A Magical Beginning

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Looking back, I blame “The Librarian: Quest for the Spear” for my first memories of wanting to be a librarian being a little skewed. I was fifteen when the film starting airing on television, and it quickly became a favorite. This version of a librarian was active, dynamic, and magical–an Indiana Jones for bookworms. Flynn Carsen and his quirky sidekicks gave the illusion that the life of a Librarian was an ongoing adventure concerned with continued learning, education, and mystical objects. Though the mystical object portion of that equation isn’t really true, the rest is.

This ideal of librarianship makes me realize that I not only want to discover where I stand as a teacher, but as an adventurer. Do I teach best through lecture or activity? Am I better at guiding through questions or creating simulations? This internship will help me become my own version of the great Librarian, through experience and learning. It will help me begin my own magical adventures, with my own quirky sidekicks– the new tools of technology.

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.

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.

Becoming Critically Reflective: A Process of Learning and Change: Reading 4

Becoming Critically Reflective: A Process of Learning and Change

This article was a fascinating and thought provoking read. It primarily explored ways in which teachers could view their practice by standing outside of themselves and observing how they act in the classroom. The author discussed four “distinct lenses” in which teachers can use to reflect upon different areas of their practice. It was two of these lenses that really struck a chord with me.

The first of the two is the Our Autobiographies as Learners and Teachers. This particular lens really hit home for me personally because I have always believed that understanding your past or rather the experiences and memories that guide your decisions helps you grow as a person. I feel that self- reflection as a teacher is one of the most crucial steps in creating a welcoming environment for our students as well as helping establish good communication. From self-reflection, I believe as teachers we gain understanding as to why we prescribe to a particular method or tradition. Reading this article made me realize one of the reasons why I like to have lectures in my classes. Lectures were a primary mode of learning for me, but I also love good storytelling. I had fantastic teachers that could weave facts into a beautiful narrative and while I, as a teacher, may think that this is wonderful my future students may not. This is where the second lens comes in.

The second lens that inspired me is Our Students’ Eyes.  I felt that, after reading this article, this second lens was a good balancer for me in regards to Our Autobiographies. The article made a good point that this particular lens is somewhat cloistered in the fact that it is a personal and internal self-evaluation. Memories and experiences can become altered in our minds as we reflect back. I think that lecturing is a wonderful way to learn because it was so successful in my memory but from a student’s eyes it may be a very dull and painful way to learn.  I feel that getting to know my students and trying to understand their learning perceptive will only make me a better teacher because the environment that I am trying to create is a rewarding balance for them and me.

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.

Curriculum Mapping and Me

As a student in the School of Library and Information Studies program here at UA we are provided with the opportunity for an internship; my internship this summer is with Gorgas Information Services. Working with the Instruction Coordinator Librarian I am assisting with the Curriculum Mapping project with which the library has been involved. This project involves assisting in data collection on required courses, data transformation of information collected by other librarians, and other projects as assigned.

As part of our weekly reading we read an article by L.H. Charles—“Using an Information Literacy Curriculum Map as  Means of Communication and Accountability for Stakeholders in Higher Eduction” (log-in required)—to examine the connection between the map and information literacy, and the benefits the curriculum map had to the wider university community; especially the university administration.

The reading was also helpful as I prepare to move to my first professional library position this August; I hope to do some basic curriculum mapping for that school—likely more like the way that it was discussed in the Charles article than the more detailed mapping that we are doing here at UA. The themes in the article, and my work with UA’s data collection and transformation, will couple together nicely with some initial mapping work for the school to which I am going.

Don’t Panic, It’s Just Information Literacy!

I spent my morning on Monday co-teaching two EN102 classes with Sara Whitver; both classes had the same English instructor and both chose the same topic (It’s funny how much college students like football). These sessions were an opportunity for me to understand two things about what my future as an instructor can look like in time. The first is that I hope that sooner or later these instruction butterflies die down and let me get on with my sessions. Secondly, I realized that with time and experience I can make a better connection to the students. I learned this fact through the third co-teaching session suddenly seeming easier than the second and the first, and because of Sara’s confidence with the group. My first session included a lesson I was glad I learned early, which is always be more than prepared, because I definitely was not. All in all, I feel that repetition (and the guidance of Sara) will keep me on my feet, even when I’m scared out of my wits.

(P.S. Sara, you totally are a super-special snowflake)

Dry Runs

Today, Louise, Alex and Karlie were able to do their first dry run of an instruction session during our training meeting. Brett and I asked them to conduct a 10 minute module, teaching some small aspect of Scout (The University of Alabama’s EDS). The purpose of this exercise was to discover things about themselves when they try to explain something to an audience. Each did a fantastic job.

I have issued a challenge to them to do some search analysis using Scout, so that they have a better practical understanding of how it works, and cautioned them about drawing focus during their sessions from their key points by trying to explain jargon and technicalities in too much detail. And we all have to continue to find a balance between being a fallible human who makes mistakes and drawing too much critical attention to one’s self at the cost of distracting from our message.

Time is something that I have been struggling with in the past week or so. I never have enough time to cover everything I plan. This semester, I have been focusing on reducing the quantity of my session content in order to more deeply address the strategy of choosing search terms and developing search strings, and I find that the deeper I go, the less time I have. Twice so far this semester, I have not left enough time to complete the exercise that I planned to do with my students. For my sessions next week, it’s my goal to pace myself better, and to recognize if I am spending too much time on one thing. If I feel I am spending the correct amount of time on each component during my sessions, perhaps I am still trying to accomplish too much and I need to cut something out! In this process I find both frustration and motivation. I want my freshmen to be equipped with adequate skills for finding the best sources for their research when they leave my classroom, but if I try to teach them too much I risk over-saturation.

Next week we are going to repeat our dry runs, and I think we will perhaps implement some peer review into it. The following week, we are going to develop active learning components for our classes. I look forward to seeing these three budding instructors grow more confident and find their voice through these exercises. Great job, everyone!

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.

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.