Sunday, November 14, 2010

Library instruction my way

Over the past two weeks my reference librarian, Rachel, and I have been talking a lot about library instruction. Last week I observed her teach two classes, and this week she observed me teach two classes. All the classes were the general English composition course, English 015. Her teaching had not been observed by a librarian. After teaching her first session Rachel was eager to get my feedback. It was funny because suddenly I was the one being put on the spot! It was great how enthusiastic she was for my feedback. It was a rewarding piece of my new job I had not thought about.

With regard to content covered, she'd mentioned several times before my observation and then after how she felt a little pressured to cover as much about the library as possible. Reading this post today reminded me a bit of that part of our conversation. I completely understand where my reference librarian and other librarians are coming from. I've been there. Earlier in my career I felt like I had to tell people as much about the library as possible. This was my one and only chance to wow them with why the library was so awesome that they would keep coming back. Information overload and point of need? Totally lost on me, and frankly on many of us providing library instruction during that time. Fortunately several somethings happened. I attended a series of teaching workshops on campus, I participated in ACRL Immersion, and I built up a clientele of repeat faculty to work with on fine-tuning my lesson planning. I decided to try different things. Oh, and I took my ego out of it and reconceptualized my worth to the class in a different way. By this mean I mean I stopped worrying if students were playing solitaire/completing online tax forms/sleeping and focused on being a guest faculty member as a regular component of the course well versed in their assignment and offering thoughtful strategies. My value and the libraries' value would be evident.

Rachel was really interested in how I actually taught based on our conversations. I found that after she observed my first class I too was interested in feedback. She pointed out a number of things I do that she liked. Funny thing is they're so automatic now after 13 years of teaching I don't necessarily realize I'm doing them. One thing she mentioned was how much she liked my use of the word "we" when brainstorming or doing sample searches. To her this meant I emphasize that the students must take an active role in the research process and have responsibility for developing the topic, identifying the resources, and evaluating the information. The way I accomplish this is probably very different, but it's information literacy. I think I'm in line with the blog post mentioned earlier.

She also asked a great question about how I tell users to get to a few of our resources. Our redesigned website launched shortly before this semester began and I honestly was not sure how I would teach classes in this new look. Before observing her class I told her I was very interested in how she was going to teach from the site because I was not sure where to begin. Between the two instruction sessions my approach to getting to our online catalog changed. I guess that I learned and adjusted quickly between the two classes how I wanted to teach from our site. We agreed after talking it though that the reason I accessed the catalog in the way I did was driven by the goals of the assignment. It took me a while to articulate that, but after talking it through it made sense to both of us why I did it.

I have an awesome job.

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