Teaching Bibliographic Skills in Genealogy

The other day while looking for something on the leaning tower of books behind my desk I was struck by a falling book, Charles A D’Aniello. Teaching Bibliographic Skills in History: A Sourcebook for Historians and Librarians, (Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 1993).

I have learned to take the falling of books on my head as a sign and a wonder, like a message from above. So I revisited this work again.

On page 79 D’Aniello tells us that having students answer a series of questions using works listed in an assigned bibliography may be interesting for the student, but it may be more effective to have them compare and contrast two similar works as this adds a critical thinking component to the question. For example: take a look at Val Greenwood’s Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy and The Source, A Guidebook of American Genealogy . Each has a section on the probate process. D’Aniello is suggesting that we not only ask the student to find those two entries, but we ask them to compare and contrast what each says about the process. Thus the student learns which of the two is the better source for this information.

Then, of course this brings up the whole issue of whether we want to give students assignments that we need to mark. We’ll return to that topic later.

What are your thoughts?


6 responses to “Teaching Bibliographic Skills in Genealogy

  1. Hi Ken,

    Your site looks great!
    Giving assignments you don’t have to grade is definitely better!.
    Asking students to use higher order thinking skills is always good. After all, as librarians, we want patrons who can learn to do research themselves, not patrons who need us every step of the way. We need to encourage those who need our help to grow by challenging them to contrast, compare and evaluate. Because there will be a day when we are not available and they will need to assess the value of records they uncover.

    I am looking forward to an ongoing discussion on this blog. It should be interesting.

    I have been a Genealogical Research Instructor since 1982. It will be great to exchange ideas with like minded people!

    Thanks again!

    Sharon Centanne
    View my online genealogy tutorial at: http://home.tampabay.rr.com/centans/genguide.html (always under construction like my family trees!)

  2. Sharon,
    Delighted to receive your comments. The nice thing about adult learners is that many do not need grades to be motivated by assignments– they frequently thrive on the satisfaction of discovery. Gold stars are a nice touch, though.

  3. Ken,

    Thanks for the reply. I work in Adult Education. Unfortunately, in a formal public school program, grades are necessary to prove student achievement. Luckily, I work in the library and my students are those who are looking for information, and I can just explain things to them and share resources without having to grade their understanding of it.
    I work with ESOL students and enjoy reminding them to preserve their cultural heritage by passing down their native language to their children while enabling family progress by learning English. Adults are definitely an interesting group to work with for many reasons, but teaching genealogy to grade school kids has its payoffs too. You can get them to make simple family trees and memory books with the “homework assignment” of put this away for twenty years and then share it with the next generation!.
    Library research skills learned by doing genealogy can transfer into other life skills and opportunities, like library or computer jobs. Worked for me!.

    Sharon Centanne

  4. Welcome back, Sharon. Thanks for the comment. As a veteran ESOL teachr myself, I know the excitement of teaching adults another language. In TESOL we seem to focus a lot on FORM, whereas in teaching genealogy, we tend to teach CONTENT. In the long run, I enjoy teaching content more.

  5. OK, guys, what is ESOL and TESOL?

    I’m just a user of libraries and can’t figure those out (unless it’s something like English as a Second Language – ESL?). Somehow, I don’t think that’s it.

    Thanks — Randy

  6. ESOL and TESOL are part of the secret world of applied linguistics. ESOL = English for Speakers of Other Languages. TESOL stands for Teachers of ESOL.

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