine Cohen

Today's undergraduates think of themselves as savvy researchers who can find anything they need using Google or Wikipedia, whether they're writing a paper or looking for a movie listing. Prying them away from the unmediated Internet and into the realm of serious academic research is one of the important challenges facing pedagogy today. In our information-overloaded world, it is more important than ever for students to be able to find, evaluate and use information critically, effectively, and in a scholarly context.

This Faculty Learning Community will explore ways to infuse active-learning research activities into members’ current or planned course syllabi without necessarily requiring the traditional research paper. Such activities will not only create better researchers, but will also enhance course content and promote critical thinking in a way that is manageable for almost any size classroom and for even the busiest instructor. Members of the 2005-2006 Academic Upcycling FLC reported that their curriculum and assignments were enhanced by the experience of collaborating with other instructors from across campus.
Based on the consensus of community members, we will work towards outcomes such as:

Caroline Barratt and Nadine Cohen are Reference & Instruction Librarians at the UGA Libraries, providing research and instruction support to students, staff, and faculty. Caroline and Nadine offer over 20 years combined experience teaching university students to become better researchers. UGA Librarians regularly collaborate with faculty and TAs to design effective research assignments, and to conduct library instruction workshops.

Student reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, with many commenting on the unique nature of the courses, on how historical experience became personal experience in the games, and on how the pedagogy led to a better understanding of historical development and causation and a sense of how history might easily have turned out differently. Instructors, too, find the pedagogy transformative, both in their experience of teaching and in their research agenda.

Participants, 2009-2010