Classroom Culture

So, I’m only two classes away from completing my teaching requirements for this internship.  One thing I’ve noticed after teaching several sessions is that, while you may teach the class the EXACT same way every time, sometimes the “classroom culture” is just not going to play out in your favor.   At this point, I feel like I have a pretty decent grasp on the BCE/New 222 classes, but no two classes are the same.  Sometimes I have a super class that loves to participate and, at other times, I have a dud of a class.  I mean, just a DUD.  More than anything, I find that if the instructor does not promote a lively/interactive classroom during a typical class period, there is going to be little hope of getting participation out of the students in a library session…and that is a tough nut to swallow.  I have a real yearning to make every class THE MOST INFORMATIONAL AND FUN CLASS OF ALL TIME, but often times my own enthusiasm is eclipsed by poor classroom culture.  And while I think we should all strive to overcome such things, sometimes you just can’t seem to get around it, and that is frustrating.  Has anyone else come across this?  Do you have any suggestions for encouraging apathetic students?

Solo Session

I have completed 8 of my sessions. I did my first solo session on Wednesday. I had an unexpected brush with nerves halfway through the tour, but I think I did pretty well on the tutorial on Scout. I am glad to be finished with my first go around. I have two more week after next. I expect that they will be better. 

Lizzie and I have been working on our tutorials. I am looking forward to seeing them as a full piece. I think that we have mapped out a pretty good theme for our videos. We were going to originally use Bigfoot, but there aren’t very good results from the searches we need, so we decided to switch to zombies. We had even found a cute little Bigfoot for a graphic, but I will survive. 

Lastly, I found and have included this link to a talk by Neil Gaiman about the importance of libraries. Gaiman is well known for his support of libraries. I think that he said some amazing things in this talk. 

Session 2 Experiences and Reading

This week I taught my back-to-back session 2’s. I was able to control my nerves and deliver my content. During my active learning activity involving evaluating sources, I was fortunate enough to learn from my students! I chose an academic journal article that was related to my topic but not exactly relevant, and a student pointed this out. I had students that accurately described how they would use these sources for their papers–to describe a company’s official position and to source first-hand accounts, for example. I thought this was really encouraging. 

The reading on podcast efficacy as used in a flipped classroom setting was very interesting. I think the authors are right in that podcasts have a lot of potential and free up instructors to engage in active learning exercises and discussion with their students. However, in my experience the podcasts need to be pushed by the class professors in order to be effective. It seemed that only the most studious of the class completed the podcast assignments, while others ignored the assignment. 

One-on-One Instruction

On Thursday I observed Michael doing the second session of an EN 102. On Monday I co-taught the same section. Since there was not as much time between seeing it and doing it, I was nervous, but I think Monday’s was a success. I felt comfortable with the way that I explained the differences between popular and scholarly sources. There was some trouble with the activity, but I have been more concerned with how I explain something. I am glad that I was able to properly describe the difference in these sources. I think that the topics covered in the second session of the class are quite applicable to public library instruction. While most public library patrons will not be writing formal research, they will be using information accessed from several sources, mostly internet, Google results style. I think that being able to help a patron learn how to evaluate information will be very important. 

An interesting thing that I have learned about lately in my User Instruction class is one-on-one instruction. I know that we are largely speaking to a group, but most session have a time slot set aside for individual searching. During this time I feel that I do the best work because I am able to figure out what the individual needs and how to help them. Since everything that an instructor says will not automatically file itself away into the student’s brain, the one-on-one time will allow for an instructor to address the ideas presented that the student is weak in. 

Week Eight and Nine: Achievement Unlocked

So much teaching!  Over the past two weeks, I have really amped up my teaching game.  I’ve been co-teaching all over the place and, by the end of this week, I will have completed my first two solo sessions.  Yesterday, I taught a veterans affairs class, and Brett was nice enough to hand the reins over to me for the entire session.  I think it went really well.  The instructor even sent a really nice thank you note and some gifts over to let me know she appreciated the class, saying that I mentioned some really useful stuff to her students.  Being a librarian at times can be a really thankless job, but when you do come across the people that appreciate the work we do, well, it can be positively joyous.  So, that’s my humblebrag for the day.  I just think it is nice to know what we are doing is being appreciated.

Job Searching

On Friday I finished my first job application. I am interested in public libraries, especially with reference and instruction. I know that there are fewer opportunities for these positions, but I found one that I really like. I know that perhaps they are interested in hiring before my graduation, but I feel good about doing my application because I was able to create a resume and cover letter for what I think is the perfect job. I used the opportunity as an exercise in defining my goals. I was happy to be able to put solid experience with instruction in my application. I had to complete a personal statement of sorts for the application, and I was able to explain why I have chosen to do the jobs and internships that I have. I am still overwhelmed by job searching, but I feel I am off to a good start. 

Standards and Proficiencies Reading

Reading the Standards and Proficiencies reading for tomorrow, I was struck by the standardized ‘Principles and Performance Indicators’. These indicators, particularly the ‘Institutional Effectiveness’ indicators, strike me as vaguely similar to the sort of outcomes I might present to a class before we begin our session. They are goals which we ideally are striving to meet. Such goals or objectives are important. They keep us on task and pointed in the proper direction. They guide us. 

At an institutional level,  Standards and Proficiencies are also durable. Employees may come and go, but standards last and help keep organizations consistent. As an information services department, it is also important to show department progress and effectiveness. One important way to do that is by having defined Standards and Proficiencies to measure your department against. Are we achieving these standards? What areas do we need to improve upon? 

In a classroom, creating objectives that reflect your broader standards and proficiencies supports your departmental and institutional objectives. They also help you measure your success as an instructor. Using assessment tools, we can measure our success in implementing class objectives. 


Reflections on Teaching

Teaching two classes back-to-back two weeks ago was an experience I won’t soon forget. Before my first class, a level of panic set in that I had never experienced before. I couldn’t believe it–I have taught over a dozen sessions and still I get so nervous! Before my first class, I was looking for a way out. I can’t do this, I thought, they’ll hate me, they’ll rebel, my head will end up on a stick outside Gorgas as a warning to other librarians–“bore us and you will pay!”

I found Brett Spencer and, sweating, I confided my nervousness to him. I told him “I don’t know what I will do!” and mopped my brow for the 10th time. Brett promised to stay and watch my session for moral support, and I was grateful. As soon as I started talking, though, I calmed down and stopped sweating. I went on with the session, implementing my ‘active learning’ lesson plan. I designed two active learning activities for the students to complete, thinking that lecturing less and putting the learning into the hands of the students would lead to more engaging sessions. I was half-right: the session went better this way, but I forgot to ask the students to pair up and talk about what they thought. I wish I had done this, because I believe that when students get to speak with one another, they become even more engaged. 

Overall, I am proud that I overcame my nerves and delivered instructional sessions with clear goals and multiple active learning exercises. While working individually with the students, I noticed they were implementing what I had taught them, which was satisfying to see. I still would like to get over my nerves so I can focus exclusively on teaching during the sessions. I may never get completely there, but I am working on it. 

Becoming Critically Reflective

“Becoming Critically Reflective: A Process of Learning and Change” is also a great re-read. Teaching sometimes forces us along a linear path–tomorrow there are more classes to be taught, more lesson plans to be made, and who has time to reflect? We must make the time to reflect. We need to find some way to re-evaluate ourselves. What are we doing right? More importantly, what are we doing wrong? 

These questions make me grateful that librarian Josh Sahib taught us how to upload materials and quizzes into UA Blackboard Learn course shells. Using this method, we can assess what level of information literacy students bring into their first library session as well as what level of information literacy they leave the session with. Assessment can force us to be reflective–it’s hard to ignore hard data. 

Larry Sheret and John Steele in their 2013 article, “Information Literacy Assessment,” confirm that it is most advantageous to conduct information literacy assessment as part of the students’ normal class activities. Using UA Blackboard Learn supports this idea–the materials and quizzes are located in their normal Blackboard course shells. Really anything we can do to take the burden off of the professor and make their library visits as seamless as possible is a great benefit, which is what this method of assessment does. I’m excited to see how it will work out.

*This post was mis-published on 9/12 into another blog and found 10/3.