Teaching Tools Library Feature: Primary Source Literacy Modules at Meriam Library

As part of the TPS Collective Teaching Tools Library, we’ll be offering periodic feature reviews of specific items in the library that may be of use to those who teach with primary sources.

Meriam Library at California State University has prepared a set of primary source literacy modules.  The set is broken up into five main actions that can be taken in relation to primary sources: “Conceptualize,” “Discover,” “Describe,” “Interpret,” and “Use,” each of which has its own subpage.  Although the general overview of the site and its title might suggest that it contains a set of lesson plans, it actually lays out the scaffolding for lesson plans: each of the pages has a set of four learning objectives, four questions that students might have, and four to five sample exercises aimed at promoting students’ mastery of those skills.  The “Describe” module, for instance, prompts students to think about the context and original creation of a document to help them understand changes in genre and format over time.  Sample exercises include handwriting transcription, exploring probate files, and describing early modern printing techniques.

For faculty, the site lays out the benefits of a class session with a librarian on primary source literacy in specific detail through its learning objectives.  For librarians, it models the role that learning objectives play in lesson design: how do learning objectives build towards specific areas of expertise and what kinds of questions might students have about those areas of expertise?  Librarians interested in setting up a similar sort of à la carte option for faculty collaborators may want to consider imitating the site’s overall design by breaking lesson plans down not by topic but by skill that is conveyed.

This feature review was written by John Henry Adams, PhD, special collections librarian at the University of Missouri.

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