On December 17, 2012, the Instructor College hosted a program in which University of Michigan library instructors could reflect on the past semester. The Instructor College Steering Committee (ICSC) also reported on the activities that it coordinated over the last semester. Fifteen library instructors attended.
Fall 2012 Instructor College Steering Report
The ICSC conducted a survey of its members to determine its priorities over the 2012/2013 academic year. The committee will be working on a program similar to a reading group, a method for library instructors to formally discover ideas about a specific topic over time. The ICSC also hosted a new instructor luncheon with 3 new librarians to discuss the purpose of the Instructor College and how these new instructors could get help with teaching. A committee member met separately with another new librarian about these same topics. Finally, the ICSC could not report on the future of the Michigan Instruction Exchange but have been working to continue this program.
Fall 2012 Reflection Activities
Getting To Know You …
The event included a formal mixing activity. Library instructors were given an index card with one of the following questions on it.
- What are some of the ways you’ve worked with faculty this semester to integrate the library into their courses?
- What do you see as the biggest instructional need of your target audience this semester?
- How do you see library instruction changing in the next two years?
- What is your favorite instruction “trick” (strategy, exercise, example, etc.), and why?
- How do you develop rapport with students?
- How do you start your instruction session in a way that acknowledges the students’ prior knowledge but also shows them that they need to learn more?
Librarians then found partners and asked each other the questions on their cards. After they finished answering the questions, they exchanged cards to get a new question and then found a new partner. After the activity, the whole group discussed some of the ideas that came out of this process. These thoughts included
- Making connections with students prior to the session is important for a successful class.
- Any “flipping” idea, including requiring one-on-one sessions with the librarian or the assignment of an instruction video prior to class, is more successful if the student can receive course credit.
- Some librarians thought that the physical classroom setting did not always have an impact. Others had strong preferences for specific spaces and equipment. Most of all, flexibility from the librarians, students and faculty members were key in this area.
Fall 2012 Plus/Wish Activity
In the third part of the program, attendees chose small groups and then wrote down what worked well in their instruction and what they wished they would have done throughout the semester. They shared these reflections with the small group and then with the entire group. Some of their thoughts included
- Sometimes there is miscommunication about the types of students that you will be teaching. You have to get over that as soon as possible and adapt your lesson quickly.
- Many library instructors wished they could do more pre-assessment.
- The complexity of information literacy makes one shot teaching difficult to complete comprehensively. Everything is so contextual it is hard to convey this complexity because each information need is different.
- An instructor used Poll Everywhere successfully this semester.
We would like to introduce to you the members of the 2012/2013 Instructor College Steering Committee
We look forward to crafting meaningful programs and services to support instructors in the UM Libraries. Please feel free to share your ideas here on the blog or contact us.
On August 10, 2012, Instructor College hosted Michigan Instruction Exchange (MIX) conference. This conference was open to all academic library instructors in the state of Michigan. Its main topic was how library instructors could successfully help college students to get better at academic research in an increasingly diverse and overwhelming information environment. 139 librarians from all over the state of Michigan participated in this one-day conference.
This event consisted of four parts: keynote talk, panel discussion with faculty and library instructors, library instruction lightning talks, and networking with colleagues.
First, the keynote talk was given by Susan Gilroy, Librarian for Undergraduate Program for Writing, Widener LIbrary of Harvard College. Susan introduced how librarians of Harvard College Library tried to help new undergraduate students to achieve a significant level of information literacy and critical thinking.
Harvard College Library was participating in Project of Information Literacy (http://projectinfolit.org/), which was a national study on early adults and their information-seeking behaviors, competencies, and the challenges they faced when conducting research in the digital age. In this project, librarians of Harvard College Library learned that their undergraduates often had little clue how to conduct research. For example, when they received an assignment, they tended to think about simply what their instructor wanted from it rather than what was its rationale. To promote critical thinking, Harvard College Library developed a website called “A Library Starter Kit for Harvard Freshmen” (http://hcl.harvard.edu/research/toolkit/). Librarians used it to help new college students explore and learn about library materials and to guide them to properly conduct research.
As you undertake these first projects, remember that good researchers are made, not born. Through trial and error, given sufficient opportunities to practice, and with a bit of coaching, you acquire these skill sets, work habits, and intellectual behaviors. But you’ll do so only over time. One research experience, one library session, one year at Harvard won’t teach you everything you need to know to move effortlessly in the library’s research environment, and even after four years here, you may end up using just a fraction of the collections that have taken us nearly four centuries to build. (From A Library Starter Kit for Harvard Freshmen website)
Susan’s Keynote talk is available here.
After the keynote presentation, all participants were divided into three groups to participate in a high speed networking session. ICSC task force distributed several questions (e.g. What do you see as the biggest instruction need of your targeted audience? What is your favorite instruction “trick” strategy? etc.) to participants in order to facilitate discussion and help them share their own instruction experiences with each other.
We had eight presenters for lightning talks. Presenters offered creative and interesting ideas regarding library instruction, engagement with students and faculty, and the promotion of critical thinking. Here are some tips from their presentations:
Librarians can contribute to improve student engagement by becoming leaders and active participants in faculty development programs or teaching and learning center. (Randal Baier, Media and Arts Librarian, Eastern Michigan University)
Applying new technology or instruction methods is no easy task. Rather than giving up when something does not work at the first time, try to use IOR (Implement, Observe and Reflect), i.e., to implement new techniques, observe how they go, and reflect on your observations. (Suzanne Bernstein, Web service Librarian, Lansing Community College Library)
To promote students’ critical thinking and to teach them how to properly conduct research, collaboration between librarians and faculty is vital. (Stephanie Delano Davis, Information Literacy Librarian, Northwestern Michigan College)
Metadata of catalog record, Google Translate, Wikipedia, and WorldCat can be some good tools to understand content of non-english resources. (Karen Liston, Librarian III and Liaison ‘for less commonly taught languages, ESL & Int’l Students’, Wayne State University)
Peer tutor library service can provide authority-free environment when college students conduct a research. (Mary O’Kelly, Head of Instructional Services, Grand Valley State University)
Group project-oriented assignments is a useful method to improve student information literacy because it allows students to see the information in context, makes them understand the limitation of their own abilities, and have them open to new research approaches. (Marcus Richter & Steve Vest, Technical Services Librarian & Reference Librarian, Alma College)
Assigning group projects and using free software are some of good strategies to improve interactivity in online instruction session. (Bath walker, Director of Libraries, College for Creative Studies)
Video of Lightning Talk is available here
Faculty/Librarian Panel Talk
Leena Lalwani (Coordinator for Arts & Engineering Collection at the Art, Architecture and Engineering Library (AAEL), UM), Johannes Schwank (Professor of Chemical Engineering, UM), Amana Peters (Learning Communities Librarian, UM), and Joe Horton (Lecturer in the English Department Writing Program, UM) discussed active learning, and Scott Dennis (Humanities Librarian and Coordinator of Core Electronic Resources, UM) moderated this discussion.
Professor Schwank and Ms. Lalwani talked about how they collaborated to help students of engineering to complete practical group project, which was one of assignments in Professor Schwank’s class. Joe Horton and Amanda Peters explained how a undergraduate instruction librarian team of University of Michigan worked together with faculty in promoting active learning among new undergraduate students. They also talked about the usefulness of CTools as a communication tool among faculty, librarians and students, a librarian’s role in a literature review stage, and the assessment of library instruction.
Video of panel discussion is available here.
On February 24, 2012, the Instructor College hosted a cross-campus library speed-networking event in the Hatcher Gallery, where participants shared their ideas about instruction with their colleagues.
In this event, participants sat across from each other in long rows and exchanged in five minute conversations. There were three separate rounds addressing the following questions, with comments shared broadly between each round:
What are some of your favorite instruction strategies and/or exercises?
- An instructor at the Taubman Health Sciences Library works with medical students to answer relative questions and has the faculty member provide context via an example
- An instructor in Research modifies her lesson plan after teaching based on interactions with students
- An instructor in Learning and Teaching teaches faculty how to make better use of CTools – encouraging faculty to see CTools as students would
- Before an instruction session, an instructor in Research sends out a survey to assess how she can round out her lesson plan; she posts answers to the survey at the beginning of the session so students can see that others in their class have the same issues
What are some of the ways you have worked with faculty to integrate the library into their classes?
- An instructor at the Taubman Health Sciences Library is on the curriculum committee at the School of Dentistry – which enables him to see how faculty need to incorporate instruction into their classes
- Instruction should happen at all levels, instruction is not just about the faculty’s instruction of students; it should include GSI’s, community and faculty
What do you see as the biggest instructional challenge that you face?
- Time (time to prepare, time to talk to students during instruction)
- Keeping students engaged
- Having to keep up with resources
- Showing faculty how to use Google scholar – there’s a bit of tension there because faculty want to show students how to use other resources, when the instructor knows there are good things to show about Google scholar
- Accessibility issues – considerations for accessibility
In case you missed it, the Instructor College Steering Committee sponsored an event in December providing an opportunity for library staff to meet with their colleagues and share ideas about instruction. The format of the event was simply designed, providing a casual environment where staff participated in ‘speed sharing,’ listened to three lightening talks, and had the opportunity to share their thoughts in one of three discussion sections. We had twenty-eight participants from all over the library, including DSS, Special Collections, MPublishing, UGL, Grad Reference, Area Programs, Technical Services, the Health Sciences Library, and the Clark Library.
To start the event off participants engaged in three rounds of speed sharing, a spin off of speed dating. All attendees were separated into two separate groups, Maize or Blue, and then asked to sit across from someone not in their group, and preferably someone they did not know. We asked each participant to share with their partners in four minute rotations ‘what was their most effective instruction session from the past semester, and why was it so effective?’ At the end of each round, participants from the Maize group moved one space to the left. The result of such a rapid ice breaker? The majority of our participants agreed they met someone they did not previously know and about half of them indicated that they wanted to follow up with someone they spoke with. We were also fortunate to see some of the tools instructors have created:
Following a quick wrap up of the speed sharing, we got right into the lightning talks. First up, Whitney Townsend, a Liaison Librarian with the Health Sciences Library. Whitney provided an overview of her application of active learning techniques in instruction sessions. She described active learning as a session where students learn how to use library resources in their own subject area, rather than participating in standalone sessions. In this way students learn to use library resources to tackle one of their own existing problem sets. She also mentioned that active learning is a great way to involve faculty; librarians at the Health Sciences Library team teach with faculty in a single two hour session.
Scott Dennis, the Humanities Librarian and Coordinator, Core Electronic Resources, at the Graduate Library, followed Whitney, demonstrating how he teaches with databases. His key piece of advice for instructors was to create sessions based on the restraints including time, location, and support. Secondly, he expressed that instructors have to think about and do what the students will attempt to do first, then show what resources the Library has and how they function to serve better results than a simple Google search. He also suggested that instructors should provide direct links to databases tailored to each session, in order to ease the find-ability and to encourage use. Finally, he mentioned the need to use real examples, offering to help someone in the class with their research will yield greater participation.
Phil Hallman, the field librarian for the Department of Screen Arts and Cultures, closed out the lightening talks with his approach to designing sessions. Phil indicated that instructors should create their sessions based on the needs of the faculty. As an example, Phil shared that he designed a session for one faculty member who wanted to teach his students how to use microfilm. Phil created a two-part session, where students attended a screening of a classic film, then in a separate session learned to use the older medium, microfilm, to create a commentary of the film. Initially there was student resistance to using the older medium, but slowly students began to broaden their search techniques and developed better research questions.
We concluded the event with three separate discussion sections, focused on the three topics of the lightening talks. Participants were encouraged to join one of three tables and share their thoughts and own experiences with active learning, teaching with technology and designing sessions. Here are some images we captured from our discussions:
|Teaching with Technology|
If you were unable to attend our event, walk through the interactive tutorial to navigate the news here, find a video for the lightning talks and see how one instructor created a table to enable her students to find evidence based answers here(authentication required).
We would like to introduce to you the members of the 2011/2012 Instructor College Steering Committee
We look forward to crafting meaningful programs and services to support instructors in the UM Libraries. Please feel free to share your ideas here on the blog or contact us.
Jeffrey Cordell is Instructional Pedagogy Librarian in the Undergraduate Library. As part of the Assessment Working Group, he has helped to roll out the new evaluation forms being used to assess teaching across the library.
Using Assessment to Build Instruction Strategy
Over the past two years, the library has designed a set of evaluation forms for instruction sessions; over the course of fall semester, we generated reports on those evaluations for each instructor. At a workshop in late February, individual reports were given out and discussed. I want to give a sense of what we talked about in that meeting and to share some thoughts about evaluations and their uses for teaching.
If you weren’t able to attend the workshop and would like a copy of your report, contact Jen Green at email@example.com and ask for one. As you look over your report, it’s important to remember that while it can tell you much about your teaching, it is not a core sample of who you are as a teacher. Anytime we represent the experience of teaching and learning numerically, we engage in a kind of fiction or wishful thinking that says that we can capture experience quantitatively—that what happens in the classroom can be anything like adequately expressed through numbers. It would be nice to think so, because it would mean that the experience of one classroom could be replicated exactly in another, as if all instructors with a 4.5 were doing exactly the same thing. Rather, the kinds of numbers we see on course evaluation forms are rough approximations of the experience of being a student and inevitably do little to convey the rich complexity of what happens in the classroom, where each instructor works from his or her distinct, incommensurable qualities as a teacher.
Because they are such crude tools, course evaluations can sometimes seem to measure only the entertainment value of a class. However, I do think they measure something useful, and that something is how students feel about their experience in the classroom. At first glance, “feelings” may seem too subjective, even irrelevant to the process of finding information, to bother measuring. After all, learning is not about feelings; it’s about acquiring information. But learning is always bound up with one’s emotions, and, as Plato told us long ago, learning at its best matches the thrill of falling in love, and is, indeed, indistinguishable from it. When we truly grasp an idea, we feel it lodge in ourselves, and that always carries with it change, change in our perceptions and, therefore, in who we are. More pragmatically, there is a sense in which learning becomes more readily available to our consciousness when we’re aware that we are learning. So, the use of course evaluations comes in part from the measure, however tentative and approximate, of students’ perception of their learning in a class. While course evaluations cannot do the work of systematic assessment of skills (for that, we need tests), they can suggest to us, however crudely, how students perceive their experience in the classroom and whether they find that experience valuable.
The reports that the library has generated also help us, as instructors, to get a fuller sense of how our teaching fits into the larger mission of the library. The reports present your numbers against the mean for all the responses from a given evaluation form (that is, when you look at your report, you can see whether your numbers are higher, lower, or similar to the library mean for that report, be it “intro,” “advanced,” etc). That, in turn, can give you a sense of what, in your classes, students seem to appreciate and where you might want to focus your attention as you revise your teaching techniques and in-class exercises. Often, it’s not even so much a matter of changing how you teach as it is explicitly underscoring for students what it is they’re learning. An interactive in-class exercise may not be perceived as interactive by your students until you say that it is. Additionally, the evaluation forms give a sense of what we, as instructors at the library, value and hope to achieve. On that level, these reports are part of an ongoing conversation that may take in questions such as: what do we consider successful numbers at the library? How do we want to use them (for example, they could be used as part of teaching portfolios)? What kinds of institutional support would we like to have available to instructors who find things they want to change in their teaching based on these reports? And so forth.
I have had many years experience in reading and using course evaluations, but, being new to the world of the library, am curious to hear your opinions of the new evaluations and reports, and to hear your ideas about how you are going to use the information they give us.