End of Semester Intern Reflection

As I end my time with the GIS Department, it is important to look back on my experience. I began my internship with many expectations and assumptions concerning the profession, the university, myself, and students. These expectations were either met or discredited throughout my internship–either through observation, teaching, or self-assessment. I grew in many ways that both surprised and excited me. I absolutely feel I grew both personally and professionally. In very general ways, I grew in my willingness to collaborate with colleagues in producing lesson plans and generating ideas. I also learned to accept the general failings of my teaching and work to improve them rather than to immediately discredit myself as a teacher. Stephen Brookfield explores this idea in his chapter “A Process of Learning and Change” in Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher and attributes these failings as a result of social, economic, and political processes. In this way, the theoretical literature I read throughout he semester helped me better differentiate general failings and personal failings. As someone new to teaching in this type of environment, it was important for me to identify the ways I was struggling because of my assumptions and perspectives and the challenges I was facing that many other teachers face. I am always reminded of Parker Palmer’s chapter “The Heart of a Teacher” in her text The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life when thinking about personal and professional growth. Palmer’s chapter explores the more virtuous side of teaching and how the virtuous identity of a teacher shapes a classroom. For example, Palmer stresses the necessity of being present when teaching because it brings a sense of connectivity that cannot be found anywhere else. Remaining passionate and enthusiastic about the subject one is teaching is necessary and fundamental to good teaching. I learned this through teaching. Creating a welcoming and moving classroom is the product of a connected teacher. When I first began planning my lesson plans, I was obsessed with the idea of the “perfect worksheet” and the “perfect lesson plan.” I quickly learned that the teacher is the person who will make a class engaging and insightful—not the worksheet or lesson plan. These can certainly be necessary tools for facilitating a great class, but great teaching is a product of the teacher’s ability to navigate the learning environment and situation.

Personally, I grew into the identity of a teacher. Formerly at my undergraduate university I assisted the instructional librarians with their classes; however, I never thought of it as teaching. In a sense, I thought of the class as the librarians “showing” the students general library-based instruction. I quickly learned that instructional librarianship is teaching and deserves to be recognized and associated with that word. Stephen Brookfield’s chapter in Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher “A Process of Learning and Change” discusses the idea of self-assessment and doing so through several reflective lenses. I think what really allowed me to grow into the identity of a teacher is the constant self-assessment I was doing throughout the semester through these various lenses. Brookfield identifies the four lenses as the teacher’s autobiographical perspective, the student’s perspective, the colleague’s perspective, and the discipline’s theoretical literature perspective and insight. Constantly assessing myself through these lenses allowed me to see the assumptions I was making of students and, in the context of my identity as a teacher, the assumptions I was making of myself. For instance, I first approached my lesson plans by negotiating myself out of ideas that I did not believe were “the librarian’s job” to teach about. Instead, I presented lesson plans and worksheets that fit the comfort level of my assumption about myself and the profession. I was quickly urged by Sara and others around me to explore deeper ideas and not let the constraints of what I was feeling to dictate what I was teaching. This put me into the mindset to question myself: Why am I teaching like this? Eventually through constant self-assessment—whether through the act of teaching, blogging, journaling, or discussing—I grew to accept the title of a teacher. I want to continue to challenge myself in this title by pushing myself to question what is expected of a library instructor in terms of information literacy. For instance, questioning what teaching information literacy demands from the library instructor. I also want to challenge myself to teach more responsively through constant analysis by myself, colleagues, students, and pedagogical literature. Remaining active in self-assessment is an area I want to continue to prioritize. Furthermore, I want to deliberately find books, perspectives, conversations, and practices that challenge my comfort towards teaching and allow me to identify my assumptions and question my expectations.

Reflecting on Teaching My First Instructional Classes

After organizing and completing my lesson plans, it was time to take my lesson to the classroom! The lesson covered how to evaluate and interpret online content with rhetorical analysis. Students would be assessing blogs for their next assignment and considering how these rhetorical elements influenced the purpose of the blog. However, at the last minute I had to quickly alter my approach, structure, and timing as the class instructor wanted to give students time to find an appropriate blog post. Originally I was going to break each row into six groups and have them individually assess blogs; however, when we actually started reviewing blogs to include, the professor pointed out important information regarding the selection of blogs. Together we decided that this information was crucial for students to understand and re-scheduled time to allow for the instructor to go over criteria for selecting an appropriate blog for the assignment. This did not call for much re-organization except limiting time on the worksheet. I also think this really allowed students time to ask the professor questions and better understand why certain blogs were appropriate for the assignment and others were not.


Overall, the classes went really well. I timed everything out to cover all the information I wanted to and felt the classes were treating the worksheet as a foundational piece for their assignment. The first class was much more responsive than the second class in terms of discussion. The questions I received were ones I expected and felt I could adequately explain. Afterwards, the class instructor encouraged me to explain the first question on the worksheet a little more and offer examples on how to find the information. The first question centered around the review and publishing process for the website. Most students were getting stumped at this first question and were either lingering on solving it during the allotted time or getting discouraged by how difficult it was. I did disclose that the first question was perhaps the hardest one, but I altered my approach during the second class by pulling up an example on Wired and showing the students the different tabs, links, contact info, and areas to find this specific publishing information. I also briefly talked about the type of language they would want to be looking for. I could not adequately judge how effective this altered approach was but felt going over locating the publishing information was beneficial to the class. When we went over the worksheet as a class I further explained the important difference between staff writers and freelance writers, blind review, double-blind review, and peer-review. Although I had briefly mentioned these aspects in the previous class, I felt discussing the aspects of the publishing process more in-depth to the second class would more adequately give students an idea of the types of things that define the publishing process.


The second class was much less responsive and I felt I did most of the talking. Afterwards, the class instructor encouraged me not to be scared of silence when I asked a question and the class did not respond. During this class I would ask questions and get no responses, which caused me to immediately answer my own question. I thought this advice was extremely useful because I was measuring the success of the class by how much discussion was happening. Discussion is important but allowing space for students to think and feel semi-pressured into answering questions would have created a more engaging classroom. Although the class instructor found the second class to have gone better, I personally found the first class to have gone better. I believe this was in part to the students participating in discussion throughout the class. The second class took a much shorter time to locate appropriate blogs for their assignment, while the first class took a longer time. This appeared to influence the professor’s outlook on the success of the classes. There was also much more of a sports-focus on the blogs that students chose in the second class as many of them were involved in collegiate sports or were interested in sports. I helped a few students locate publishing information on sports websites and when we discussed the worksheet as a class I asked these students to explain the sports blogs’ publishing process to me as I was unfamiliar with that world. Afterwards, Sara and I discussed how this could have potentially had a negative effect on the class. While I saw this prompt as a chance to engage students in discussing information they found that I did not know about, she mentioned that me acknowledging I was not interested in sports could have had a negative effect. I found this really interesting as I had not considered looking at comments like this in any “critical” way in shaping students perception of the information I was teaching. This comment made me re-focus the type of audience I was speaking to and reminded me to be more critical when making comments towards the class.


I certainly enjoyed teaching my first set of classes and am going to take the elements previously discussed into consideration when constructing my lesson plans for the next class I teach. I have an idea of what to expect from the class in terms of participation, discussion, and audience now. When I see these classes next I am hoping that I can hear about how their assignments went and what they found out.

Measuring Success in the Instructional Classroom

I have now been observing EN 102 classes for three weeks and have found the act of observing as a beneficial way to critically assess and explore teaching strategies. I have observed both in-active and active classrooms, responsive and non-responsive students, and a variety of teaching methods used by instructors. These three weeks of observing have allowed me critical insight into what makes the instructional classroom successful. Although it may feel arbitrary to measure success through technical and responsive elements, I think it is important to take stock of what parts of the instruction students are responding to and what aspects of the class they are questioning and struggling to understand. Therefore, finding a way to measure success through observation will allow me to more effectively refine and shape my teaching into something that is meaningful, innovative, and rewarding to students.

It is difficult to identify what exactly makes an instructional class successful as students from all areas with different perspectives and backgrounds bring something unique to the instructional classroom; therefore, it is not productive nor necessary to find one strategy that universally works in the instructional classroom as it does not exist. Instead, it is productive and absolutely imperative to find and tune several strategies that can be adapted and individualized to each classroom setting. For example, although all instructional librarians follow a general lesson plan for several teaching options, each librarian individualizes the lesson plan to their teaching style and customizes the material in a way that allows them to engage students and offer better instruction in every classroom environment. This personalization of the lesson plan produces a great learning environment. I have begun asking myself these assessment questions while observing:

  • Why are students engaged/disengaged in this particular moment?
  • How can this subject be alternatively explained?
  • Is the instructor engaging the students in a critical, academic discussion? If so, how? If not, why?
  • What are the elements of library instruction that the instructor is successfully exploring?
  • Would an additional element (visual, audio, etc.) further define this point?

The most successful instructional class I have observed thus far was successful in terms of participation, excitement, understanding, questioning, active learning, and energy. I would argue this was due mainly to the excellent lesson plan the instructional librarian followed. When students were not responding, the instructor approached the material differently by re-phrasing a question or providing a more relevant example that resonated with the class. When students responded well to an example, the librarian would continue exploring different areas of that example which allowed students to engage in critical thinking towards something they found interesting. The instructor, above all, treated the students as intellectuals who had something important to say.

This was the first class that a different lesson plan was used for the instructional session. Instead of having each student come up with a topic on their own and form a specific research question around that topic, the instructor had students break into six groups and assigned them an “unusual topic.” Before topics were even given out, the student’s body language showcased interest in the term “unusual.” These topics included the Masque of Red Death, Salem Witch Trials, werewolves, Elizabeth Bathory, cults, and cannibalism. At first I questioned whether students would be invested in a topic they did not pick or knew very little about; however, assigning an unusual topic allowed students to more narrowly focus in on the topic and quickly explore aspects of the topic they wanted to know more about. Not knowing anything about the topic prove to be a great teaching tool as students became invested in learning about the unusual topic. When students reported their research questions, they overwhelming reported great, intriguing, and narrow research questions. The instructor processed to ask questions such as:

  • Now that you have this topic, how are you going to approach it?
  • What do you/have you found interesting about this?
  • Could you narrow your focus anymore?
  • How did you get to this question?
  • What more could you say about this?
  • Would you say you’ve synthesized a good, solid topic?
  • So you found… can you tell me more?
  • What about this interests you?
  • What about this makes a strong research question?
  • In what ways would you move forward with researching this?

The professor of the class did jump in to encourage students not to simply create a question that could be answered simply by yes or no; instead, he encouraged them to keep the question narrow enough for an in-depth textual analysis that fits the page/word requirement of their upcoming assignment. This was the only time a professor worked with the instructor in responding to students work during the session, which gave great insight into what the professor wanted as the instructor leant his expertise. In this way, the students received a really great instructional period on what the professor expects, as well as the technical knowledge the librarian provided.

What’s important to me as an instructor is to relay information to students in an engaging manner, while also assuming the role of a non-judgmental and non-condescending facilitator. The librarians I have observed did a great job of balancing this by listening to students concerns and relating the material back to their academic and social lives. This communication creates an authentic and productive instructional classroom. When developing my lesson plans, I am making it a priority to focus on facilitating active response through critical conversations as my three weeks of observation have taught me that this focus has the potential to lead to a successful instructional classroom.