Article Review of “Librarians as Writing Instructors”

Bronshteyn, Karen, and Rita Baladad. “Librarians as Writing Instructors: Using Paraphrasing Exercises To Teach Beginning Information Literacy Students.” Journal of Academic Librarianship 32.5 (2006): 533-536. Academic Search Complete. Web. 26 Jan. 2016.

Based on classroom assessments of graduating students within English composition and their low level of information literacy skills specific to source integration and citation at Rasmussen College (before its significant expansion), Bronshteyn and Baladad report their pedagogical and programmatic changes that lead to better results in students’ use of sources in their writing, mainly the development of a fifteen-minute paraphrasing workshop, performed by a librarian, that teaches students “summarizing and synthesizing the ideas of subject experts in their own voice, and with the convention of parenthetical citation” (533).

According to the authors, teaching citation within the realm of information literacy (i.e., by librarians) and in writing across the curriculum (WAC) efforts have historically been mostly about teaching anti-plagiarism strategies and not focused on “developing composition or critical thinking skills” (534).  The authors argue, however, that with the overlapping skills between librarians’ information literacy instruction and English faculty’s writing instruction, “it becomes necessary for librarians to either work in cooperation with composition instructors, or tailor their workshops to include some degree of composition instruction” (534).   While they provide other examples for teaching paraphrasing in and outside the English composition classroom, the authors rely on the fifteen-minute, five-part, interactive workshop, taught by librarians, because it can be applied across the curriculum with readings specific to the disciplines.  As an aid to future purveyors of such a strategy, the article provides the five-step paraphrasing exercise as well as assessment of the sources used.  It also offers results of student perceptions of their own ability to cite before and after the information literacy paraphrasing workshop.

To critique, this article describes assessment techniques and provides their results, but it does not spell out all of its methods. Its real strength is in its approach that pushes the argument that librarians’ work overlaps with that of the English instructor, and because of that notion, the article coincides with my own research question about the expansion of writing instruction outside the realm of the composition classroom.  That said, the nature of teaching paraphrasing, especially as described here, seems more like a technical act, similar to demonstrating search techniques or citation generation often taught by librarians. Therefore, I have to ask if a type of dichotomy forms here in the delivery of writing instruction: are English faculty more deft at teaching cohesion and coherence and librarians more skilled at teaching source discovery and integration? Does a relegation exist here, or does the article’s undertone just move English faculty and librarians toward a particular specialty? Either way, this article, in my review, is one of the only that moves into the territory of librarians stepping further into the aspects of teaching composition, and for that reason, it is worth the read, but it could benefit from less implication of its methods.

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