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.

Grading Worksheets to Grade the Teacher: Assessment as a form of Reflection

In past blog posts I have talked about grading students worksheets in order to assess myself in how I am teaching during my library instruction periods. However, I realized that I had not fully explained my process or why I think this is an important tool.

My process of grading the worksheet is relatively simple. For each question I give the students a score that ranges from 0-3. The score is given based on a set of criteria that I determine before hand. While the criteria changes with the worksheet and the content of the class The basic standards for each score are described below.

0- The students did not write anything down. I do this because if all the students have a 0 on questions that are later in the worksheet then it tells me that did not give the students enough time to work. I then can either rearrange the lesson plan to give the students more time to work or change the worksheet by either having  less questions or changing what I ask (perhaps the questions are too hard). Luckily I have not had this problem. Some students do get a 0 for some questions, but I have not noticed a pattern in any of the classes.

1- The students only answered part of the question. Many of the questions I give the students have two or more parts. The parts are not difficult something along the lines of where I as the student to identify the name of a resource and then highlight why this source is important or can used in a paper. You could say that I am a fan of identify and describe questions.

2- The student answers all part of the questions, but they just do surface answers. The students do everything asked in the question, but they just do the bare minimum and use very broad answers. For example they may answer a question with the name of a resource and say that they can use it to provide a statistic for their paper.

3- The student answers all parts of the question and are specific. I want to see these specific answers because that means the student is engaged with what we are doing and that they understand what they are looking for in each question. For example, the student names a resource and then quotes or paraphrases part of the source identifying what they might like to use it for in their paper.

By scoring students answers I can judge how I taught that class. If the majority of the class get mostly ones on the questions then that tells me that I either did not clearly communicate what I wanted them to do or that I did not engage the class enough for them to care about what we were doing in class. If the scores are mostly twos then perhaps I need to engage the class more or try to direct them into thinking more deeply about the questions. Twos are great, but it does not show great understanding of what we were doing, but just scratches the surface.  If I can get mostly threes then I would be ecstatic because that means I was able to connect with the class and they understood what we were doing.

All of this can inform me on about my teaching, it affects the activities I do in the classroom, and how I structure lecture for the class. After each class I have made some alteration to my lesson plan such as adding a small activity at the start of a class after my first solo teaching lesson. A more recent example comes from teaching two classes this past Tuesday. The first class had a little too much time that I planned on using for work time (the students finished faster then I thought they would and I ended up letting them out early). So before the next session in that day I had the students do a free write to start exploring their topic based solely on their own knowledge to see where their gaps were. I am constantly making some kind of change to the worksheet or lesson plan and I think each change has increased the knowledge output the students leave the classroom with. I am not an expert in the classroom in anyway, but I am slowly finding my way and learning what does and does not work for me after every class.

Assessing My Lesson Plan: Part 2

As I said in the pervious post I revised my lesson plan to try and make my points on how sources can be used to talk to one another in an essay more clear to the students. My revisions changed both how I lectured and the in class worksheet I gave the class. I changed the lecture so that I started out the class with a quick group exercise where I asked the students to make a list of the first 5 things they do when they are working on a writing assignment. I used their answers to illustrate how they need to do some background research on a topic before settling on their argument as well as using background research to help them become more familiar with the nuances of a topic and  other subcategories that fall under the broad topics they had to choose from. (This class was given a list of ten topics they could write their papers on.) From here I then began to describe some of the source types (viewpoints, statistics, scholarly articles, and primary sources) used in Opposing Viewpoints. What I did was describe one of the source types and then gave the students five minutes fill out that sources section of the worksheet. Unlike the pervious worksheet used in the past class I had printed out a worksheet for each student and broke the tables into sections based on source type. I asked the students to find two versions of the source where one argued for the topic and one against the topic. Once I covered all four source types I then had the students do one last exercise. I asked the students to pick one source that argued for and one that argued against (they did not have to be the same source type). They then were asked how they could have two different argument types can talk to one another.

I wanted the students to see how they could start a conversation in their papers. For example how an ethical argument (perhaps a source from viewpoints) can have holes poked into it with a logical argument (a source from statistics). Over all I am a bit happier with the responses I was able to tease out of the students in this set of worksheets. I think that by breaking up the lecture and having the students work in short intervials helped kept the students focused on the topic. This helps let me know that I am on the right track with how I best teach. However I do think that my last exercise needs some work. Looking at the responses that students gave some of the students were able to grasp the conversation I was trying to get them start having. However, many of the responses  were restatements from earlier parts of the worksheet.

If I get the chance to reteach this lesson plan I want to continue breaking up the lecture by having the students work for a few minutes. However, I want to rework the last exercise. I am thinking I need to reevaluate how I present the exercise. Perhaps a compare table is not the best way to do this. I might need to try and guide the students a little more in this exercise with better directions as well.

Assessing My Lesson Plan Part 1

I have had the opportunity to teach three EN 101 classes on Opposing ViewPoints. Two of the classes were taught on the same day for the same instructor and within the class I had the students do an in class group worksheet. I split the class into six groups (I split them based on their rows of the classroom). Each group was given a prearranged topic picked by me and they were given access to a Google Doc where they could access the worksheet and fill out the worksheet together as a group. The topics I picked were: Advertising, Electronic Voting, Hunting, Online Music Trading, School Uniforms, and Video Games. I choose these topics because they are relatively easy topics to understand meaning that these topics would not be too complicated or have jargon heavy sources for a 10 minute class exercise where the students had not had time to prepare   a pervious knowledge of the topic.

The first lesson I learned upon reflection of this experience was that I think I talked too long explaining the different types of sources the students could find in this database. I mean that I don’t think I had enough active learning during my lecture part of the class. I asked the class questions to try and keep them engaged but I lost their focus relatively quickly I think. This was later reinforced when I looked at the worksheets the groups had completed. In the worksheet I had the students find sources that made arguments for and against their assigned topic. They had to find at least one source for each argument that every part of the rhetoric triangle (Pathos, Logos, and Ethos). I then asked the students to provide me with a short explanation about why they think their source fits that portion of the triangle. I wanted the students to start thinking about how sources can talk to each other and how they could interact with the sources themselves.

Looking at what the students wrote on their worksheets I don’t think I was clear in what I wanted them to do or I did not get the right points across. The students were all able to find and identify the different types of sources, this was also made simple because Opposing Viewpoints breaks up the source types. But, in the other column where I wanted the students to think about how sources from different points of view and different arguments can talk to one another the responses where not exactly what I was looking for. I think I was not clear enough in my directions. Many of the students either simply said wether the source was Pathos, Ethos, or Logos or they gave a brief summary of what the source was about. Looking at these responses caused me to redesign the worksheet and how I wanted to teach the class.

First Solo Teaching Experience — Reflection of How I Think it Went

This last Friday I was allowed the experience to teach two En 101 instruction classes. Both of these classes were taught by the same instructor and were one shot instruction classes. I used the same general lesson plan for both classes that covered the rhetoric triangle, Opposing Viewpoints Database, and how to use different types of sources to talk to one another in a review paper that utilizes at least one source that expresses a view that the student does not agree with.

I designed the lesson plan to start with a review of the rhetoric triangle were I tried to engage the students into talking about the pieces of triangle and what type of argument each part of the triangle is trying to make. I could definitely see that each class has a different dynamic in how they interact with each other and with the “instructor”. The first class did not talk too much to me, but they talked a lot with each other. I had to really probe and continuously ask leading questions in order to get the students talk to me and let me know they understand what is being covered. Where as the second class there were groups who seemed to be engaged with me when I talked. They would look at me in the eye and respond when I asked a general question to the class. I know that I cannot control how a class responds in general, because I am a guest that they only see once I don’t have a lot of authority with them. Part of this could be because the instructor  did not introduce me to the students are say anything about how important this instruction lesson was. It also did not help that instructor sat at the front of the classroom looking bored and would search the internet doing other activities. These visual cues did not help me look professional or like what I had to say was important. I have no control over these aspects of a classroom; all I can do is try to work past these problems and try my best to reach those students who want to hear what I have to say.

I then moved the lesson on to the Opposing Viewpoints Database where I talked about the different source types the students can use in their papers. This part of the lesson took up the majority of classroom time. Here I did a lot of talking about what the sources are and how they can be used in a paper. I tried to ask the students questions about where they could use the sources in their paper based on the triangle we had been discussing earlier. Even with the questions I asked the class I could tell I was losing their attention. I believe that I talked to long without some kind of active learning activity to break up the lesson. I need to change this up before I use the same general idea of the lesson for a class in the up coming week. I think that what I want to do for the up coming week is to break up how long I talk. Toward the end of the class time I have the students complete a group worksheet where they find one source for each part of the rhetoric triangle for an argument for and against based on a topic I assigned each group. In order to keep their attention I think that what I want to do is after I explain a source I would have the groups focus on finding that type of source that can make an argument for and agains the topic and have them talk about where in their paper they can make use of the argument in their paper. I would want to rework the worksheet to try and allow for this more parceled out activity. In addition to this change I plan on comparing the worksheets gathered from the classes I have already taught and the one I will teach in this upcoming week and comparing the answers from the two different styles of the lesson plan to see if one type of lesson plan was able to teach the ideas better then the other. That is going to be the topic of my next blog post.

Comparison of Teaching Styles: Based On Class Level and Subject Topic

Teaching styles change from topic to topic, something made necessary because math can not be taught the same as history class. The same goes for library instruction classes. I have been observing multiple EN 102 classes along with the occasional upper level classes in other departments. Something I have noticed and wanted to reflect on is the change in teaching styles required when teaching EN 102 students how to search in Scout and teaching a 400 level history class how to search in Scout.

When demonstrating for EN 102 how to search in Scout the instructors go at a slower pace. They try to be very careful and deliberate in what they show the class. They use search terms from practiced searchers so that they can choose just the right type of information to show the students. However, with the upper level history class the instructors wanted to help the students search for resources using their own topics. For example at the start of the history instruction class each student said what they were planning on writing their paper about. Then as the instructor demonstrated how to search in Scout for books and articles they used the topics the students said in class. This showed the students a less structured lesson, because the instructor did not know what results they would get back. Both of these methods have their place and I believe they are being correctly utilized  by the instructors. In the EN 102 classes the students might not have a good solid idea of what they want to write about and the instructor has to get a lot of information into a 50 or 75 minute class period, not easily done. By knowing exactly what they are going to get in search the instructor is able to demonstrate and move on to the next learning objective effectively. Where as the history class had a 2 1/2 hours to do there class allowing the instructors to demonstrate some trial and error searches with the students’ topics. The longer class period of the history class also allowed for a lot more one-on-one attention with the students as they ran into trouble with their searches.

The second point is explaining keywords and search terms to the students. In the EN 102 classes the instructors are very specific in defining keywords and subject terms. Where as the history class most of these students seem to understand the difference and the instructors were able to move on quickly once establishing the difference.

This comparison has helped me understand that not everything has to be completely planned in the lesson plan. Sometimes a loose outline of a lesson plan is what is needed. It is all based on the topic and the type of class being taught.

Hello from the new GIS Intern

Hi everyone,

My name is Kelly Grove and I am the new GIS intern for the fall 2016 semester. A few quick facts about me are that I am a Grad Student with UA in the Library and Information Science Department and this is my finial semester (Wohooo!). Over the course of the semester I have the chance to work with the GIS team to learn more about library instruction and I have the chance to work on some research projects to learn more about how librarians are doing different types of studies.

This last Friday I had the chance to do my first co-teaching instruction session for and EN 101 class searching for film reviews. Going into the classroom I was not nervous, because my part was a short demonstration on how the students can find reviews to use in their papers. However, during the first class when it came to be my turn nerves popped up. I started to talk too fast and made some mistakes in what I was typing into the search bars. The mistakes I made in typing then affected my the results I got back which threw off what I had planned on talking about with the students. I tried to hide the fact that I was a bit flustered. I am not sure if the students noticed but the instructor for the class and Sara both noticed. Before the second class came in Sara told me to make sure I breath while presenting. This will slow me down and give me time to make sure everything is okay before doing a search. It worked! My second demonstration went much better and the searches worked perfectly. I feel like the second set of students were better able to understand what I was trying to show them.

Remembering that nerves can hit at any moment and that mistakes are just part of live demonstrations are important. For my first experience of participating in a library instruction session I made the rookie mistakes and now feel better prepared for the next time I step into the classroom. I know that these won’t be my last mistakes, but at least I get to make new ones and get to learn some new lessons.

Fair use, Library Instruction, and First-year Students

Association of Research Libraries
Fair Use/Fair Dealing Week- 22-26 February 2016

“Fair Use/Fair Dealing Week is an annual celebration of the doctrine of fair use and fair dealing. It celebrates the important role fair use plays in achieving the Constitutional purpose of intellectual property rights in the US.” – Association of Research Libraries

In this series, bloggers from within the libraries and from the UA campus community talk about Fair Use, and how it applies to our lives as citizens and scholars.

The Framework for Information Literacy states that “Scholarship is a Conversation– Communities of scholars, researchers, or professionals engage in sustained discourse with new insights and discoveries occurring over time as a result of varied perspectives and interpretations.” Without the fundamental right of fair use, the scholarly conversation would be impeded, and student engagement with new and unfamiliar ideas would be stymied. Through library instruction, we have the opportunity to facilitate a student’s engagement in the scholarly conversation, and to encourage fair use of information- the analysis of a visual artifact, the use of a quote as evidence, and even the provision of information through the libraries’ collections– in order to provide the environment and the resources for a rich and deep learning experience.

Some of the many skills we hope to teach our students during their college experience are finding, evaluating, and using sources to support their research. While students have had some experience with academic writing and research in their high school experience, many of the skills and expectations introduced to them in these first two semesters are completely different from anything that they’ve done before. Through our  partnership with First-year Writing, the University Libraries help to educate new students in these very skills, which enable them to exercise their fundamental right of fair use. From newspaper articles, to personal blogs, to a student taking their first steps in engaging in the scholarship in their chosen discipline, librarians partnering with first-year writing instructors to teach students to engage with sources and keep track of their research. Engagement through fair use comes in the form of summary, paraphrase, and quotation, and is an integral part of teaching source engagement. As students move on to life after graduation, they retain these skills, allowing them to participate as active citizens in a world filled with information.

Session 1 Asynchronous Proposal

Using the Session 1 Lesson Plan, I plan to incorporate asynchronous teaching methods in to the lesson in order to create an independent online learning environment. I plan to begin the lesson with a recorded video introduction, introducing myself, my role within the library, and the availability of the research librarians. Next, the lesson will include a screen cast pointing out the pertinent aspects of the library website. The screencast will demonstrate: hours, interlibrary loan, Stanford Media Center, Library Software List, Print to Library Computers, and Ask-A-Librarian. The students will then be required to submit an Ask-A-Librarian question based upon their area of interest for their final paper. These questions will be answered by the instructor before the session 2 instruction. After this, there will be a video discussing the goals and objectives for the lesson. Moving on to the research process, the instructor will include a video describing their personal research process and discus places to do background research. Depending on what the instructor’s research process, a screen cast can be included within the video. Students will then be asked to submit an explanation of their own personal research process, to a class discussion board in text or in video form, to the viewed by their fellow classmates. This will be followed by a video PowerPoint explaining the broad vs. narrow process. Students will then be asked to practice this skill by completing the Step-By-Step Scout Guide on the EN102 libguide.  To complete the lesson students will be asked to take a final assessment to gage how much of the information was retained by the students. The information provided by students will be reviewed by the instructor to aid in planning for the session 2 lesson.

On, on, you noblest English (2 of 3)

Again, King Henry V by William Shake-speare.

Co-teaching to the third power.

All of my co-teaching was done last week. I had two sessions triple co-teaching with Karlie and Claire and another session triple (double? I’m not sure what the standard is for this. Teaching in triplicate? The bermuda triangle of co-teaching? Instructor, intern, and intern/GA… a trinity?) co-teaching with  Kayla and Lauren.

Aside from not being sure what I was doing 100% until just before the sessions, I feel as if they were effective and went rather well. For the first teaching in triplicate with Karlie and Claire, I went through the powtoon of popular vs scholarly sources. I always notice that the students eyes kind of glaze over halfway through, but I wasn’t sure how to deal with that so I just kept going. Them getting the information is better than just shooting from the hip and not getting the information across the way it needed to be. In the second session with Karlie and Claire, I went through what sources were by going through Karlie’s scripted questions in her slideshow. I added things about how you can also use unusual resources (like tweets, pictures, etc) in papers as long as they are used in context and not thrown in like some undergraduate students tend to do if not directed otherwise. This I threw in because Karlie mentioned it after Claire gave her talk in the first class. Learning on the go!

I co-taught again the next day, this time with Kayla and Lauren. This time I ran the unusual resources activity, which I felt like I did fairly well. These classes were real confidence boosters–because two days later, I would be teaching on my own. On to the next!