November 5, 2010

Taught to teach

Credit: melodi2 from morguefile.com
Last month, myself and another recent graduate from my program were invited to a favorite instructor's academic libraries class to talk about our experiences as new librarians. The class being in Arizona, my friend in Mississippi, and myself in Texas made it a virtual session in Elluminate.

I'm still exploring my instruction style as I get used to my position, the college, and the programs, but after 6 months now, I do feel much more comfortable. One of the students in the SIRLS class asked a question probably on many soon-to-be and new librarians' minds: how do you learn how to teach?

I personally tried to get as much experience as possible at least just making presentations while in library school. For my internship, I took initiative and worked with my supervisor to get instruction into my responsibilities. This did not bring me anywhere near a pro, but I was able to do some library orientations for a summer internship program.

After that, I just read. Read, read, read. Anything I could find that talked about instruction methods or library instruction. Books, magazines, blogs, you name it. I'm still working through the reading list I keep for myself. When I started my job, I asked for reading suggestions from my supervisor and even had the chance to read through all her collected teaching materials from over the years. I asked to watch other librarians teach and am hoping to get in some classes to watch experienced instructors as well. Of course I remember what I liked and didn't like while a student myself, but seeing the classes from a different perspective will be really useful.

I'm still figuring out assessment and outcomes, as well as tailoring instruction to our students specifically. Being a community college, we have a wide range of demographics, skill levels, and interests.

I've found I am the most successful with teaching when I do doubt myself a little because I feel like it puts me on the same wavelength as the students: I'm a little unsure about teaching and they're a little unsure about research, but we can connect there. I try to just have a conversation with them as much as possible; at the same time, I try to say in the mindset of hey I'm going to show you some neat technology and tricks.

Anyhow, here is my (work in progress) list for figuring out how to teach. If there are more suggestions out there, please leave them in the comments; I do have to say much of the library literature on teaching ignores showing how to write an actual lesson plan, which is frustrating, but nonetheless:

Books

  • Made to Stick (Chip and Dan Heath) - How to make ideas stick in presentations/ads, and of course in teaching. They give many real-world examples and offer a handy acronym to aid in composing these sticky messages using their suggestions.
  • Critical Library Instruction (Emily Drabinski, Alana Kumbier, and Maria Accardi, eds.) - Essays on the "banking model of education" described by Freire, and finding other, progressive methods to teach students using involvement, real world scenarios, and teacher as student/student as teacher. Many of these were inspiring and made me excited to work some of the ideas into my teaching.
  • Library Instruction Cookbook (Ryan Sittler and Douglas Cook) - Cookbook-themed ideas on instruction activities (mostly for one-shot classes); many really applied to 4yr academic institutions so weren't as helpful for me, but certainly have a list of about 10 ideas I might be able to use or tweak
  • Teaching Information Literacy: 35 Practical, Standards-Based Exercises for College Students (Joanna M. Burkhardt, Mary C. Macdonald, and Andre J. Rathemacher) - A little dry, but does help in better understanding the ACRL Standards and how to apply those to teaching
  • Information Literacy Instruction: Theory and Practice, 2nd ed. ( - New edition of textbook, have not gotten to yet
  • Mckeachie's Teaching Tips: Strategy, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers (Wilbert McKeachie and Marilla Svinicki) - Seems to be a standard for college instructors, most not receiving formal education on exactly *how* to teach. A good amount of the book felt irrelevant to libraries, unfortunately, but did pick up some good tips by skipping around.
  • Teaching Librarians to Teach: On the Job Training for Bibliographic Instruction Librarians (Clark and Jones) - This book is old, like 1980s old. I read it the month I was graduating library school and can't remember much... I think I did find parts of it helpful for a start in learning library instruction, but might not be the best one out there...
  • Motivating Students in Information Literacy Classes (Trudi Jacobson and Lijuan Xu) - Good overview in getting students engaged through assessment.
  • The Invisible Web in Learning and Teaching (Jane Devine and Francine Egger-Sider) - This book wasn't really specifically about teaching, but had some good ideas for helping students grasp the deep web.
  • New Librarian, New Job: Practical Advice for Managing the Transition (Tucker Cory and Reeta Sinha) - Again, not specifically geared to teaching, but did help understand the role of library instruction and information literacy within a position description and general expectations.
  • Ideas for Librarians Who Teach: With Ideas for Teachers and Business Presenters (Naomi Lederer) - Perfect for skimming; sound bites of ideas.
  • Public Speaking Handbook for Librarians and Information Professionals (Sarah R. Statz) - Helpful tips for public speaking and presenting (of course can directly help with teaching), and finally a book on public speaking geared to librarians who, let's be honest, aren't always the most outgoing bunch.

Blogs/Magazines/Journals/Specific Articles
I'm just going to post a link to my del.icio.us -- I have over 60 pages and articles tagged as instruction. Some are from librarians and library organizations, some from other educators. I add to this list regularly.