Metacognition and Reflective Practice

Well, I so seldom do things right, that this is really a treat for me. Apparently, I have been doing things ok and not necessarily knowing it. The unknown author begins by letting us know that metacognition is “thinking about one’s own thinking” and frankly, I have been thinking about my own thinking processes all my life. Mostly, my thoughts are doubts about my process, in general. That is, so much of what I feel is absolute bare logic seems to meet the world somewhere between “you gotta be kidding me” and “that’s not how things work.”

All this relates to information literacy being characterized as metacognition, in that the info seekers are required to think about their search and evaluation skills—and how to use them. Cool. So all this reflecting I have been doing upon my inadequacies has served a purpose, and maybe my questioning not only of students but of myself has been functional and fits this model of getting feedback from learners and teacher-learners (including yourself) at the same time. That is, the evaluative voice in my head never shuts up. Before I run around in any more circles, let me move on.

The horror always is that the learners are not getting what they need, and the two-part reflection about what worked and what did not work make perfect sense. The third part of this reflection, I think, should be modified to “did the learners achieve their goals?” Not to quibble. And yes, never throw anything away, are you crazy? Just re-name and date your files so you can trace not only evolution but get back to something that you will not be able to re-do in time, when next appropriate.

And, I always start with questions. I want to get folks involved and the fastest way to do that is ask questions, right off the bat. Nobody gets to sit back and hover under the radar.  [My tip for the week: folks who do speak up in class quite often do so hesitantly.  If the instructor says, out loud, “I don’t hear well, so please speak up,” students will be encouraged to actually sing out, and then the instructor is not caught editing or paraphrasing student input.  This is a real plus, in my opinion.]

We gots lots to do. Get involved. Contribute. Give me feedback. Allow me to assist. Ask me your questions; when you trip me up, make me think, make me explain, I am learning something, and I thank you.

This Week’s Reading

While I thought that “Standards for Libraries in Higher Education” was a bit of a dry read, I think it is really important that we have standards to apply to our performance. We need to be critical of ourselves, and of our performances. It is important that we uphold standards of performances; otherwise we get sloppy.

Another reason I thought this article to be important is that these sorts of standards will be applied when we (hopefully) find employment after graduation. We need to understand and be used to having these sorts of standards applied to our performance as instructors.

However, I am still wary of rigorous standards such as these. If not implemented the right way, these standards seem like they could become stifling of creativity. I would hope that a good institution would hold its staff to standards and push them to be better teachers, but still allow them the space to create and experiment within the classroom.

Reflections on Last Week

Last week I co-taught a class with Mark and solo-taught three classes. It was my second big week of teaching, and it certainly brought out all of my anxiety. It was actually kind of interesting because last Tuesday I was expecting to co-teach a class and solo-teach a class with Mark Robison, but our classes did not show up and instead another instructor showed up with a class to the same classroom without a librarian to instruct them. Mark and I waited to be sure that our class was not going to make it, and then we started teaching this class that had shown up without an instruction librarian. Our topic wasn’t exactly built for their class, but the principles were the same. It was a valuable lesson in how you sometimes have to improvise when you are an instructor.

On Thursday I solo-taught for the first time. It was an extremely stressful situation, one I was entirely unfamiliar with. It took a lot of coaching and reassuring words from Sarah Whitver and Brett Spencer to calm me down, and I then taught the class with surprising success. I thought the session went fairly well, and I was composed throughout. It helped that the teacher for this class, Erica Meyers, has a great report with her students and knows how to keep them in line.

On Friday, I experienced mixed results with the two sessions I taught. While I again felt composed in front of the classes, I also felt I needed to get through my material a little more quickly, as we only had 50 minutes to work with. Unfortunately I ended up rushing things a bit too much, leaving far too much time at the end of the classes for individual searching. This usually isn’t so bad, as I get a chance to help students one-on-one with their search processes (and I was still able to do that during these sessions). The problem was that it was Friday, so the students were naturally distracted, and they had already been assigned to find sources for their class, so some students felt they no longer needed to be there. Furthermore, their regular instructor was not there either, and they were instead brought in by a TA. These factors all led to some students feeling like it was ok for them to leave early, and being very new to instruction, I wasn’t sure what to say to these students. After all, it was my fault for finishing the instruction portion so early.

All-in-all, I am happy that last week happened and that it is over. It was a stressful time, but it also taught me a lot about myself and about instruction. Hopefully when i instruct my final two classes in April, I will feel even more comfortable in front of a classroom.

Recreate your favorite class moment

Next week, we are going to do a different kind of activity. Since our instruction is winding down and spring break is approaching, I want you to try to recreate your favorite moment of the semester to share with us as a group. Sharing your experiences with your colleagues is an important element of reflection, and it learning what worked in your classroom helps to inspire and motivate your colleagues!


Here are your instructions:

  1. Choose a moment during the semester when you feel things worked really well.
  2. Write a short description of why you feel that was a successful teaching moment. Include how you prepped for this moment, and what your thought process was– did you attempt to use a specific pedagogy or teaching method?
  3. Try to recreate the teaching moment for us during our 3/21 meeting. Pay attention to the details, and verbally annotate each step for us as you guide us through the process.
  4. Directly after our meeting, post your information here on the blog, complete with the reactions that you received in our meeting.

Have fun!

Teaching about thinking and thinking about teaching, and ACRL competencies

Well, I did it again. Wrote a blog post, hit save draft, and then there was not even a puff of smoke left. Gone. Just vanished. No tracks, no nuttin.
What I said was some nice things about the folks I work with, including the Boss, who visited a class I was teaching. She said she had fun, which is a good thing, I hope. I also said something about the dedicated librarians I have observed (and learned from) as well as the engaged and involved English instructors. And I remember something about English being a relatively new language back when I was first a student, and Chaucer being all the rage at the time.
And then I moved on to the ACRL standards for library instruction (and management), saying that I was falling far short of that daunting list. Main thing is to keep trying to hit those marks, teach to your objectives (and to the best of your ability), and then there was something about a roomful of freshmen looking to you to assist them with their big gnarly mean scary paper as being a great grip on reality.
Oh, there was something about seeing new opportunities for collaboration and course integration being sought on a daily basis, as well as good communication up and down the library chain of command, both of which were emphasized in the ACRL framework. I wish I had listened to Sara Whitver, and always put up a draft in Word, as this piecemeal reassembly just does not cut it. Doggone.
Just trying to get it back, but it is not necessarily coming back.
Bottom line is, again, it is great to be working in a well-resourced environment with dedicated people who give a durn about their jobs. No slackers here. Something about dragging students into the deep rich waters of UA resources, and making sure they can swim before the class ends. Also something about customer service not being dead (alive and well, no doubt, with lesson plans being modified at the last minute when instructors modify their assignments at that same last minute). Just saying that it feels good to be learning in this environment, and that overall at GIS, the ACRL standards are in good hands. I will hope to feel better about my performance the next time I go over the standards (did I mention daunting list?), and I know some folks I can trust to guide me as I go. Thanks, all.

Reflections upon “Applying active learning methods to the design of library instruction for a freshman seminar,” by Katherine Strober Dabbour

First, this article made me thankful to be working in a resource-rich environment, whereby every student has a computer.  Some folks say that working as a team with the work being broken up aids better learning for all, but I would prefer to learn the whole process in one piece, mainly by doing the whole process by myself.  Not that I do not like to share, but pizza is different from learning.  Just sayin.

California State at San Bernardino had some retention and graduation problems, and did something about it.  Good job.  Library skills were taught as a for-credit freshman seminar (in conjunction with other school and life skills), and outcomes were good.  Involving the students in talking, listening, reading, writing, reflecting activities is called active learning, and sounds like a good collaborative classroom to me.

Again and again, I come upon the ideas that one must begin from the beginning, and the effort at CSUSB did just that, ranging from library skills to computer us, time management, and attitude adjustments.  Right on!!  There is no reason to expect that students would come from a (relatively) highly-monitored high school environment to the freedom of a college campus and have all of the requisite skills in place.  Also, learning life skills (and library use) is not anything that one forgets upon graduation.  Win-win, i say.

Even though this article is 15 years old, i rather doubt that students would rate anything more valuable than computer skills today—so that is where my emphasis will remain.  Yes, get them involved via active learning, but the real work will continue to be building a student’s relationship with the information universe via their computer.  From this article, i can see the value of the worksheets that are being used with EN 102 students, and i will continue to work via this format.

It all boils down to the day and the student(s).  Some days will be better than others.  Some students will be better than others.  Every day, there is every reason to get the best from every student that they can give, that day, date, time.  Give me the perception, the energy, and the skill, please.

Teaching Back to Back to Back

On Monday, I had the opportunity to gain an interesting new experience–teaching back to back to back.  The instruction session were all for evaluating sources, but they were aimed at assignments for two separate teachers. I spent the morning alternating back and forth between SEC football and Mardi Gras, and wondering why in the world I’d forgotten to bring a bottle of water. The first session most the most talkative of the three, and it made me agree with Sara that students who choose to take their class Monday mornings at 8 AM must be overachievers. The students seemed to understand to what I was trying to teach them, but I forgot to introduce myself in the little bit of nervousness I came into the session with. The second two session were still interacting well, but it was a few students speaking, instead of the larger group as a whole. I feel like the “grocery store magazine” meta cognitive activity went over well, and the students seemed to enjoy the  topics and resources. Overall, I feel like I accomplished my teaching goals for the session.

List of Things to Remember for Next Sessions:

  • Water
  • Introducing myself
  • Wear a matching pair of comfortable shoes (…don’t ask)
  • Write down the Section Number

Reflections upon Standards for Libraries in Higher Education (ACRL)

Ah, the famous ACRL Standards.  I have heard so much about them, and there is a great deal packed into a fairly compact document.  Floating on the shifting tides of accreditation committee standards, ACRL has gone a great way in simplifying and explaining what we have to do to meet accreditation standards, and in (fairly) plain language, provided guidance to get there (at least in our documentation).  Outcomes assessment is necessary these days, whether you are in medicine or bicycle repair, so….

Outcomes for libraries being measured by “…the ways in which library users are changed as a result of their contact with the library’s resources and programs” is a challenging task.  We have to set up tasks and objectives that have measurable outcomes, then we have to measure the outcomes, and this may mean tracking outcomes (including graduation rates and employment history for academia) for years.  How many things can go wrong here?  Is simple better, or is it the only way?  Sticking to ratio data (number of library holdings per student enrolled) may be simple, but is it a metric that is meaningful?  Number of electronic holdings per student?  In the UA annual report (, I found metrics that made sense, including numbers of actual downloads per year—but outcomes…in search of outcomes.

Using the first year experience and EN 102 as an example, I see great potential in the collaborative process and cooperation with EN faculty.  To knit classroom objectives and facile use of library resources together is a win-win, clearly.  This is not outsourcing of faculty responsibility to library personnel, rather it is an opportunity to reach students who have not yet been reached in their earlier academic careers.  We can get to young scholars who have been satisfied up until now with the canned mushrooms of google and wikipedia, and bring them into the world of fresh mushrooms (if you can stand a kitchen analogy).  Next thing you know, these same young folks will be doing their own balsamic vinegar reductions, deglazing with apple juice, or making their own pizza sauce in the academic world, thoughtfully searching for opposing views in order to sort their own feelings, forming their own philosophies, and contributing effectively to their own education (and their classmates’).  Yay interdisciplinary work!  Yay librarian educators!  Yay thoughtful, skilled scholars who won’t take just anything for an answer!

Excited?  You betcha.  Challenged?  Even more than excited.  Time to dig.  Gotta go.

Active Learning Reading

This reading was quite interesting. It reflected on research suggesting that active learning exercises are more effective than lecture-based, demonstrative sessions. This may seem intuitive to most of us, but I feel that we often forget these facts and instead do what is familiar and safe. For many of us, that means talking about what we know. However, as this article suggests, we must give up a bit of the control we hold over the classroom to the students in order for them to grow as researchers. We must allow them to actively participate in the process; otherwise the progress we seek for those students will be stunted. While this process can be scary and unnerving (change often is), it is also beneficial, not just for the students but also for us as instructors. As I mentioned in my last post, I have been finding it difficult to shift my focus from my own performance as an instructor to the experience my students are having. Perhaps, through an enhanced focus on active learning exercises, I can better deliver a successful instruction session.