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Research Focus: Active Learning Through Family Primary Sources

by Madeline Ruggiero on 2022-03-22T14:08:35-04:00 | 0 Comments

     We need to involve students in learning by creating assignments that are relevant to their lives. Our 21st century global economy requires people to work with others who are from diverse cultural backgrounds. I have authored a book chapter, “Self-Awareness through Analyzing Family PrimarySources: A Partnership for Implementing Global Diversity Learning Outcome,” in the newly released ACRL book, The Community College Library Reference and Instruction. The chapter describes my collaboration, as a Queensborough Community College librarian, with an instructor in the English department, to encourage students to use reflective prompts as a form of assessment while they also interact with their family primary sources. I enhanced their  reading assignment of the nonfiction book ``Spare Parts” in which students are required to write  about  a social struggle faced by one of the students in the book, by adding the film  “Dirt”as another form of interaction. Students learn patience and tolerance of others when they become self-aware of their own ethnic backgrounds. Introducing students to primary sources by asking them to analyze family letters, photos, documents, or conduct oral histories motivates students to learn.

      The demographics of Queensborugh Community College needs consideration when reading the assignment. Students at QCC come from 130 countries and speak 79 different languages. Hispanics make up the highest percentage of international students.      

      The reflection scenarios presented to the students in advance of the assignment call for the formulation of personal perspectives in response to the storylines given. These scenarios are representative of local and global issues and call for the students to think about issues such as employment benefits and wages among undocumented immigrants.

      Students gain an ethnic perspective by exploring their own ethnic backgrounds through family primary sources. This allows for self-awareness of values, bias, and global viewpoints. Knowledge and understanding of oneself paves the way for acknowledgement and understanding of other ethnic cultures.

     The directive to read Spare Parts, about the psychological and social struggles of undocumented students who in the end triumph and win an underwater robotics contest can be empowering. This positive ending can motivate students to recognize their assets. Viewing the film Dirt, about the struggles of an undocumented worker in New York City may be relatable to some students. Students can become advocates for the underdog in the film due to the shared similarities experienced by students or their family members.

   The primary outcome for this assignment is for the students to learn about their ethnic backgrounds through reflections of primary sources that tell stories about their family. They will acquire critical thinking skills through the analysis of these sources and dialogue with classmates. The understanding of these sources will help students with their perception of some global issues. Students identify and explain an issue revealed to them by family members. They will compare or contrast this challenge with the struggles faced by one of the characters in the book or film. Students may see aspects of their own family history in the film or learn about a new culture.

   Having students become aware of their own ethnic backgrounds by exploring family primary sources allows students to become self-aware and paves the way for compassion and understanding for the challenges faced globally by other ethnic cultures. Once the students had finished writing and researching, they revisited some of the scenarios given prior to their assignment. Comparing these answers to the initial answers will show evidence of transformation.

   Writing this chapter also allowed me to preserve my own family primary sources by introducing my own, first generation Italian background through primary sources, to ease the students into participating in the assignment.

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