This semester, we geared up to teach quite a few mini workshops. Previously, most of our workshops focused on RefWorks, and attendance has always been low (it’s hard for students to come to something that is voluntary when their schedules are jam-packed!), but we decided to try something new. While most of the workshops were 20-minutes each, a few were 50 minutes.
The 20-minute workshops were my boss’ brainchild. Last fall, we tried to do a Research Starters series, and while we didn’t an uptick right before finals, we opted to try them again in the spring but throughout the term, both before and after spring recess. While I’m not saying we had sky-high attendance this semester, it did help that a few writing professors gave students some extra credit for attending up to three workshops.
In addition to teaching a few of the Research Starter workshops, I had planned to teach a whole slew of other workshops. I was very excited at the beginning of the semester, but after some mental health issues, I had to take a step back and reduce my load. I am going to try to teach the LGBTQ+, women’s, and race/ethnicity research workshops I had wanted to teach in the coming fall (I plan to team up with the apropos Student Services programs for these.) I did, however, teach two additional workshops, including one on Google Scholar and online consumer health information (the latter one needs a little more work; I did run out of time when planning for it).
When I worked at a community college library, I read Green’s “Library Instruction for First-Year Students: Following the Students’ Path” in C&RL News, and it really stuck with me. I know that not everyone loves GS, but, let’s face it, we all use it. Like Wikipedia, I use it before almost every research consultation. I also like to help students understand a tool that they will encounter if they haven’t already. The Google Scholar workshop I designed was 50 minutes, but I plan to adapt it to a 20-minute workshop in the fall. The students who came to the workshop had never used it before but the name recognition made them curious! I loved that. One of the students who attended had actually emailed me a few minutes before asking me if there was still room–of course!–and she literally threw on her shoes and walked over from the dorms. *praise hands*
I know it can be frustrating to create workshops that are not highly attended, but I love working with undergraduate students and getting more face-to-face time with them. And, sometimes, one-shot instruction can get old and feel limiting when working within predominantly faculty-led outcomes. I felt so much freedom when reading Nicholson’s “‘Taking Back’ Information Literacy: Time and the One-Shot in the Neoliberal University” in volume 1 of Pegowsky and McElroy’s The Critical Library Pedagogy (2016):
Information literacy allows the library to demonstrate return on investment to stakeholders in the form of outputs and impacts; the one-shot is important because numbers on spreadsheets make our work visible. Information literacy is, in no small part, a matter of fiscal survival. [Johnson cites Drabinski’s “Toward a Kairos of Library Instruction,” which I have read; read it for an overview of how info lit fits into the curricular changes in the 1980s. It is behind a paywall.] Nevertheless, moving away from an exclusive or predominant focus on teaching within the curriculum to explore ways to engage students and faculty outside of it–even when these activities aren’t seen to count as much as minutes in the classroom–would alleviate frustrations and stress.
I’m not saying I’m engaging in #critlib with Google Scholar, but I am definitely addressing the limitations I feel with my teaching by planning and giving workshops on a variety of topics.