Keywords are one of those building block learning tools that when you are initially learning it it is difficult, but once you move on from it, you never mention it again or give it second thought. At least for me at least. Although I still use the phrase “keyword,” I no longer take the time to actually stop and think about keywords. I no longer sit and actively analyze what I am doing in regards to keywords.
It has become a second nature task that I do. I use the things that I have been taught, but I do so without thought. I try alternative words, look at the words in the populated responses, and look at subjects- but I never think “I am using Keywords to their advantage.”The assignment this week to lesson plan a “Keyword Activity” was initially difficult because I was removed from that process. I had to think “oh yeah, thats what that is.” Once it all came flooding back to me, I was back to business.
An idea I really enjoyed from the chapter, was the idea of meeting students where they are in their learning. Starting with what students know, or think they know about a subject, and then slowly expanding that can help students not only relate the material they’re learning back to their own lives, but it can also make difficult subjects easier to understand. Rather than starting with some huge unknown that will leave students overwhelmed, beginning with something students care about or are passionate about will make them more engaged with the material. This helps students put complex ideas or concepts into their own words first and then gradually connecting it with more complex problems, theories, ideas, etc. Doing this makes assignments more than just a requirement students have to get through. Instead, schoolwork becomes something they can care about and use to better understand their own lives.
Along this same vein, is the idea that this learning style helps students build an understanding of the subject or material rather just performing the required tasks for the class. One point the chapter made is how some teachers have the “guess what’s on my mind” method of teaching. This style of teaching causes students’ work to just copy or mimic whatever the professor gives them in class. They become smaller versions of their teacher because they’re more worried about just doing the assignment correctly in the way the teacher wants. Many students will lose their academic and personal identity in class because they are terrified of getting the wrong answer. This type of teacher expects students to be able to read their minds, which removes students ability to bring their own life experiences, passions, and ideas to the classroom.
Lastly, the chapter mentions learning that meets students where they are at gives them more control over their own education while also providing a place for them to make mistakes without fear of failure. Allowing students to fail and receive feedback in advance and separate from any judgement can help them feel more comfortable going the extra mile in their schoolwork. Students who feel like they can experiment in their work but not be judged if it doesn’t go right, are more likely to care about the work they’re doing. If they don’t have to worry about the grade, they can focus on the learning aspect of the assignment.
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.
For this activity, I read a little bit about active learning activities in the classroom. I wanted to do something that required students to communicate and brainstorm with each other. I originally considered using a short clipping from a newspaper to spur discussion of keywords in small pairs. However, I decided that I wanted to make the assignment a little broader and change it into groups of 3. I created two scenarios in which a student is beginning their research process. My hope is that in a freshman composition classroom this would help students become comfortable talking with their classmates and sharing ideas about their projects. I see it as a useful brainstorming session that could help students think about their own upcoming projects. I ask the students to get into small groups and create a list of at least 8 key terms and phrases that Student A could use to help her begin her search. Once the group has come up with key words, they then would work together to order the terms from most broad to most narrow.
The section that jumped out at me the most was the section on “Teaching As Design.” I liked the idea presented, which is that teachers should become designers of learning experiences. To quote the article, “Teaching-as-design” is focused on the design of tasks, situated activities, and learning outcomes.” Learning is more than just lectures and in class discussion. Thinking of design as a learning experience rather than just preparing a lesson plan opens up a whole new world of creativity and opportunity in the classroom. Just thinking about different classes I’ve taken I appreciated when teachers broke up material into different sections where part of class was a hands on assignment, then there might be lecture, later there could be group discussion, or maybe some kind of interactive learning tool. Sitting in a classroom designed to help me engage not only with the material but with the people around me in more than just formal discussion, is much more stimulating and interesting.
Going off of this, one theme of the article that I liked was the idea of what teachers can do to support learning. What can teachers do not only to help students learn but also to drive and motivate them? Every student has their own learning process. Not everyone thrives in a classroom that’s completely lecture while others struggle in classes aimed solely at in class discussion. The article points out the idea of looking at students as individual learners rather than just an entire class. This can help teachers identify students level of understanding as well as encounter their limitations. Tying this back to my first point, if teachers focus on individual students by giving them multiple ways to learn and grow in the classroom, students are more likely to feel comfortable and engaged with the material they’re learning.