Week 5: EN 102

Today was my first day to co-teach an EN 102 class.  Overall, I think it went really well.  Alex was the main instructor, and I assisted by executing my keyword “active learning” activity that I demoed in our weekly meeting last week.*  While the application of the activity in a real classroom wasn’t perfect, the instructor seemed to like it, and even complimented me on it at the end of class. So, yay.

Which brings me to our reading last week, “Becoming Critically Reflective: The Process of Learning and Change.”  The article’s main focus was to illustrate how our assumptions about the way we teach and the ways we present can be changed by viewing our performance through different lenses.  So, while it is certainly healthy to be self-reflective in our vocation, sometimes it is important to get the outside opinions of others, whether it is our peers, our students, or even the theoretical literature surrounding our profession.  As I’ve mentioned before, I often get nervous speaking in front of people, so getting to demo my methods in front of my fellow “padawans” each week is super duper helpful.  For example, getting that little bit of encouragement from my peers and mentors last week really and truly gave me the confidence to co-teach the class today.  Feedback from others is crucial to my success in this internship, as it gives me confidence in what I’m doing and helps me see beyond my nervous disposition.  So, keep the criticisms/feedback/praise coming, and I’ll try to do the same for you!

*I added a worksheet component (that used word bubbles) to help guide them along.


Week 3: Observation

This week was my first week observing.*  Since the schedule this semester is awkwardly mapped, I was unable to view a first year writing course.  However, I did get to view Mark teach a Comm 123 course and Brett teach a Compass course, the latter of which I helped out with a bit.

The first class I observed was Mark’s Comm 123 session.  Comm 123 is a public speaking course required of most majors within the communication’s school.  Of all the things worth mentioning about Mark’s class, I think the most interesting was how he began.  Mark opened the class with two articles about texting and driving, one of which was from a scholarly journal and the other from a popular news source.  Mark had the students read the abstracts aloud and voice their opinions as to why each was labeled the way they were.  (For example, the students noted that the scholarly article was written with very technical language, while the popular article was written for an audience with a lower reading level.)  After dissecting the two pieces, Mark then asked the students which one would be a better source for their first speech topic.  Most of the students, as expected, answered with the scholarly journal.  Then Mark explained that, yes, while that does seem like the logical answer, for a public speaking class a scholarly journal is not necessarily appropriate, depending on the audience and topic.  I liked this for several reasons:

  • It broke down resource stereotypes, such as the assumption that all scholarly journals are “good” and all popular publications are “bad.”
  • It helped the students think critically about library resources.
  • It was interactive.  Student’s led the conversation while Mark steered them in right direction.  This is much more preferable to me than lecturing.

The second class I observed last week was Brett’s Compass class.  I feel like Brett was made for these.  He is so personable, and I have a lot to learn from his enthusiasm for the library and the students.  Observing him give a library tour was particularly helpful, as I was tasked with giving a library tour this past week to some SLIS students (more on that to come later).  In addition, his library survivor game is top notch.  The students loved it, and even got mildly competitive with it, which is great if you believe all the “game theory” literature.

Overall, things last week went well.  My first round of real, hardcore co-teaching comes next week, and I feel like observing these librarians helped ease my nerves a bit.  This, much to my chagrin, just might be enjoyable after all. 🙂


*Sorry about being a little late posting this to the blog

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)

Second Mock Session

This week we presented our mock exercises for keyword recognition in broad, narrow and related form. While I initially wanted to use Apples to Apples cards, as they are more visually inviting, I could not get a hold of the game. It is most likely just as well, as I believe it would have been difficult to find enough Apples to Apples cards that could fit together in broad, narrow and related terms. Instead I made up my own terms, and I made two groups of term cards so that I could split the Jedi counsel into two teams. These two groups consisted of two topics–Bigfoot and Lance Armstrong.

I would first like to discuss what I think went well with the game. Because the teams were forced to organize the cards on the table in order of broad to narrow, with related terms beside one another, I believe it was a visually stimulating game because you actually had to move the cards around, not just rank them on a word document. You could pick them up; you could actually see how broad terms relate to narrow terms in a real way, how related terms are defined in a real and simple way. The ‘Bigfoot’ group was by far the better of the two. The terms ‘legend,’ ‘folklore,’ ‘cryptozoology,’ ‘bigfoot,’ ‘sasquatch’ and ‘Washington State sightings’ move from broad to narrow in very defined and easily recognizable ways, and related terms are also easy to spot. This group of terms will certainly be used again.

Now, on to the negatives. I wish I had defined one term in each group–‘Lance Armstrong’ and ‘Bigfoot’–as the ‘anchor’ terms. That would have been much better. I also wish I had remembered to think like someone who is very inexperienced in keyword recognition. The reason I wish that is the ‘Lance Armstrong’ group contained a lot of terms that could easily trip you up; I myself did not organize them correctly when I was preparing for the session. ‘Sports scandals,’ ‘performance enhancing drugs’ and ‘steroids’ move from broad to narrow pretty easily, but where does ‘Lance Armstrong’ fit in? Are ‘2000 Olympic Bronze Medal’ and ‘Tour de France titles’ more broad or narrow than ‘Lance Armstrong’? These I got incorrect, so I can guarantee that freshmen students will not understand them immediately. I believe this word grouping should be scrapped.

Overall, I believe my two mock sessions went well. I learned what works and what doesn’t, and I also was surprised to find myself pretty comfortable in front of the group. While a room full of students will be much different, I felt calm and collected, and I hope that demeanor holds up under pressure.

A Magical Beginning


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.

The Semester in Review

Looking back on my experience with teaching this semester I can definitely see some things I improved on, and some things I still need to work on. Going all the way back to my first practice scout module (which I wasn’t really prepared for) I was a bit surprised by the fact that I was kind of nervous. Partially that was down to the fact that I just hadn’t done much public speaking in a relatively long time, but it did catch me a bit by surprise considering I was just speaking to a small group of people that I already knew.

The practice modules and the observations and the co-teaching definitely helped me prepare for my first solo session, but at the same time nothing really compares to that very first time you teach a class by yourself. I don’t think it’s that surprising that that very first session was by far my worst. I was glued to the podium, a bit tongue tied, went way too fast, forgot some things I was planning on talking about, and ended up finishing about ten minutes too soon. But by the third session or so it didn’t seem like a big deal to teach a solo session. By that time any problems were more about adjusting to new things (teaching a second session for the first time, teaching a hybrid one-shot session for the first time, etc.). I was a bit annoyed that I didn’t feel like my last session was very good. I felt like I was getting better each time, I didn’t have any real nerves beforehand, and it still didn’t go that well. It was mainly just the adjustment to a one-shot session -whenever I’d had an hour and fifteen minute class before that I’d always felt like I didn’t have material, and then during the one-shot session everything felt rushed. The whole thing felt a bit choppy, and I also had a fairly unresponsive class.

Regardless of that, I definitely feel like I improved as the semester went on. The main thing was just feeling more comfortable standing in front of a class. I also felt like I improved on the way I taught some concepts and was pleased that some of the ideas were completely my own. At the end of most classes we’d give the classes time to work on looking for sources on scout, and one thing that I really enjoyed was working with the students individually to help them with their research papers. I definitely got better at that as the semester went on, and it wasn’t so much about becoming more familiar with scout – I already had a pretty good handle on that. It was more about learning how to approach students in different ways. It’s obviously easy when a student specifically asks for help, but I thought I improved at helping the ones that at first didn’t really appear to want help.

There are definitely some things I need to work on. I almost take it too seriously, for one – I kind of forget to enjoy myself at times, if that makes sense, because I’m so focused on getting the material right. I also could definitely improve on ways of getting students involved in discussions. I’ve talked about this in other blog posts, but I sometimes would ask a question, wait a few seconds, and then answer it myself because I assumed the students wouldn’t say anything.

I’m not sure I would say that I really have a firm grasp on what my teaching “style” is at this point – I probably just haven’t given it enough thought. I’m used to lecture, and I’m sure that’s had some impact on my teaching style, but I don’t like just standing up in front of the class for an hour talking non-stop. So I guess I would say I like lecture/discussions (another reason to get better at getting students involved), with some group work/exercises mixed in.

Grand Narratives and the Information Cycle in the Library Instruction Classroom: Reading 3

Grand Narratives and the Information Cycle in the Library Instruction Classroom by Sara Franks

The overall primary issue within Grand Narratives is the fact that despite whether or not the grand narrative is an effective teaching method it will be my job as a librarian to help patrons find their resources as well as how to critically think about the resources that they might find. It was the second part of this statement that caught most of my attention while reading the rest of the article. I am very interested in evaluation of sources

When I first began to read Grand Narratives, I realized that I was a product of both teaching styles and I found this to be somewhat enlightening. It shed light on some of the whys of my own teaching styles like “Why I am loathing to move away from strict lecture base classes sometimes?”  The answer that I came to as I reflected on this article was that as a student I had been exposed to both.  My educational background lies in history and many of my survey classes were based on the grand narratives model that Franks describes in her chapter. As I moved into my upper level history classes, I began to be exposed to the other side of Franks’ argument which looked at disciplines like history through individual or fragmented types of lens. Now that I am pursuing my MLIS degree, I have realized that I am now on the other side of the debate as a teacher who is trying to figure out the best way to help my patrons evaluate their chosen sources.

What Do First-Year Students Know About Information Research? And What Can We Teach Them: Reading 5

What Do First-Year Students Know About Information Research? And What Can We Teach Them? by Kate Manuel

I feel that every time I read a new article each week my thoughts and perceptions about teaching are always challenged. This leaves me in a place where I find myself reevaluating my beliefs. The article for this week is no different. The primary focus of the article looks at first year college students in basic level English classes and their information literacy level before and after library instruction. The study also focuses in on some of the perceptions that librarians commonly may hold about incoming new students and whether the perceptions that they hold are valid. The article made me realize that many of the perceptions that I have about students are many of the same described within the study.

I have always tried to keep in mind when I am preparing to teach to not assume any perceptions about the knowledge base of my class that is about to walk in. I have discovered that when I do that my classes tend to feel like (in my opinion) a lot of unnecessary explanation and hand holding. I feel that this creates an environment that is very difficult for students to learn in; however, this article made me realize that, like a lot librarians, I do believe in the assumption that my students are coming in with next to no knowledge about the library at all. This makes me think that I have to cover everything so that my students will have a thorough knowledge of the library. I realize in reality that it is next to impossible for me to cover every aspect of library instruction in detail in under an hour in a one shot session.

This study however has shown me that I should have more faith in my students’ base knowledge and not assume that almost all of my students are going to be information illiterate. This study just reinforced the idea that as a teacher I should assume nothing and instead try to gauge the experience of my class throughout the instruction session in order to best meet the students’ needs. I was also reminded that I need to be cognizant that my students are bringing their own experiences to the table and that this is how they are going to perceive, interrupt, and measure the information that I give out. To disregard such an important aspect would be, in my opinion, detrimental to not only the ability of the student to learn but also for me as a teacher in finding the best method in which to rely the needed information.

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.

Reflection on “Grand Narratives”

Reflection on “Grand Narratives and the Information Cycle in the Library Instruction Classroom.”

Sara Franks, “Grand Narratives and the Information Cycle in the Library Instruction Classroom,” in Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods, edited by Maria T. Accardi, Emily Drabinski, and Alana Kumbier, 43-54. Duluth: Library Juice Press, 2010.

This article discussed the role of information professionals in developing critical thinking skills and moving away from the trend of emphasizing “grand narratives” in higher education. I don’t think there’s any doubt that librarians should encourage students to take a more active role in their education, to find their own sources of information, and to think critically about them. I’m not sure that as librarians we need to explicitly encourage students to move away from grand narratives (we only have so much time with students anyway) as long as we can help them to find their own sources of information and think critically about them. I do believe, as the article points out, that higher education is already moving away from the concept of grand narratives. Coming from a history background, I never really had a teacher that taught a certain way only (a Marxist view of history, for example). You would be assigned a number of different works with varying themes (some that might stress economic determinism, the importance of “great men” or big ideas, etc.) and you could develop your own critical thinking by deciding which themes you felt were most important.

I do think the author is right in emphasizing the fact that scholarly sources are not infallible by any means. We do need to describe the differences between popular sources and scholarly sources, but at the same time recognize that scholarly sources are full of opinions and biases. Again coming from a history background, when you’re in high school and even 100 level classes you mostly read textbooks, and a lot of times it’s just assumed that they can be taken completely on face value, even if that’s not always correct. But as you start taking higher level classes you realize how specialized and opinionated most history is, because historians have to be opinionated; they have to stake out a position and opinion on a topic, person, or concept because any major event has almost certainly been covered in detail by previous authors. But at the same time, I think that gives students a chance to develop their critical thinking skills. If a student is assigned a research paper and finds a number of sources on some event that have distinct themes, biases, opinions, etc., then he or she can try to compare and contrast these views and develop opinions of their own. The article also cautions library professionals to not portray reference sources as authoritative or complete, and that also seems reasonable. I do think there can be a bit of a fine line here though; we should encourage students to think critically, we should tell students not to always take things on face value, but we also don’t need to scare them off, so to speak, by constantly emphasizing how fallible all their sources are.