September 20, 2014

Starting with the WHY: #ccourses Unit 1

The first activity for #ccourses is looking at the why of why we teach. As Mike Wesch says on the #ccourses site:
We usually start by addressing the “What” question first. We have a course title or subject area and we begin populating our syllabus with the “whats” to be learned. Or, we peruse textbooks looking for the text that we think best covers the field. If we have time, we address the “How” question by considering how we can best teach the material. We sharpen our teaching technique, seek out better examples for the more difficult concepts, compile photos and videos to improve our presentations, and seek other ways to get the students engaged with the material. We may jump to incorporate the latest tools and techniques, whether it is social or interactive media or a new technique like a flipped classroom.  Our syllabus, teaching materials, and educational technology in order, we rush into the semester, rarely asking, “Why?”
As a librarian teaching library research skills / information literacy (IL), my first inclination would be to say that I'm motivated to teach students because IL prepares individuals to become active members in a participatory democracy, questioning the status quo, and knowing how to find and use quality information.

This grounding also prepares students to become creators and critics of knowledge, rather than just consumers. I think this latter point especially resonates with me. IL can pair with any discipline to help students find their voice within their chosen area of interest. I also find this near and dear personally from growing up reading, making, and distributing zines, DIY music, and cultural/community events. I felt my personal interests brought me into Freire's notion of "critical consciousness," and once I discovered the library on my own as an undergrad, I finally started to become interested in my courses because I could see how my learning was applying to my life.

Prior to that awakening, I was a disconnected and uninterested student through most of high school and most of college as an undergrad. I dropped out for awhile at one point, planning to never go back. When I did go back to school, I was just going through the motions until about my last year when I started to become energized about learning. I think this strongly affects my perspective on teaching and learning as an educator now.

In my current position, I am the faculty librarian liaison to retention* efforts across campus, so I am always reflecting back on my experiences and how that might apply to current students considering dropping out. Though, as a fairly privileged white, middle class, cisgender and hetero lady, my experiences definitely do not translate to many on campus. However, I feel like I at least have more awareness of issues surrounding retention. So in my work with these groups, my why especially leads me to think about helping students feel connected on campus, on feeling like they can get access to knowledge and information in the library that affects their lives on a personal level and that they can tie that into their studies.

Really excited about what's to come with #ccourses, taking this approach to instruction is so important.

*And of course retention does not mean only students who don't want to be in school. Students who are affected by circumstances out of their control make staying in college difficult, as well as students who might be high achievers who feel disconnected or disappointed and would want to transfer. "Retention" can apply to all types of students with varying circumstances and needs.