December 12, 2014

More on ALA Instructional Design Essentials ecourse

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Since it's a ways off and we've had people asking about when it will be offered again, I just wanted to make a quick post that our next 4-week session of ALA Instructional Design Essentials will be offered in May 2015. Instructors are myself and Erica DeFrain. We decided to wait until May since it's a slightly less busy time for academic library instruction and thought it would work better with people's schedules. Registration will open up sometime later in spring.

We are reflecting and revising from the first session of the course in September/October 2014, but here is the gist:

What you will get out of this course:

  • How to use backward design and instructional design models to create your own teaching, while being critical of the limitations of ID
  • How to leverage learning theories and knowledge of student motivation to create more compelling instruction
  • How to integrate assessment holistically into your curriculum, lesson, or learning object so that you can help students reflect on their own progress, while you reflect on your teaching
  • How to critically select and position technology within your instruction to enhance student learning
  • How to develop an awareness for critical pedagogical practices to create inclusive classroom atmospheres or learning objects 
We use a connected model of learning where participants interact and create content. Everyone is learning from everyone, and a number of students had said they made great connections to peers during the course. We had an amazing group of librarians enrolled in the fall and we really enjoyed being able to teach and learn from them!

Some feedback from students:

"This instructional design course has given me the holistic, systematic, and results-focused approach that I was hoping to cultivate towards instruction, and I look forward to further developing my teaching along these lines. My coursemates were a wonderful resource, and I found several posts helpful in thinking about measurable and contextually anchored assessment, the feedback loop, motivation and the affective domain, and the potential contexts for our teaching. Thanks in particular to [student], whose thoughtful comments were so helpful for assessment and technology applications, and to our instructors, Nicole Pagowsky and Erica DeFrain. This was my first experience in online asynchronus learning, and it has been a very positive one that I’m happy to recommend to others!"

"I thoroughly enjoyed the course and learned so much. My biggest take away was to start from the end and work my way backwards when planning for a course and developing curriculum. I have learned that it is not what I want to teach but what I want students to learn. I will never look at instruction the same, and that is a really great thing!"

"I think the thing I found most useful was how the course was structured, i.e. that we applied these Instructional Design principles to a real-life scenario. Going into this course, I had some familiarity with ID concepts, but I had never applied them to my own work. Having an end goal in mind made it easier to explore ID concepts in a practical way. I think the concept that will stick with me most is backward design; it has made me reconsider how I approach instruction, by making sure that I think first of the goals for the course, workshop, etc. before proceeding to how the material will be presented. I struggled most with learning theories, in this class. I think that I have a decent handle on them now, but I’m still not entirely sure of the intricacies of each theory."

"I already want to say thank you to Nicole and Erica for the great course. I learned a lot out of the reading! + the peer-endorsement activity was an eye-opening experience (thx to the blog technology :)"

"What struck me the most was how much my initial class design changed from week 1 to week 4. Without realizing it, I had done an about-face! When I pulled my old posts together and tried to write up this final project post, it became clear just how much the readings and the other participants’ blogs had changed my views."

If you're interested in registering for the course, feel free to contact me or Erica with questions; or get in touch with ALA for any logistical concerns.

December 9, 2014

#acrlilrevisions Next Steps

It seems like we are almost at the final version of the ACRL Framework revisions. I submitted my feedback a couple weeks ago through the ACRL Student Learning & Information Literacy committee that I'm on (we are sending it collectively) and feel for the most part that I have a decent grasp on how we might use these at the University of Arizona. Even though it's not finalized yet, we've been needing to work with the draft as is for projects here, such as badging, programmatic instruction, and constructing our department's IL plan and philosophy not too long after we had a restructuring. I'm helping coordinate our plans for programmatic instruction here so I keep thinking and re-thinking about these frames.

When designing instruction, I like to come up with "big questions" or "understandings," as Wiggins and McTighe refer to. From looking at the frames and trying to think about how can librarians and teaching faculty collaboratively understand these concepts and work toward shared goals, I put some big questions together to try and capture broader thoughts. From there, a colleague and I also worked on writing some outcomes we could map through curriculum mapping once everything becomes finalized. I'm also using these in other work that can't wait for the final draft. I thought I'd share some of this here as some librarians in my department are also sharing this with librarians at ASU and NAU tomorrow at a joint mini-conference that I can't attend since I will actually be presenting our version of the framework so far with big questions and outcomes to general education faculty for their feedback.

Below is our draft thus far. I thought I'd share it in the hopes that it might help others grappling with this stuff. I changed "searching is strategic" back to "searching is exploration" for our purposes because we all liked that version better here. We are also trying to think of more simple frame names that we could use. Even with our bigger additions and small adjustments, it's not perfect, but we're getting there.

Since it seems there is/was some disagreement via Twitter about whether "conversation" or "discourse" might be better wording for the first frame... I am on the side of conversation. If we're talking about opening up the act of research and having students become creators, I think discourse is limiting. Discourses set rules and restrictions, not really inviting in great diversity. As Aleman (2014) says, "Those in power or in control of the discourse normalize certain principles and ways of being through discourse to perpetuate norms, and to demand compliance, conformity, and submission to these norms" (p. 113). Discourse limits diversity in perspective and often in mode of publication. I also love this quote from Ball in Egea that I shared not too long ago: 
So I say keep it "conversation." Ok and now here are our frames and outcomes:

Frame 1: Scholarship is a Conversation
Scholarship is a conversation refers to the idea of ongoing discourse within a community of scholars who create, consume, and critique new insights and discoveries occurring over time as a result of competing perspectives and interpretations, building on each other.
Big Questions:
Ø  What barriers exist when entering into the “conversation” of scholarship?
Ø  How can we gain greater understanding of topics by examining the connections and ongoing narratives between different scholarly pieces?
Ø  How do our responsibilities shift when moving from just consumers of information to critics and/or creators of it?

Students should be able to:
·         Recognize the metaphor of “conversation” to describe the purpose of research
·         Identify the contribution of specific scholarly pieces and varying perspectives to a disciplinary knowledge “conversation”
·         Contribute to the scholarly conversation at an appropriate level, through the lens of becoming a creator/critic

Frame 2: Research as Inquiry
Research as inquiry means that research is an ongoing exploration, depending on continuous questioning where answers develop new questions or new lines of interest in any field.
Big Questions:
Ø  How could understanding of a topic be improved through uncertainty in the process of research?
Ø  How can varying needs shape the importance of certain types of information?
Ø  How can we know what we don’t know? How do we go about figuring out what is not there instead of only what is visible by finding gaps in thought or content?

Students should be able to:
·         Formulate research questions based on curiosity and gaps in information or data available
·         Describe via reflection how the research process is iterative, requiring persistence
·         Apply research methods that are appropriate for the need, context, and type of inquiry

Frame 3:  Authority is Contextual and Constructed
Authority of information depends on where the source came from, the information need, and how the information will be used. It is constructed and contextual. Authority should be viewed with an attitude of informed skepticism and openness to new perspectives.
Big Questions:
Ø  How or why do we decide if someone has “authority” on a topic?
Ø  What might be expected of us as we become authorities ourselves?
Ø  How might biases privilege some sources of authority and silence others, especially in terms of others’ worldviews, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic class, etc.?

Students should be able to:
·         Determine attributes of authoritative information for different needs, with the understanding that context plays a role in authority-based attributes
·         Recognize that traditional notions of granting authority might hinder diverse ideas and world views
·         Acknowledge that oneself may be seen as an authority in a particular area, and recognize the responsibilities entailed

Frame 4: Information Creation is a Process
Knowledge can be expressed in different styles, which has an impact on how information is used and shared. It is important to look to the underlying processes of creation as well as the final product to critically evaluate the usefulness of the information.
Big Questions:
Ø  How might information be perceived differently based on how it’s packaged? E.g., why might there be an expectation to use scholarly sources in a college paper?
Ø  Why do certain types of information automatically seem to have credibility where others might not?

Students should be able to:
·         Articulate the purposes of various types of information as well as their distinguishing characteristics
·         Distinguish between format and method of access, understanding that these are separate entities
·         Identify which types of information best meet particular information needs

Frame 5: Searching is Exploration
Locating information requires a combination of curiosity, discovery, and luck. There is no one size fits all source for the needed information. Finding information is nonlinear and iterative, requiring the use of a broad range of information sources, flexibility, and the willingness to make mistakes and try again.
Big Questions:
Ø  How can we best determine what we’re looking for so that we can identify an effective search strategy?
Ø  How might differing information needs change an approach to searching?
Ø  How can failure and mistakes help us in finding information?

Students should be able to:
·         Make connections between the importance of matching information needs and search strategies to appropriate search tools
·         Implement more advanced searching skills to respond to a discipline-based information need
·         Reflect on the usefulness of making mistakes in the search process and how searching is not solely transactional

Frame 6: Information has Value
Information has value means that information possesses several dimensions of value, including as a commodity, as a means of education, as a means to influence, and as a means of negotiating and understanding the world. The flow of information through systems of production and dissemination is impacted by legal, sociopolitical, and economic interests.
Big Questions:
Ø  How could value of information be wielded by powerful interests in ways that marginalize certain voices?
Ø  How might the use or absence of citations impact the conversation of research?
Ø  How could something like open access change creation, publishing, and learning?

Students should be able to:
·         Distinguish between plagiarism and copyright violations
·         Identify scholarly publication practices and their related implications for access to scholarly information
·         Identify why some groups/individuals may be underrepresented or systematically marginalized within the systems that produce and disseminate information

November 19, 2014

Confronting false neutrality in professional expectations

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I've got neutrality on my mind lately, particularly from many excellent #critlib chats talking about a sense of false neutrality in libraries and library instruction. And also in thinking about educational technology in the sense of how we use it, and how it is designed. Likewise, my ACRL-track panel proposal for ALA 2015 with Emily Drabinski, Jenna Freedman, Kelly McElroy, and Annie Pho was accepted: "But we're neutral! And other librarian fictions confronted by #critlib."

But I specifically wanted to draw greater attention to a good discussion starting on Andy Woodworth's blog in the comments about re-imagining librarian "rockstars" that hasn't gained much traction (yet?). 

Although Andy does acknowledge it is a loaded term, I think the problem comes in trying to neutralize the idea of the rockstar--or leader. In the comments, Andromeda brought up an excellent point:
“all of the nuance that comes with human beings and their personality. Should a role model librarian be assertive, but not overbearing? Be outspoken, but not self-aggrandizing? Be confident, but not arrogant?” 
To me, these are questions that can’t be addressed without also addressing their gendered and racial overtones. You and I doing exactly the same thing – you might get read as “assertive” (a masculine virtue bespeaking leadership), whereas I might get read as “aggressive” or even “bitchy”. And when I hear our black colleagues talk about how they’re read doing that same thing, it’s “bitchy” or “angry” or even “scary”. 
All of those questions you ask carry additional “but not” adjectives that narrow, or even close, the space of the possible, for some people. 
It's problematic to think about what we should expect from our leaders as broad, neutral categories of traits if 1. desirable leadership traits are based on norms of white, middle-class, cis-het males and if 2. we truly hope to increase diversity within librarianship. I added a comment:
These are great things to think about, but I do think Andromeda’s points warrant greater focus. There can’t really be an “ideal” with ongoing systems of societal oppression. We could say an assertive and highly motivated person could be an example of what a good role model would look like, but if a number of our colleagues are judged differently when exhibiting those traits, then the way we think about leaders in the profession has to be nuanced and understood within the greater context of society. Likewise, when white, cis-het men wind up being the majority of keynotes or those who are most visible, that can dictate certain expectations for leaders that seem normal and neutral but are highly skewed.
I don't want the point of this post to be giving Andy a hard time...and interrupting myself, look at that. I clearly felt it necessary to qualify my thoughts and my post to ensure I don't come across as being "bitchy" or stirring the pot. I think it's important to look at how we might easily miss false neutrality in not just library instruction and library services in what we project outward to our public, but also our own internal perceptions and expectations for ourselves as "professionals" (which can be an additionally loaded term).

October 12, 2014

Moving away from teaching to the research paper

As I've been teaching a lot more classes lately that have a big research paper or capstone assignment attached in my new role as a subject liaison, I'm comparing it to my other work focusing on FYE-type instruction and student retention, thinking about engagement. This topic also came up in the Instructional Design Essentials ecourse I'm co-teaching with Erica DeFrain for ALA. Many participants in our course are starting to see the big red flags popping up with demo-based one-shots and student motivation as they have been working through designing their instruction or learning objects. As info lit instruction practice is moving more toward programmatic instruction and ensuring that an assignment is present so that there is more student buy-in and opportunities for assessment, I'm starting to question the assignment and (formal) assessment parts of library instruction... or, at least the research-paper-as-assignment.

The problem with one shots of course is that there is often an expectation to cram a ton of information into a 50-75min session that students will need to just remember for the rest of the semester and be able to complete their research papers "well." Not to mention library instruction becomes an isolated integration into the curriculum, particularly so when this type of instruction is in the form of skill-and-drill. There are many discussions going on--that have been going on for awhile now--pointing out that just teaching students how to use a database via a demo is not effective, and is boring for everyone (agreed!). Once students get to a point where they are writing a huge research paper, I almost feel like we've missed them, that they should have had more incremental, activity-based instruction, because this juncture in their instruction-need winds up being focused more on use of databases and just finding peer-reviewed articles to get the paper "done." I was teaching some undergrad students more context about what a literature review is for their required big paper, talking about their role as creators of knowledge, thinking of research as a conversation and where their research fits in, and crafting a narrative. I also did need to weave in database demos because the students had a certain requirement to fulfill. At the end of the session, I talked to the instructor to see if the session was what he was hoping for, especially since he had another section of the course coming in a few weeks later. He told me I really didn't need to talk about all that other stuff, all I really needed to do was point them to the databases because that's what they need for their paper. Students become so focused on the need to gather x amount of articles that other discussions become irrelevant and inefficient.

This is the issue with huge summative assessments, particularly the research paper. Barbara Fister has written about this problem at length, where she talks about Why the "Research Paper" isn't Working. I don't believe we have problems with student engagement when research papers are not attached to library instruction because our (potential) content isn't interesting, I think it's because traditionally (not everyone and not always, but typically in the past) a library instruction session divorced from an assignment *still* focused on a database demo. A database demo with no purpose, of course, is going to be agony for students (and the librarian). There are so many other things we could be doing, that some of us are doing, that serve as better options.

My perspective is that by the time students are writing huge research papers, they should have already had enough library instruction to where they could benefit from just a review of what they know. We should be scaffolding from the first year up instead of dumping all the boring mechanics of searching on students, with little other context, all at once. Now of course, much of this is out of our control, we get asked to do a one-shot where an assignment is already established, or even with efforts for collaboration, faculty might not want to work with us, or might just not feel they have the time. But when we can have a larger role in collaboration, especially for programmatic instruction, I try to suggest more scaffolding and lower-risk library instruction activities to enable greater discovery and discussion. Some of the best instruction sessions I've had have been with student success courses that don't have a big research paper, working with athletes, and working with a class examining social media that needed less help with "finding" and more so with creating a bigger discussion about information and communication. Unfortunately, I think this problem goes back to faculty not really knowing what we do and assuming we're just there to help students find things, as well as perceptions of librarians tying us to a "helper" role, so I think it just depends on the faculty we are working with and what our collaborative relationships are like. But I do think trying to move away from teaching to the research paper is one step in the right direction.

The Twitter convo continues from above...