Observations and O’Brien

In Mia O’Brien’s “Navigating the SoTL Landscape: A Compass, Map and Some Tools for Getting Started,” O’Brian talks about creating learning experiences. She suggests instructors focus on classroom goals and objectives that emphasize the skills, knowledge, and processes needed to exist within a field or profession, rather than focusing exclusively on content. Instructors should not just be teachers imparting wisdom onto their students, but “developers” of learning. While teaching styles can and should vary depending on the individual, many of O’Brian’s points seem especially pertinent to the work of an instructional librarian. The main goal of library instruction is for students to take away specific knowledge and skills that allow them to better navigate library resources, both in general and as those skills pertain to their subject area.


This Thursday I had the opportunity to observe two instruction librarians at work in English 101 and 104 classes.  Both librarians allowed the classes time to use and learn the skills that were the focus of the class. One librarian taught in sections, allowing for learning experiences between each portion.  This gave students the chance to immediately practice a skill, and to formulate questions biased on their experience. This format also allows for individual feedback, as the librarian and the class’s professor move around the room checking in on students. Afterward, students reflected about their experiences as a class. In this way they had the opportunity to examine their experience, and to learn from each other.


The second librarian’s set up was similar in many ways. This librarian preferred to do most of the instruction at the beginning of the class. During this time the librarian posed questions about the students’ familiarity with certain sources or tools. They also made space for students to ask questions about the skills and tools being presented. The rest of class time was dedicated to students implementing what was discussed. This librarian and the professor also went around answering individual questions and observing student’s progress. Both experiences demonstrate a lot of the methods and goals that O’Brien asserts. While there were many similarities between the classes, they each had their own feel. In part because of the personalities of the librarians and the class dynamics, and in part because of the way the two librarians implemented learning experiences.

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