Reflecting on Upcoming Teaching

This weekend I am preparing to teach for the first time in around six months or so. It is always nerve wracking getting back into the classroom after a long time without teaching. I am preparing to teach scout searching, keyword development, an introduction to library resources, and critically evaluating sources. My favorite thing to teach in the library classroom is source evaluation. This time, with the help of another librarian, I am helping the students learn to “read laterally.” I had not heard this term before this week, but it turns out I have been reading laterally all along. Basically, reading laterally helps students to determine source authority and accuracy by requiring them to read other sources from different venues to compare information on an issue rather than just fact checking and researching within the same website. Here is a link to a Stanford study about reading laterally. I am super excited to implement this in the classroom. I will be reporting back later on how this goes.

Reflecting on Mike Rose’s “The Language of Exclusion”

Rose is writing in 1985, but some of his concerns could easily apply to the university today as well. Freshman composition is often still treated as a place for student’s writing to be “remediated.” Writing instructors are still underpaid, and the position is not always valued. Rose works to problematize the words “illiteracy” and “remediation” in this article. Rose’s history of the term “illiteracy” was very illuminating. It was interesting to learn that the original Census counted anyone as literate who could write their name. The meaning of illiteracy has changed many times since then, with one of the later definitions meaning anyone who can read and write at sixth grade level. He realizes “how caught up we all are in a political-semantic web that restricts the way we think about the place of writing in the academy at the way people in academia” (342). He argues that to use the terms illiteracy and remediation are exclusionary, and that we can take steps to prioritize writing in the classroom in ways that do not stigmatize those whose writing does not meet academia’s stringent standards. I also found his section on the evolution of how we describe dyslexia to be interesting. I do agree that we should be careful about the words we use to describe how students may struggle with writing.

Reflecting on Pedagogy of the Oppressed Chapter 1

Reading Friere’s book has made me realize that much of my K12 education, along with a good bit of my undergraduate degree was, was based in more of a banking module of teaching than than open dialogue and critical discussion. In particular, I reflected on how my history courses tended to emphasize memorization over thinking critically about the events in history and what caused them (as well as emphasizing avoiding discussion of whether events could have been avoided or ended differently). I particularly liked the quotation that explained how in “any situation in which “A” objectively exploits “B” or hinders his or her pursuit of self-affirmation as a responsible person is one of oppression.” This could apply broadly to more than just teaching. Many situations in this current day and age either outright or implicitly oppress people in our society. It is funny to think that this book was published over 50 years ago and many of the situations that it criticizes are still the same.

Reflecting on Teaching

I taught my last classes for the semester a few weeks ago. Both courses were EN101 and the goal was for them to explore their career choices using the library database. In the first class, the students did not really know what they wanted to do with their careers. I had them compare and contrast multiple fields and complete the worksheet. In the second class, the students were less talkative and they all already had a career in mind. I felt like I was not prepared enough for the contingency that the students were very straight forward and less willing to explore than the previous class. In the future, I am going to come prepared with a Plan B for when Plan A does not work out as well. I did not think on my feet well enough in the second class, and I ended up letting them out a bit early when they were not as willing to participate as the other course. This just goes to show that it’s always good to come up with a few extra plans before entering the classroom.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed: Chapter 4 Reflections

One element of chapter four that I found interesting was the discussion around revolution. Freire includes a quote by Lenin that says, “without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement” (pg. 125). The idea is that a revolution can only be achieved with reflection AND action. Not only that, but the oppressed must place more than a reactionary role in order for the revolution to truly occur. It is not enough for leaders (the oppressors) to be the thinkers and the oppressed to be the doers. Applying this to the classroom, this could very much look like a professor just doling out assignments and students responding by mimicking back what they have learned in class from the professor. As the oppressed in this situation, they are not truly participating in either reflection or action, just what they are being allowed to do by the professor (oppressor). Freire makes an interesting point along this line. He mentions how if this does happen not only are the oppressed being denied their revolution, but the oppressors are as well. Even oppressors who are trying to be part of the revolution, if they do not engage in dialogue, still retain characteristics of the dominator therefore they cannot be truly revolutionary. Trying to carryout a revolution for the people is just as hard or about the same as trying to carry out a revolution without the people. Freire emphasizes that “dialogue with the people is radically necessary to every authentic revolution” (pg. 128).

Some take aways from Chapter 2 of “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.”

One part of chapter two that stuck out to me was the discussion of the banking method. While I have never really liked the lecture form of teaching (the professor telling me everything I need to know), this chapter made me think about it in a different way. As Freire points out, “knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing” (pg. 72). This way of thinking, however, projects an obsolete ignorance onto others, which is a characteristic of oppression. Before reading this, I never thought to consider how this form or style of teaching (the banking method) could turn into a form of oppression assuming that the professor knows everything, and the students know nothing. This method has continued, according to Freire, continues to be used as a way to adapt students to the world of oppression. The cycle can continue because students are just funneled into it. People who are put through this process “often do not perceive its true significance or its dehumanizing power” (pg. 78). According to Freire, this can be combated with the use of more dialogue and discussion in the classroom. By bringing students into the dialogue, they are not simply just being filled up by the professor, but they are learning to feel and understand things for themselves and relate what they are learning to their own experiences.

Reflecting on Elements of Pedagogy of the Oppressed: Chapter 1.

One element from chapter one that I found interesting was the idea that not only do the oppressed have to realize on their own that they are oppressed, but also, once they have come to that realization, they must work even harder not to become the oppressor in return. In the process of trying to regain their own humanity, it is important that they work to restore the humanity of the oppressor. This is the only way that the cycle will not become continued. However, this is a huge burden to place on the shoulders of individuals who already have a large burden to bare. It does not seem fair to ask this of them. The idea of getting revenge on those that wronged them is often more tempted than turning the other check, forgiving, and taking the high road. In his book, however, Freire, insists it is the job of the oppressed to not only liberate themselves, but their oppressors as well. He points out that it is the job of the oppressed to do so, because despite all the power the oppressor might have, they lack the power to free themselves or the oppressed. According to Freire “only power that springs from the weakness of the oppressed will be sufficiently strong to free both” (pg. 44).

Reflecting on Teaching

I just finished my second week of teaching this semester. It went pretty well, and I have been reflecting on the experience. The first class I taught was a regular section of EN102. The students had to find both peer-reviewed and popular sources in order to complete a research essay. In the first section, I focused more on Scout than on any other database. For evaluating sources, I had them get in groups and discuss articles that I found. They had to find out everything they could about pre-selected materials. This session went really well, and the students were engaged. In this session, I did a mostly anonymous Kahoot quiz to see what the students knew before I explained how to do source evaluation. It was interesting to be able to compare how they responded on the quiz to how they responded at the end of class while evaluating sources for the final time. I will definitely be utilizing Kahoot in the future. I felt like this activity was particularly successful because of the conversations we had in class about who is an authority when writing an article. Many of the students were confused about exactly what made someone an authority, and I hope I clarified that for them in this session. We talked about how Ted Talks don’t necessarily make someone an authority. We also talked about the fact that just because someone does write for a popular news source does not mean all of their writing is reliable (ie someone who writes for Forbes, but has their own personal blog for political ramblings).

Overview of Communications in Information Literacy Volume 11 Issue 2

This issue has 6 articles that focus on instruction in some capacity. The first article in the issue is called “The Reconquista Student”. It focuses on a librarian’s experience in the classroom when confronted with a student who openly espouses white nationalist, misogynist, or other bigoted view points. It explores ways to respond to these outbursts. In
“Transformative? Integrative? Troublesome?,”  the researchers survey students about the six thresholds of information literacy. They determine that teachers of information literacy should directly involve students in their teaching and research practices. Students offer valuable insights that the researchers may not know about if they do not consult with them. In
“Library Experience and Information Literacy Learning of First Year International Students: An Australian Case Study,” the researchers seek to understand how international students interact with the library and how they feel about the approaches to information literacy the the librarians use. The researchers do a case study in which they have surveyed and interviewed international students to see what works and what changes need to be made to improve their library experiences. In
“SoTL in the LIS Classroom,” the researchers argue that it is important to introduce librarians in training to the concepts of SoTL like the “four critical stages of SoTL training: Exposure, Encounter, Engagement, and Extension.” By doing so, they argue that it will make the LIS students more well rounded and prepared academic librarians.

Overall, much of the work in this article is based on case studies, surveys, and in-person interviews. The overall loose theme of all of these articles is that student outcomes can be improved when teachers engage with them and ask them what works for them and what doesn’t. All four articles are based on working with people and coming up with solutions so that everyone’s information literacy skills and library experience is improved.

Reflecting on Teaching

Before starting teaching by myself, I had a lot of expectations going in. I was nervous and worried that I might make a mess of the entire thing. And while the experience was not perfect, I think it went better than I anticipated. The students seemed pretty engaged with most of them filling out the entire worksheet I gave them. However, they blew through everything I asked them to do so quickly, that I ended up having to let them out about fifteen minutes early. I am proud of myself in the fact that I created an entirely new activity for them during the class to help take up a bit more time but also to help cement into their minds what I had been teaching them about how to conduct research. I put them into groups and had them write down their own personal research strategies including everything they did. They wrote down their topics, how they went about searching, what limiters they used, if they used basic or advanced search, what resources they found, and more. I then had each group go around and talk about what they did. I did this as a way for them to realize that there are many ways you can go about conducting research and you don’t have to follow one set formula. Overall, I think the class was a successful learning experience for both myself and the students in the class. I have another session that I am doing with them, so I am interested to see them apply what they learned before in this next session.