Bias in Your Search Results Lesson @ CCLI 2019

In early May, I presented a lightning talk at the California Conference on Library Instruction about a lesson I designed for an upper-division Critical Race and Ethnic Studies course at UC Merced. I’m a little shy about sharing instructional materials, so this was actually the first time I shared a lesson plan and activity I’ve designed for a class with folks who aren’t my colleagues. I first designed the lesson in Spring 2018, and I’ve tweaked it a few times since then.

As promised at the conference, I got my act together and put up my lesson plan and materials on Project CORA. Let me know if I have typos or broken links. Of course, if you end up using or adapting this, I’d love to know, as well.

Endings & Beginnings

An image of a split fortune cookie with a fortune that reads,

June 1 marked my third year at UC Merced, and it was the same day I was offered a Reference Librarian position at Merced College. If you’ve been here long enough, I worked for Merced College before but at the small campus one hour west in Los Baños. My first day at Merced College will be August 6.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work at UC Merced. During these last three years, I learned so much from my instruction colleagues, and I have become a more confident teacher. I’m now ready to take on the challenge of leading and expanding research education at the community college where I started my professional career just a few years ago. I’m excited to pursue some of the goals my former/soon-to-be current colleagues and I could only dream about six years ago.

I’m back.

Celebrating Student Re$earch

selective focus photography of multicolored confetti lot

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

I love graduation season. I love seeing pictures of folks in caps and gowns and reading posts about gratitude and accomplishment. (If you or a loved one just graduated, congratulations!) In the spirit of celebration and reflection, I started thinking about the library award committee I have been chairing the last two years and discovered that I never blogged about the first award cycle for the Abresch-Kranich Library Award, and the UC Merced Library just finished awarding the second set of scholarships this spring.

In 2018, we had two winners, Melissa Becerra and Nathan Parmeter. Each student received a $500 scholarship thanks to our donor, Arlene Kranich. You can read more about the award and our student winners in “New Scholarship Pays Homage to Persistence and Research.”

Last spring, my former Central Valley colleague Ray Pun also interviewed me about the award for the Credo Reference blog for the HIP (high-impact practices) in Action series. You can read the interview in “HIP in Action: Undergraduate Research & Awards.” It was great exposure for our library and UC Merced, and I hope the interview helped inspire other libraries.

In 2019, we also had two student winners, Marisela Padilla Alcalá and Sarah Lee. You can read more about our student winners in “Two Students Honored for Excellence in Use of Library Resources.”

After the second award cycle, I have a better idea of when and in what specific areas I need to ask for help. I also have ideas for changes to the workflow. I’m currently on vacation, but before I left, I started drafting my process with changes I might want to make regarding the timeline. The review and reception happens during the busiest time in the instruction season, and the process will go much more smoothly if we can open and close the application earlier. Currently, it opens Nov. 1 and closes Feb. 1, but opening it on Oct. 1 and closing it in mid-January will help me get the applications out to the five-member review committee more quickly. After a quick chat with the university librarian, he agreed with the earlier deadline, and we also determined that we should hold the reception before spring break, which is always in March. There are also some other changes I want to make, and I’m very thankful that two of my colleagues who have helped with reviewing student applications are interested in helping me streamline this process, which may also involve changing the award rubric. We’ll be doing this work in June.

Does your college or university library have a research award of some kind?

Read If Organizing Work Things Sparks Joy

Image of assorted color markers in a glass jar next to a blank notebookPhoto by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

I couldn’t help the Marie Kondo reference. (I really enjoyed Season 1 of “Tidying Up.” I go through purging periods every so often, so I am here for it.)

The longer I am at my job, the better I am getting at figuring out a system to keep track of what I work on. Who knew that some simple templates and a planner could help me feel better during those moments of one-shot instruction fatigue? As I’m not involved with meaningful assessment, it’s challenging for me to see the long-term effects of the work I do, so documenting my activities helps keep me motivated.

After I received the final documentation for my first review, I created a template in Google Docs for the documentation that I am responsible for turning in (visit “UC Librarian Review Process“), and I’ll be in much better shape for my next review in January 2020 as I have been filling it out with more significant projects and partnerships as I go along.

For instruction, I typically put all of my classes into Outlook because our research appointment calendar syncs with Outlook, but I learned that it is miserable to go back into your calendar to figure out how many classes and workshops you taught during a particular semester. Our research instruction request forms are also connected to the system we use for submitting post-class statistics. The library’s programmer was able to enhance our system so that we can see which classes have not had statistics submitted, but once you submit, it’s clunky to run a query.

I created yet another template to help me out in Google Sheets: bit.ly/class_stats_template It has a tab for classes and a tab for workshops. The Guide column is the URL to the class LibGuide. Students refers to the number of students. The Stats Recorded column is just a note for myself as I submit statistics into our system because I sometimes let it pile up. The Google Folder column is the key to what I actually did in class, as it links to a folder in Google Drive that contains the class syllabus, research assignment, and my lesson plan. In Google Drive, I have a 2018-2019 folder with subfolders for Fall 2018 and Spring 2019. My basic folder structure looks like the following: Semester > Instructor Name > Course. It’s now super simple for me to find all the corresponding documentation for each class I taught. If you’re interested, I also started using a new lesson plan template that I adapted from another librarian: bit.ly/lesson_plan_template I’m bummed to say that I don’t remember who shared it, but I need to comb through some librarian listserv archives to find out because I really need to thank them!

Seeing some of my work reflected in my Classes & Workshops spreadsheet this past semester has made me feel a lot better.

When I worked at the community college, one of my librarian mentors suggested that I get a paper planner that has both a monthly and weekly format, so that I take brief notes about what I work on within the planner. This semester, I’m going to utilize a planner to reflect on my teaching. While I print my lesson plans and write on them during class, they can look pretty cruddy. I need to do a better job about writing down what worked, what didn’t, observations, etc. (On that note, I do plan to finally finish reading char booth’s Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning: Instructional Literature for Library Educators, though I think char is working on a new edition.)

I also feel like this could be a fun workshop at conference–sharing instructional planning materials and tools and methods for keeping track of work. Like New Year library programming but for academic librarians.

Thankful

Thankful

“Thankful note on tree” by Jessica Castro on Unsplash

The day before Thanksgiving, I got an email from the Chancellor’s Office letting me know that a student who graduated in the spring (AKA my worst semester) indicated in an exit survey that I was one of three staff or faculty members who made a memorable impact during their time at UC Merced.

This recognition means a great deal to me.

As a non-faculty librarian (we’re academic appointees at the University of California) who teaches one-shot research lessons, the only student feedback I receive, besides formative assessment, is through post-lesson satisfaction surveys. While the librarians have been involved with projects to assess student learning, I, personally, haven’t yet had opportunities to see the impact of my and my colleagues’ work over time. (I am hopeful through liaison work and some other contacts I’ve made this fall that this can change somewhat, and we might be in a good position due to campus growth, a new general education curriculum, and a new department structure.) Outside of classes and workshops, my other source of student engagement is through research consultations.

I sometimes feel disconnected from my purpose in this kind of library environment. In my previous position, if I wasn’t teaching, I was at the desk, which proved to have its own challenges, but I really enjoyed knowing students’ names and about their lives. I may not feel as connected to students as I did before, but I’m very thankful to know that I really am helping students on their path to earn a degree and accomplish their life goals.

This is something I needed to hear. I go back to work tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to the two research consultations I have scheduled in the afternoon.

Language

I’m a member of the California chapter of ACRL, CARL, but I’m not very active, mostly because I got involved with National first. I’ve really been impressed with Talitha Matlin‘s leadership. The Fall CARL Newsletter was just released, and her presidential message really hit home with me.

In the message, she asks:

What are some words or phrases you’ve been trying to change in your vocabulary?

As a large state with almost 400 institutes of higher education, we play a large role in shaping the discourse surrounding libraries and library work. I realize that some people may roll their eyes at the idea of spending so much time agonizing over language choice. However, using words that demonstrate confidence and do not diminish the important roles we play in our institutions is one step we can all take. We may not all arrive at the same words, but I hope we are all able to speak about our work in ways that feel authentic and affirming.

Her message left me with my mouth hanging open.

I have been doing this lately when it comes to my work as an instruction librarian. It really started with the day a well-meaning writing instructor commented, in reference to my handwriting, that I should have been a teacher as I was writing the URL to the class research guide and the learning outcomes! Ever since then, when someone says presentation, I offer lesson. I don’t correct people outright, but, rather, I use the adjusted language somewhere in my response. When accepting research instruction requests, I’ll write or say, “Let’s meet to discuss learning outcomes…” or “What learning outcomes would you like for me to design my lesson around? In looking at the assignment…[offer my two cents].”

Sometimes instructors also realize the inherent problem of calling research instruction “presentations” or “lectures” on their own. Recently, I was discussing a class with an instructor over the phone, and she hesitated using the word presentation.

Anytime I find myself wanting to write or say library instruction session, I revise it to research instruction or research lesson.

Now that I’m also more organized–and I admit that I mostly got my act together to prove a point–I have been sending a Google Doc with the lesson plan, titled as such, in advance. (It’s not that I didn’t have plans before; I just rarely shared them after getting in touch with instructors about their upcoming classes.) I don’t actually think folks take a look at my plans, but, if they do, it shows evidence that I plan for checks for understanding and learning activities. Even if things change up in the classroom, it shows that I have been thinking about how to teach both concepts and procedures in a way that maximizes the tiny amount of time I have with students.

Making these changes with language and involving the instructor into my process (it’s not always as collaborative as one might like) has helped my confidence. I am more honest about what can and can’t be done in a single lesson, and I’m a bit more bold in offering suggestions. It’s as though I believe that I’m a real educator now!

I haven’t implemented this yet, but, in September, there was a post on JoVE’s librarian blog called “How Librarians Can Really Explain What Their Jobs Are Like” that advises that when you are asked what you do for a living, resist the urge to use the word librarian at the beginning of your response. Brandy King writes:

These days, instead of starting with “I’m a librarian,” I first talk about the difference my work makes and then end by saying “I’m a librarian.”

How smart is this? This has forever changed how I will be addressing this question.

Thing 22: Online Teaching

On Friday, my colleagues and I shared what we learned from the Things in the Pedagogy track of the 23 Framework Things. I was assigned Thing 22: Online Teaching. I selected to complete Option 3, though I didn’t do the activity:

Post a brief comment below describing the outline for an online learning object (lesson) using the steps in the book to guide you. What part of the Framework will you focus on? Create an outcome statement, and select one of the common instructional design program activities (p.29) to assess the student’s competency.

However, I do think that I’d be interested in developing something that helps students learn how to approach selecting a database. I imagine including research problem scenarios in which students would need to match up the problem to an appropriate database based on the description. In the notes I posted to my colleagues (see below), I refer to this briefly as we are working on developing content for a new GE course.

Here are my notes.

This module was presented by the steering committee of the New Literacies Alliance, which is a group of librarians from a variety of institutions working to design a common research instruction curriculum based on the ACRL Framework. The lessons they have created tie to particular knowledge practices and dispositions and are licensed under Creative Commons. Many appear in the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy Sandbox. If you have looked at the Sandbox, many of the SoftChalk online modules, such as the Citations tutorial, were designed by librarians involved with the NLA.

For this module, I read Chapter 3 and Appendix E of Creating and Sharing Online Library Instruction: A How to Do it Manual for Librarians (2017) written by three NLA librarians, Joelle Pitts, Sara K. Kearns, and Heather Collins. The chapter outlines how to create learning objects using McTighe’s and Wiggins’ backward design curriculum planning model.

  1. Identify desired results.
    • What should students be able to do at the end of the instruction?
      • Select components of the Framework to teach.
  2. Determine assessment evidence.
    • How will we know if students have achieved the desired result?
      • Choose a Bloom’s Taxonomy level and verb
      • Outline an activity the students will complete to demonstrate desired results
      • Write a learning outcome.
  3. Plan learning experiences and instruction.
    • How can we support learners as they come to understand important ideas and processes?
      • Create redundant digital learning objects to support the learning outcome.
      • Create assessment activity.

Identify Desired Results

  • Learning objects should be kept to 8-15 minutes.
  • The knowledge dispositions or practices you select will need to be modified because many of them are “too big” to cover in one object.
  • Highlight one major frame in the outcome, even though there may be practices from different though related frames at play.
  • Choose a level of expertise [novice, beginner, competent, proficient, expert (Dreyfus & Dreyfus, 1980)].

Determine Assessment Evidence

  • Choose a Bloom’s Taxonomy level and verb
    • “The higher the Bloom’s Taxonomy level, the more difficult it is to design online learning objects and activities, especially if automated grading is desired” (p. 26).
      • This makes me feel a lot better about what can be achieved for modules we develop that are intended for instructors to assign to their students (WRI 01); these would be good for more concrete skills, such as selecting an appropriate/relevant database, etc. It does make me think about the SPRK courses, as well, mostly because two out of my three areas involve databases.
    • Write an outcome
      • The student will + Bloom’s Taxonomy verb + evidence + in order to + desired results = outcome
      • Bloom’s Taxonomy list on p. 27
      • Learning outcome formula checklist on p. 28
      • Common types of instructional design program activities on p. 29

 Plan Learning Experiences

  • NLA has a storyboard template to serve as a guide for developing online learning objects (see Appendix D in the book as this was not included in the PDFs)
    • Introduction, background info
    • Relevancy to students’ lives
    • State the problem and possible solutions
    • Lesson climax activity
    • Assessment
  • Have a peer review your learning object (see the Learning Object Rubric, Appendix E, p. 119)