I spent the last week of July at ACRL’s Immersion in beautiful Burlington, VT, on the campus of Champlain College. In five days I experienced beautiful vistas, met intelligent and hard-working librarians, and grappled with my own vision of what a teaching librarian should strive for. In reflecting on that experience shortly after it happened, here are just a few things that I learned. (Hopefully there will be more reflections in the coming months!)
The importance of building in time for critical reflection in everyday practice
I started this blog with a sense that I needed to deliberately reflect “out loud” about my teaching. The difference, now, is that I can steer this reflection with more questions that “What worked?” and “What didn’t work?” Though these are important questions, I will also begin to ask myself what my assumptions are, whether or not I am creating spaces for universally-accessible learning, if my plans are suited for active learning, or if they are just “activities,” and if my plans include any assessment elements.
How to take a more holistic approach with a spectrum of teaching and learning styles
I have been struggling with a style of library instruction that I call the “pointer,” where students spend 50 minutes watching a librarian point to resources, point to drop-down menus and filter buttons, point to shelves, etc. My style of teaching had admittedly been a reaction to this. I wanted to students to get more from my library instruction than a list of resources to look at, but instead a way of thinking. In my reaction, I neglected that some students really need and benefit from a “pointed” look at operational features of library resources. As my fellow Immersion cohort Amanda has already noted, my assumptions (we spent a lot of time talking about these!) lead me to ignore this generic-but-important part of instruction. Our teaching, I learned, needs to consider the holistic approach of generic (behavioral), situational (contextual), and transformative (critical) literacy perspectives (See Bruce and Lupton’s Chapter 1 of Practising Information Literacy). Our discussion of these literacy models and other learning theories (namely behavioral, cognitive, and social) showed me that a little bit of pointing (balanced with thinking and doing) can be a good thing!
I tell my students that research is a process, but I am reminded that teaching is one, too.
I’ve always appreciated the experimental/experiential and risk-taking elements of teaching, but our several discussions on student learning outcomes (SLOs) really tested my appreciation. I grappled with creating meaningful SLOs that allowed me to be creative in my teaching but also kept that creativity from getting away from me, or in other words, from being too esoteric or jam-packed for students to benefit from in a short period of time. I also learned that crafting SLOs is as much a trial-and-error process as research and writing are. In several instances, I started with a question (what is this session’s purpose, and how can I measure it?), I drafted a way to pursue this question (SLO), and I worked on improving it, sometimes by myself, but more often by workshopping them with my peers (peer-review, y’all! Duh.). Something I already knew–that teaching was an iterative exercise–now has a concrete method to inform it and make it more purposeful! More importantly, I was also reminded that part of instructional design is tapping into your teaching community of practice. When we resume our teaching loads in the coming weeks, I will challenge myself to rely on this and imbue my teaching with not just the ideas in the Frameworks or the bygone Standards, but with these foundational principals of purposeful design.