New Frontier in Research Methodology Instruction for Latin Americanists
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Recent surveys have shown that with new advances in technology students find library research more and more complicated. The result has been poorly researched term papers, theses and dissertations frustrating both students and professors. The University of Kansas has developed a comprehensive program of information literacy that targets Latin American Studies. One facet of this program is the development of a three-credit graduate seminar focusing on research methodology for Latin America. The course is a prerequisite for a Master’s degree in Latin American Studies and one of the few courses of its type in the U.S. It is intended to help student develop and refine research skills in Latin American studies and provides and an overview of the principal research methodologies and resources necessary for the study of Latin America. The course covers the development of research techniques and use of resources such as primary documents, statistical sources, archival and manuscript collections, television news, official publications, and bibliographic and other electronic databases. Students also learn to evaluate critically various types of information on Latin America. The course uses a series of case study scenarios designed to reinforce various research techniques. Case study formats vary widely from creating a business prospectus or television documentary to a mock trial or debate format. Each case study is set up to encourage technology integration including film, audio, internet resources and online tutorials. An assessment tool administered during the first week has also been developed. A second facet of the program centers on the redesign of a 300-level Spanish composition and grammar course, a required for students majoring in Spanish. The redesign of this course grew out of dissatisfaction with its current instructional strategies and a desire to include integrated technology components. Part of the retooling required the creation of a curricular library component. Two library modules were designed that consist of online tutorials, library assignments, and large lecture sessions which integrated Personal Response Systems. The modules introduce the student to basic library resources in Spanish and the use of the online library catalog and databases. The information literacy programs designed to target Latin Americanists have been highly successful and received praise from librarians and teaching faculty alike. Exit interviews with graduate students receiving Master’s Degrees in Latin American studies have shown that the graduate seminar on research methodology was far and away the most useful and popular course of the curriculum. Likewise student surveys and comments have shown that students felt their confidence and research skills were greatly enhanced by the 300-level library components.
Winner of the Professional Teaching Award at the North Central Council of Latin Americanists 2005 for an effort in the field of teaching Latin American Studies. This effort can entail the development of audio-visual materials, curriculum materials, theoretical or practical papers, or any other project designed to improve the teaching of Latin American Studies. Projects may be directed towards the primary, secondary or university level, or for the education of the general public
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