Teaching Source Evaluation

“Teaching and Un-Teaching Source Evaluation” discusses experimenting with a different method of teaching students how to analysis authority in sources within a library instruction setting. The article advocated placing an emphasis on information literacy, rather than only instructing students about more traditional academic sources and library resources. I really like the way the researchers required students to analysis their own assumptions about a variety of sources, including Wikipedia, and to discuss this as a small group and then a class. To me this seems like an effective method of achieving the researchers’ goals of improving information literacy and encouraging the development of the students’ own authority. This allows students to take control of their own learning while learning to question the power structures that define traditional scholarship and sources that they have always been taught to view as authoritative and trustworthy. This is immensely important and powerful as it aims to inspire a critical thinking and evaluation of any source a student might come into contact with during their education, and their life. The researcher’s emphasis on lived experience as a source of authority for the student as serves to create a more balanced classroom where students feel more comfortable making such evolutions and critiques. The quote from Maria Accardi the authors included in their conclusion really says it all: “we can ‘in our own ways, however small, clear out space for creative disruption, for thoughtful experimentation, and for subtle but satisfying interruptions of the structures that govern us, and, ultimately, contribute to student learning in a positive and long-lasting way’” (Angell & Tewell, 2017, p. 115).

Reflecting “On Reflection”

Yancy’s “On Reflection” details the process of reflection, the history of studying the writing process especially as it relates to the study of reflection, and Yancy’s own experience using reflection as an instructor. Yancy focuses on reflection in the writing process, and often frames this in setting of a first-year writing program. Within this context, reflection frequently takes the form of writing. From the perspective of library instruction, so little time is spent with students that the creation of an entire reflective essay might be a less practical approach. However, refection has value in more than just the writing process.  Reflection allows students to move beyond the absorption and regurgitation of information. It gives them time to digest a little, and to begin to process and make connections. Reflection might even be more important in a compact and dense learning environment, such as the library instruction classroom. So much is condensed into one or two sessions. Periodically giving student time to reflect socially or introspectively, on the skills and processes overviewed is essential to allow time to process and create deeper understanding.

Reflections on Drabinski

The term Kairos seems to add a layer of practicality and equity when applied to library instruction. Placing instruction standards and other content into a broader context of time, place, and the individual students allows flexibility to deconstruct and recreate what is expected, what is ideal. More importantly it recognizes the context of standards and removes the guise of truth from them. This empowers both instructors and students to make classroom objectives more practical to their current Kairos. The shift in focus encourages creativity in instruction and relives pressure from students to conform to abstract ideals. Standard are useful and necessary, as Drabinski points out, but they can feel limiting. Adding the layer of Kairos keeps us from being held back, either trapped conforming to rigid standards or entangled in criticism and conflict against them. It is useful to think of in relation to library instruction and information literacy. I wonder if an even broader application to elementary and secondary education standard would also be beneficial?

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.

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?

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.

Learning to Teach is a Process

My experience with teaching is limited. During my final year of undergrad, I worked as a consultant (tutor) at my university’s writing center. This was not a job I applied for. The professor of one of my required literature classes approached me one day, after class, and asked if I was interested in teaching at the writing center. We had done some peer editing in class. I enjoyed helping my classmates with their papers, from brainstorming to finalizing drafts, so I enthusiastically agreed. Most of the other tutors at the were English majors with at least a semester or two’s experience under their belt. I was a history major, and new. I felt misplaced, like the professor made a mistake in choosing me for the job.

Chapter one of Palmer’s the Heart of a Teacher talks about anxieties like this. Palmer discusses the danger these fears pose in causing us, as teachers, to detach from the student, and from the subject matter. This is exactly how I first reacted. Intimidated by my fellow tutors who were trying to show me the ropes, I lost the original enjoyment I felt in helping another student. The first semester was difficult as I attempted imitate the other tutors’ methods rather than rely on my own competencies to develop my style. Palmer’s solution to our fears and fear-biased reactions is to self-reflect, to find the things that energize us, and to connect to our subject and our students.

This is something I have so far struggled with as a teacher, but it is a process. I experienced a similar process in writing. Finding a voice in your writing, especially in academic writing, is something that many of us find challenging. It means discovering yourself, and learning how to be true to that self, even as you explore subject matter and ideas that come from outside of you. Palmer describes this in teaching as merging the exterior and the interior. It is like bringing “I” into your writing. It’s allowing yourself to be part of your teaching and not just a vehicle for an objective subject and practiced pedagogy. Discovering yourself and your voice in writing is also a process, and it is ongoing. These are aspects I see in Palmer’s discussion of teaching. His idea that integrity in teaching comes from this understanding of yourself, and your ability to connect that self to the subject and the students, runs parallel to my understanding of a writer’s voice. I hope my experience in these next two semesters help me come closer to finding myself as a teacher. Gaining integrity in teaching will be just as much of a process and finding a voice in writing was and is.