Acknowledging the effects of outside processes inside the classroom

Brookfield’s “A Process of Learning and Change” brings up the role of educational theory in recognizing the results of outside forces on student responses in the classroom. Reading and participating in the theoretical discussions surrounding education can help instructors understand hostile responses when students encounter concepts that challenge their own deep-set beliefs or ideals or run counter to their reality. Participating in theoretical analysis also keeps instructors questioning curriculum creation and outside influence on what is being taught in the classroom. Just like self-reflection and comparing experiences with those of colleagues helps instructors understand their own influences and biases in the classroom. Brookfield’s discussion of the problems with educational theory and research is refreshing. Brookfield reflects on teacher complaints that theoretical writing is out of touch and overly formal. However, the academic discussion is important to help instructors and the educational discipline has a whole increase their awareness of power dynamics, and external influences within the classroom and curriculum.

Continued Observations on Observations

This week I continued in my path of observing, and I got the chance to watch another librarian. Off the bat I noticed that the approaches and styles of the two librarians that I have observed so far were very different. Both librarians were teaching similar material but when about it in very different ways, even the information covered varied. I was interested to see that one librarian glossed quite quickly over one subject while the other spent the majority of the class time on it. It seemed that maybe this was because of the Professor of the class, and that they wanted to focus on different material. I also noticed the librarians using the techniques that we have discussed in class such as “pair and share” which I found interesting.

A critical view of Brookfield’s “Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher”

As I began to read the Brookfield chapter, I will admit that I was extremely skeptical of the article. I felt the language to be very pompous, and failed to see how this would be of any use to me. I felt a very strong disconnect from the writing, and that the author and I felt extremely differently about teaching and that there was no chance we could land on the same page. I felt that all of what he was discussing was great for an educational scholar who has chances to reflect on all of this, but as someone was has been in an elementary school classroom, there is hardly any time for reflection on this level.

I found myself to be quite surprised when the chapter then discussed this exact belief and how it is difficult to get teachers to read educational literature. The review of the teacher he quoted still rings true to me “their research did not speak the truth to me.” I absolutely agree with the authors statement that the language used is usually formal and academic as a means to impress the members of academia rather than those who could use the research. I was happy to see this discussion being had, but I felt that he discussed it for a second before falling back on uppity vocabulary and creating that disconnect again. I still feel that a lot of what he was discussing is in the abstract and theoretical and doesn’t do a much for teachers in their day to day lives.

Reflecting on Universal Design

This article was very powerful in its description of Universal Access. I enjoyed the example about the professor who allows his students to write down questions on note cards during class. While this may seem like a simple idea on the surface, it stood out as a very thoughtful gesture for me that would help those in class with any kind of anxiety surrounding asking questions. The main point of the article seemed to be that one should keep in mind the multitude of perspectives and needs in a room at any given point in time and the necessary different approaches and methods to help those people. The five levels of access is something that I will try to keep in mind for my classroom in the future. I agree with its statement that Universal design is a matter of social justice.

Observing Instructional Sessions

Last week, I started my observations. I observed a session on using the library’s resources and finding sources. I enjoyed how interactive the session was. The students participated in almost every step of the session. They followed the instructor as he demonstrated how to use Scout and other databases. At the end, he had the students go out and find a book that they had selected while learning how to search for sources.

In the next two sessions I observed, the students learned how to evaluate sources. It was quite interesting seeing the difference the two different instructional librarians took. In the first session I observed, the session involved filled out a work sheet on topic negotiation. Many of the students were confused by this, and the librarian demonstrated how to do the worksheet with the classes participation. This appeared very successful and the students appeared engaged. In the next session I observed, the librarian took more of a lecture approach  and saved most participatory activity for the end of the session. The students were divided into groups after the presentation and had to decide whether there source was scholarly or not. This activity seemed very useful, and the students were able to adequately assess they sources.

Reflecting on Universal Design

I enjoyed the chapter “Universal Design” especially how the actor linked design of buildings to the design of classrooms/teaching. To quote the article “Universal Design is not about buildings, it is about building – building community, building better pedagogy, building opportunities for agency. ” It is not like one size fits all. The goal of designing buildings shouldn’t be to accommodate for “normal” people just as time in the classroom shouldn’t focus solely on the “normal” students forgetting that there is a wide range of learning styles in the classroom. One example the author gave from her classroom was how she accommodated her teaching style to all types of students. She realized that not every student can just automatically answer a question asked in class, rather, some students need the entire class period to come up with a response, while others benefit more from a couple of days reflection. When given more time, she said  students can do more and better thinking. This idea says that the design of a lesson shouldn’t be geared to one type of student and that all students, no matter how they learn, should be considered.

This goes into Universal Design of buildings. Something the article pointed out that I never really thought about was the idea of a “design bias.” Universal Design is not just about temporarily accommodating individuals with disabilities, rather, it is about designing for a wide range of people in mind. It is about planning for the active involvement for all just like what I mentioned above when it comes to teaching. When designing a building, the idea of accessibility for people with disabilities shouldn’t be an after thought. Additional parts shouldn’t be added on later. Instead, Universal Design is a push toward seeing space as a open to multiple possibilities. Space should not be decided for one group of people, rather, all users need to shape the space.

My Experience in the Library Instruction Classroom

I have currently attended four library instruction courses, and I can honestly say it has been an interesting experience. It is cool to see how, even though most people are teaching the same things, they all approach it differently. It really goes back to what our readings have been on the past few weeks. Everyone has their own teaching style, and they use their own style to effectively reach different kinds of students. Some are more hands on and interactive with the students while other people I observed kind of let the students learn on their own and then had them come back with their personal discoveries.

Just by chance, most of the classes I attended were the introduction to the library classes. I liked getting to see how each instructor taught Scout. Some would focus closely on scholarly journals while others liked to have students focus on learning how to use inner library loans or the citations in Scout. Overall, it was a very positive experience, and I learned a lot not just from the classes but from the library instructors themselves like how they each brought their own knowledge, enthusiasm, and personality into the classroom.

Thinking through Bain’s “How Do They Conduct Class?”

For a student good teaching can be difficult to explain. What makes one professor effective and another less so? As Bain’s work illustrates, there is no formula for good teaching. Instructors adopt the pedagogies that work best for them and their students. While teachers might debate the “best” methods and practices or denounce those with which they disagree, good teachers do have something in common. They care that their students are learning.

Effective teachers place the student first, rather than the subject. They focus on the student’s understanding and thinking, not on the memorization on facts. The goal of these good teachers is that the students learn to think in terms of their discipline. In order to do that effective teachers, require their students to work though questions. They create an environment in which students feel able to engage. Something that struck me in this chapter was the way in which some professors create this environment. These professors would analyze student behavior, reacting to nonverbal cues and adjusting their own behavior. Reading this gave me insight to my experience as a student. Interactions I hadn’t thought much of suddenly have new purpose. Some of my favorite professors took time to build a relationship with the class. They would ask questions and allow for honest thought, instead of forcing the class to guess what the professor wanted to hear.

Something I’m struggling with now as I think about library instruction, is how to implement some of the practices I most identify with. Time is limited to only a few or even just one class. The students already have a relationship with their professor, that professor decides on any class themes and creates class assignments. Should these limitations even matter?

Reflecting on Bain, “How do they conduct class?”

Several things in this chapter resonated with my own experience as a teacher and with what I have learned in previous composition theory courses. I particularly liked the section about having class as “a conversation rather than a performance” (118). When I first started teaching, I felt very awkward when I tried to lecture in front of the room and have a one-way interaction with students. I soon found that when my students and I sat in a circle together, and I when I no longer tried to be the sole leader of the class, that everyone felt more free to discuss their perspectives.

Another comment that stood out to me was the line about how the teachers Bain studied for the article “often chose rooms with moveable chairs” (128).  Last year, my previous university built an new learning commons with unique classrooms. All of the desks could be taken apart, all chairs had wheels, multiple screens and multimedia tools were throughout the room, and there was lots of space for writing on white boards. Several of the people from my cohort were able to experiment in a totally new way in a classroom. This classroom style seems super useful to creating a natural critical learning environment. Professors who used those classrooms were able to use multiple types of media and classroom arrangements to change up their lecture styles. One of the members of my cohort was able to do a media-themed class and use the new classroom style to do things I was not able to do because I was in a classroom that had only one table and a single computer.

Observations on Observations.

This week I began my observation process within the assistantship program. I had the fortune of observing a librarian who seemed very welcoming to the idea of having GTAs in his classroom. I must not of been alone in that feeling because when I arrived there were actually four of us observing an 8 am class. The librarian was very captivating in the way that he taught. I was pleasantly surprised to see that new techniques in the classroom that I had not seen previously, including the Padlet. He used it as a method to teach keywords and this has changed my life forever.