Fresh approach to doctoral program broadens Tompkins-McCaw’s role in health professions graduate education
Lauretta Cathers, Ph.D., the program director for the College of Health Professions’ (CHP) Ph.D. Program in Health Related Sciences (HRS), reached out to Research Librarian Talicia Tarver of the Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences. Tarver and Cathers also enlisted assistance from Data Management Librarian Nina Exner, to help provide library instruction for a hybrid-online doctoral seminar.
The HRS program is an interdisciplinary health professions doctoral program that includes students from various health professions in a yearly cohort. Each cohort meets in the spring for a hybrid-online Dissertation Seminar course to learn the fundamentals of developing and drafting their dissertations.
These doctoral cohorts have a particular challenge fulfilling their coursework and dissertation requirements as they don’t have the benefit of regularly being on campus to access VCU resources, including library instruction. Previous doctoral students had demonstrated challenges in information use throughout their prospectus assignment. To improve their use of the literature in all chapters of the dissertation, the librarians were asked to integrate library instruction throughout the program’s Spring 2019 dissertation seminar.
After discussing course objectives with the program director, the librarians created learning objects that aligned with these objectives. Content was posted in an online course guide (linked in the class’ Blackboard page) and appeared on the guide as the class progressed. The class met biweekly and online for assignments organized in modules based around the chapters of a dissertation proposal. Library materials developed for each module included resources on APA citation style, videos outlining the steps for conducting a literature review, videos on researching theory, and a video on study design literature. The Blackboard discussion board was used to hold “library office hours” in addition to the lead instructor’s office hours. Formative, low-stakes self-assessments were included for library content in each module. A summative assessment was collected at the end. The next version of the course will incorporate assessment findings.
The students reported a favorable response to having the library materials available in a timely manner, and prospectus assignments showed more effective incorporation of the literature throughout student research planning.
The librarians and program director presented this project to other faculty within the College of Health Professions. This presentation led to connections with other departments and discussion of broadening the library’s role in health professions graduate education. Learning objects from the course are also forming the seeds of a content hub for resources that can be used for all curriculums in the graduate health professions college.