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.

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.

Integrating Intersectionality into Library Instruction & Programming

I’ve had a very busy summer in terms of conferences. I came back from ALA Annual 2018, and right as I was finally getting caught up at work, I was off to Library Instruction West 2018 at Colorado Mesa University. To present! I’ve not been very active in terms of presenting, and this has everything to do with imposter syndrome and having difficulty coming up with a topic (the irony considering how much I like teaching about this), but I took the plunge and was so pleased to have been selected as a presenter.

I worked with Christal Young, Reference and Instruction Librarian at the University of Southern California, to lead a discussion about incorporating intersectional themes in instruction and outreach work. The abstract reads:

Incorporating critical librarianship into daily practice may initially seem daunting due to varying demands and constraints. Given these challenges, how can we help first-year students develop more complex understandings of social issues that they may be researching and writing about in their composition courses? How do we reach first-year students who may have overlapping identities find resources and support during their time at the university? Join two academic librarians who will introduce the efforts they have made to incorporate intersectional themes into instruction and educational programming on their respective campuses. Librarians attending this roundtable discussion will brainstorm and share ideas for engaging in first-year instruction and outreach efforts that promote intersectionality.

We do plan to add on to the initial guide we put together throughout the year.

I was happy to receive nice feedback about our talk while at the conference, and I was also surprised to see it circulate on Twitter a bit via the ACRL Instruction Section and individual librarians. (Thank you!)

I hope our librarian colleagues find our slides and guide helpful.

I will write more about the other presentations and workshops I attended in another post. I really enjoyed this conference, and I learned a lot from my colleagues.

 

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)

Critical Reading for Learning & Social Change

ACRL’s Instruction Section’s Discussion Group Steering Committee held its annual virtual discussion forum on June 6, titled “Critical Reading for Learning and Social Change.” The panelists included Anne Graf (Trinity University), Rosemary Green (Shenandoah University), and Stephanie Otis (University of North Carolina at Charlotte).

While I watched the webinar live, I needed to re-watch the recording. You can find the webinar description, recording, chat transcript, and some accompanying materials, including a reading list and a handout with reading tips, at the IS website: acrl.ala.org/IS/annual-virtual-discussion-forum-recording

Towards the end of the presentation, Graf made a statement that really stood out to me: “Reading is done in private, which is why we don’t pay attention to it.” I think this is a fair assessment. As a librarian who teaches mostly in a one-shot landscape, time is limited. Most of what we offer when we mention how to read scholarly articles is a short game plan. I realize that a lot can be done just by showing what Otis calls the physicality of reading. I have never shown students that reading, for me, looks like a marked up print-out with underlines and notes. Graf also notes that she will ask professors how they read, which I think is great. Again and again, I am reminded that modeling helps show students skills that we take for granted. Graf also mentions that one assumption she had been making as a librarian is that teachers teach reading and librarians teach evaluation, but these are not separate acts, and perhaps we do need to do more to close this gap, especially as reading takes a lot more time than students think. (The handout that Otis offers shows that shows that students should read three times…)

This webinar provided some strategies that can help students become aware of their own reading practice. One exercise is to have students reflect on what it means to read academically in a journal prompt. Green, who works mostly with graduate students, says that responses typically range from “reading with purpose, connecting to what one already knows, and reading to reflect.” She also has students complete the Metacognitive Awareness of Reading Strategies Inventory (MARSI), which is about 30 questions. The inventory helps students realize what they are already doing while also cluing them into other strategies. Similarly, Graf has first-year students simply make a list of what they do as readers.

UC Merced’s Bright Success Center (BSC) typically offers a “How to Read Your Textbook” workshop every semester. I do wonder if there is metacognitive component to the workshop. Last year, I had thought to reach out to my contact in the BSC about offering workshops beyond reading for textbooks, which is important, but there are other kinds of materials students have to read while in college. I am feeling much more motivated to reach out since I have something more concrete. If they already do something similar, I would like to observe the workshop to learn what students already know, what they do, etc. It may be able to help inform some of my own teaching in the research classroom.

I seem to have paid the most attention to Graf’s strategies since she teaches in the environment that most closely resembles my own. She also shared an exercise that I think many of us have probably done in some variation. Rather than telling students what to look for, she has students make those connections on their own first. I have done an exercise where students make their own criteria and then apply it to an article, but this is a little different. First, she has all the students find the full-text of an article based on a citation (to get some searching out of the way) and then quickly decide on the source’s quality and appropriateness for their class assignment via a vote on a 1-5 scale. She doesn’t use any polling software for this, but I would be inclined to use it so that students would feel more comfortable sharing what they think. She then engages the class in a Q&A session about things they notice about the article and what else they may need to look at or consider. The conversation generally turns into a realization that students need to spend more time reading the article to determine its relevancy.  The total exercise takes about 10 minutes. She sometimes then has students vote again.

While I didn’t look through the chat transcript, resources that folks shared in the chat include:

 

5 Immersive Things

Hello. It’s been a while. If you recall, in the spring, I found out that I was accepted into ACRL’s Immersion program, which was held at the end of July at Champlain College in beautiful Burlington, Vermont.

The bad: traveling.

I hadn’t ever been to New England before, so I wasn’t quite prepared for traveling here. I had an absolutely crazy experience traveling both to and from VT. It involved switching airports (Dulles to Reagan) and airlines on the way there after a flight cancellation. I ended up sharing a hotel room with a librarian from Oregon State University who happened to be on the same cancelled flight. If I remember correctly, the new flight was also delayed. On the way home, the flight was delayed, which meant I wasn’t going to make my connection. I ended up staying overnight but had some treats with a new librarian friend from American University to help cure my travel woes. I was down to wearing exercise pants and a t-shirt. (I also broke a pair of sandals during my week, too!) With all my extra time, I ended up reading three books. I was so happy when my husband picked me up at the airport in Sacramento.

The good: friends and learning.

I met some new librarian friends, learned new theories and teaching ideas, and then I learned that I know more than I thought, too. I have more to learn from the resources mentioned throughout the program. I haven’t cracked open that binder in a while.

Below are five things Immersion helped cement in my mind, though they aren’t necessarily earth-shattering.

  • We have assumptions about teaching and learning that are counter-productive.
    • Ex: Curricular integration of IL is the gold standard—> we tend to view one-shot workshops as sub-par learning experiences.
      • I never thought about this before. I personally view one-shots as sub-par, but learning can and does happen in single lessons. I’m not sure if this helps, though. I put a lot of pressure on myself because I think of the teaching I do as the one and only opportunity I have to show the value of librarians to students.
      • Pick one place to be “transformational” in.
        • This has to do with the GeST windows model. During Immersion, we were taught not to think of any window as better than another, but my colleagues didn’t necessarily read it that way. I need to do some re-reading.
    • Ex: Teaching is a calling—> we become overly critical.
      • Teaching is hard. Teaching is even harder when you’re a guest teacher. As a librarian, I don’t have the same rapport with students the way the classroom instructor does, and I don’t have the benefit of knowing what has really been done in or out of class to prepare for research instruction.
  • Discussion is not always discussion.
    • Is it really “serial questioning”?
      • Social constructivism: discovery-based, student-focused, authentic, collaborative, cooperation in small groups, etc.
      • This explains why I didn’t enjoy “class discussions” in college. They were never really discussions.
  • Assessment helps you design your class.
    • What do you want students to be able to do? How will they show you?
      • Plan activities accordingly.
  • Activity does not equal active learning.
    • Active learning requires that students apply/reflect.
  • Negotiate for 2-3 measurable learning outcomes.
    • Sometimes faculty can make decisions if you provide a list of suggestions/possibilities.
      • I like this strategy because it shows faculty how much variety exists and that not everything can be accomplished in one session.
      • It really makes me think that instruction menus are more useful as negotiation tools for librarians than as a guide for instructors. I like having a menu as a reference for myself.

I wasn’t quite willing to put this in my list above because I have a lot to mull over about it, but a question I wrote down in my notes is, “What are we asking students to give up?” This hit home to me even more when one of the Immersion instructors asked me why the pre-assignment I was working on for a potential class needed to be in Credo Reference. “If you really want them to do it, why not Wikipedia?” I mean, really, why not? It was pretty liberating. I also brought up this question to my colleagues post-Immersion, and it reminded them of the C&RL News article “Library Instruction for First-Year Students: Following the Students’ Path,” in which the author shares that she started using Google Scholar in instruction sessions. The author uses the term “desire lines”; library folks will quickly see the UX practice here. I really think this is something to think about a little more, and I’d love to do something related to this question of what we’re asking students to give up when we teach research skills and concepts. (If you’re reading this, and you’d like to partner on something, shoot me a message!)

UC Merced Assessment as Research Symposium

My instruction colleagues and I presented a poster at the UC Merced Assessment as Research Symposium earlier this month, “Assessing the Value of Library Instruction Using Qualtrics Survey Software.

Assesing the Value of Library Instruction Using Qualtrics Survey Software

Here is our abstract:

In fall 2016, the library created two online exit surveys (Option A and Option B) in Qualtrics, an online survey tool, and used the surveys to collect student feedback after library instruction sessions. Library instructors selected a survey to use after each session. Option B survey questions were designed to elicit responses regarding students’ attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction levels, per Keller’s ARCS Model of Motivational Design Theory. Option A surveys used similar questions but also asked about students’ comfort level with library instructors. Results from both surveys indicated that students find value in learning about databases and specific search strategies. Option A survey results indicated that over 95 percent of students felt comfortable contacting their library instructor later in the semester. Option B survey results indicated that over 96 percent of students agreed or strongly agreed that participating in a library instruction session increased their research confidence. The evidence suggests that library instruction sessions are beneficial for students and that library instructors are approachable.  Though online exit surveys in general and Qualtrics more specifically may present challenges, there are also benefits for educators.  The library offers recommendations for individuals and programs interested in using this lightweight form of assessment.

I served as lead on the project since I crunched the numbers and interpreted the data from this fall’s instruction surveys. Over the summer I had also crunched and interpreted data from the spring surveys. It’s a time-consuming project, but I have come to enjoy working on it. I anticipate crunching the numbers from this spring’s surveys as well.

A special thank you to our Library Communications Coordinator Breanna Wright for designing our poster. I did a rough sketch using columns in Word with the information we needed and provided redacted Excel data, including charts, and she made it beautiful. We got lots of nice compliments on the design.

Instruction Brown Bag Sessions

One neat thing we do at the UC Merced Library is meet during a lunch hour to discuss information literacy and research instruction. We have an internal LibGuide for these sessions. Over the summer, we met after the Library Instruction West 2016 conference to share about sessions we attended as my colleagues and I tried to attend different sessions from each other. I shared two sessions I attended at LIW 2016 during the first brown bag (you can read about everything I attended at LIW 2016 here). We had our second instruction brown bag lunch in mid-August. Here is a summary of the sessions my colleagues attended at LIW 2016.

Foothills to Fourteeners: Preparing Students for Research in the Real World

This session referred to Problem Based Learning (PBL) and the ARCS Model of Motivational Design.

The ARCS Model can help encourage student motivation. A refers to attention, stimulating and sustaining learners’ interests. R refers to relevance, meeting the needs and goals of learners to effect a positive change. C refers to confidence, helping learners believe they will succeed and can control their success. S refers to satisfaction, reinforcing the accomplishment with internal or external awards. Chapter 3 of John Keller’s (2010) Motivational Design for Learning and Performance: The Arcs Model Approach provides strategies for how to approach each area.

It can be challenging to stimulate students’ interest in learning, and I think it’s perhaps more challenge for research instruction because students tend to be over-confident in their research abilities when arriving to a session. I found the ARCS model really useful to pinpoint the areas where I can focus my efforts to increase motivation in my teaching. In our discussion about how to apply ARCS, we all agreed that getting and sustaining students’ attention is the hardest part. I struggle with this, too, because, usually, I am really focused on getting the housekeeping bits out of the way, including objectives for the lesson. One of my colleagues shared that one “hook” she uses is a cute video about how picking a topic is research (I have used the video before, but not, specifically, as a hook). Generally, our instruction is tied to specific course assignments and requirements, so it’s pretty targeted, though I do try to  indicate that what they are learning is relevant for research in and out of school. Confidence is a little more challenging because, generally, we are only seeing students one time, but we do reinforce during hands-on practice and iterate that research takes practice for everyone. during A strategy to help measure satisfaction might be to use Padlet to ask students what they are hoping to learn at the beginning of a session and then going back to see if the things students listed were met.

As a result of this discussion, we will be using an exit slip for our instruction this semester that seeks to gain feedback about attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction. We will have the option to use our other exit slip for those who wish to measure some other things. After this term, we’re going to analyze the results. I’m really looking forward to seeing how focusing on these areas can improve my teaching.

Digital Research Notebook: A Simple Tool for Reflective Learning at Scale

The UCLA Library developed the Digital Research Notebook as a way to move beyond one-shot instruction (the one-shot plus language by Char Booth). The Google Doc is a “combination of video tutorials and reflective writing prompts, [which] guides student[s] through the research process. The notebook can be assigned on its own, as a pre-assignment for a one-shot session, or as the backbone of a credit course or research consultation.” The notebooks are useful for librarians to actually be able to see student work.

Outside of the Academic Garden: Lifelong Learning for Engineers

Mary DeJong and Wendy Holliday reported their findings from surveys and interviews conducted with graduates of Northern Arizona University who had majored in engineering. Those surveyed discussed what tools they use to find information, what information needs they have, and how they approach various research projects. Check out the link to the presentation slides to learn more about their findings. I think the results hold lots of implications for librarians who teach information literacy for engineering students. There may be something you can create with engineering faculty that would be helpful for students.

A Genius Idea

I blame Star Trek Beyond. I feel like Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” is haunting and taunting me! I went to see Star Trek with my husband last weekend, and when the song came on,  I was reminded of a really cool lesson on illustrating the “scholarship as conversation” frame.

As I was reading ACRL’s Instruction Section’s Spring 2016 Newsletter this past May, and I came across an intriguing lesson idea submitted by Tim Miller, a librarian at Humboldt State University, “Citations & Hip-Hop: Using Genius to Illustrate Scholarship as Conversation.” You can find the article at the link above on page 2, but I also have included it below.

This semester I’ve been participating in a book circle on Emery Petchauer’s Hip-Hop Culture in College Students’ Lives. Our first discussion coincided with an upcoming workshop that I facilitate on citations & plagiarism that I was also in the process of revamping. While discussing the symbolism behind Boogie Down Productions’ 1990 album, Edutainment, I was struck by the similarities between the asynchronous conversations within hip-hop and academic writing. I’m not a huge hip-hop fan, but I decided to delve in and put this idea to practice using another song from that era: Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.”

Hip-hop music incorporates sampling (using audio snippets) and is filled with references to other songs, lyrics and imagery. Genius, the online song lyric knowledge base and annotation tool, provides a visual representation of these references by incorporating interactive features that allow users to create annotations alongside the text of the lyrics. These annotations provide explanations and context in the form of comments, hyperlinks and images. I purposely chose “Fight the Power” because it is particularly rich with samples, references and imagery that not only provide a background to the meaning behind the song but also point listeners to artists and individuals who inspired the song.

The imagery within Genius helps demonstrate that references in hip-hop create a conversation akin to scholarship: a conversation that is ongoing and unfinished. Just within the intro and first verse there is a variety of examples, including: a link to the music video (with its own visual references), an image of the single for James Brown’s “Funky Drummer,” a link to The Soul Children’s “I Don’t Know What This World Is Coming To,” and a movie poster to Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, for which the song was written. Genius makes these references come to life by incorporating comments, images and sound – all added by the various Genius users participating in the conversation. (Miller, 2016, p.2).

I would actually really love to do this as a workshop. I think it’s because of my history background; I did a lot of classes related to slavery and Civil Rights, and my interest in social justice. I will definitely keep this idea on my radar. I emailed Tim to let him know how much I enjoyed reading his piece in the newsletter. He let me know that he also uses Genius “to annotate an online article for my workshop on reading academic articles. It is a very easy way to add instructive elements into a webpage. I may explore using it with [LibGuides] to create virtual tours for our online programs” (T. Miller, personal communication, May 9, 2016).

Library Instruction West 2016 Conference Notes

In early June, I traveled with two of my new colleagues to the Library Instruction West 2016 conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. I hadn’t ever been to Utah before, nor this conference, so it was a neat experience, and it was nice to be among instruction-specific librarians. Here are my notes from the sessions I attended.

Teaching, Learning, and Vulnerability in Digital Places

I had the pleasure of listening to Donna Lanclos’ keynote address. Lanclos is an anthropologist at UNC Chapel Hill. Her work for the last few years has been in studying higher education and academic libraries. Although you can find a much better summary about her talk here, her keynote centered on the idea that online is a place, and we need to work towards making this learning place welcoming to our students, and, to do that, we need to have professional empathy. We need to work for the connection in our online spaces. Although our Moodle and Blackboard course shells have spaces for discussion boards, why are students still creating Facebook groups for their classes? Why are students leaving the course management system to find humanity elsewhere online?

Rather than have people fill out surveys, Lanclos, in her work as an anthropologist, had people annotate their emotions related to different online spaces. On one end of the spectrum are places in the online world that are used like a toolbox in which one acts as visitor. On the other end of the spectrum are the online places in which one is a resident engaging and communicating in community. This was a very revealing exercise. In my notes, I made quick note about my online world. There are times and places online in which I act as visitor, but there are other places in which I am a resident. For example, when I had Twitter, I was an occasional visitor. Facebook is where I engage, and this had to do with personal comfort. I did not feel comfortable engaging with librarians on Twitter. The most vocal people are the ones who are heard, and I don’t have a style that is bold, sarcastic, or witty. I didn’t feel like I belonged.

Lanclos is asking us to carefully examine how we can make online learning be more personal and human. Vulnerability, she argues, is mostly approached from a personal level. If we do not give away some personal things, we seem unapproachable. There is utility in sharing, but we need to examine vulnerability in other ways, as well. Vulnerability can be characterized negatively and positively, as risky or risk-taking. When one is part of the power structure, being vulnerable is seen as risk-taking. When one is not part of the power structure, vulnerability is seen as risky behavior. How much humanity do we put out there until it is deemed risky? This is what our students are negotiating. We need to think about the values we are expressing in our instruction.

In academia, we are asked to be more empathetic and vulnerable with our students, but Lanclos indicates that what we really owe students is professional vulnerability—flexibility and transparency. With regard to library services, the classroom, and the university, we are constantly finding ways to make the process more seamless, but there is something in showing students messiness, the seams (we need to be seam-y). Being transparent in our teaching is an act of professional vulnerability. Dave Cormier writes about rhizomatic learning in his article “Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum” (2008). This type of learning and teaching is very challenging because it is centered on being vulnerable. In this inquiry-based environment, it is okay not to know the answer and engage in the half-formed ideas. We need to model to students that experimentation and not knowing are part of the learning process.

Our students will learn to challenge themselves if we model the messy process of learning, and librarians are uniquely positioned to model process given that are expertise is focused on process versus content. For the librarian, however, challenges remain in being a seam-y teacher. How do we work with low faculty expectations and a university that may view the library as a checkbox versus a partner? How do we develop relationships in the one-shot model?

I really liked Lanclos’ overview of the work she did in having people map their emotions related to online environments. You can read more about the visitors and residents continuum here.

In which environments do you act as a visitor? Where are you a resident? What is the reason for the difference? How might this exercise be adapted in your classroom? I feel like it pairs really well with Kuhlthau’s ISP model, because there are also emotions researchers experience in the research process. How might you create an online learning environment that is safe for students to be human?

Demonstrating Dialogue: Using the ACRL Framework to Teach Scholarship as a Conversation

This active learning workshop was conducted by Sarah LeMire of Texas A&M University. Before the activity portion of the workshop, LeMire and the participants discussed the scholarship as conversation frame, addressing the challenges and opportunities and strategies in teaching this concept.

Opportunities include engaging with multiple viewpoints, recognizing privilege, student contributions as information producers, and the interconnected nature of scholarship. Some conceptual challenges in teaching this frame are that scholarship is mediated in a way conversation are not; conversation is give and take, though not all research is, and because scholarship is mediated, there are barriers to access and some voices are marginalized. Some of the practical challenges in teaching these concepts are the reliance on the binary (scholarly vs. popular), pro/con assignments, and privileging academic viewpoints. Students are used to consuming information, so having them participate as producers can be challenging with this frame.

Some strategies include recognizing the relationship between authors’ work, engaging students in roles as information creators, critically challenging privilege, focusing on how authority differs based on context, and demonstrating that there can be different viewpoints.

Although I feel that LeMire did an excellent job in having the audience participate in the activity, what I was looking for were actual activities or lessons I could adapt surrounding this particular frame. While I did learn some ideas from the group I was in, because we spent the time developing learning outcomes for this frame, we didn’t get very far in actually developing an idea for the outcome. I also didn’t get to hear much from the other participants due to time, so, for me, I didn’t get a lot out of this to share with colleagues except that it was a good example of how to do active learning.

We were divided into groups based on the populations we serve, such as lower division undergraduate students in one-shot sessions, etc. Each group was then given a series of 3×5 cards with words written on them. We had to make three learning outcomes based on the scholarship as conversation frame from these cards. After creating outcomes, one member of the group selected one of the props LeMire provided, a toy telephone. We had to develop an activity focused on one of the learning outcomes we had created based on the prop. For example, using a smartphone, we could have an activity where students could get in parts to explore a hashtag and a do a think-pair-share, or they could ask each other who they would call to learn about a topic being discussed in class. Or what might certain people in their contacts lists have to say about the topic?  Who could they not reach with a phone? Another activity someone came up with was the have students work in pairs to find a social issue on Twitter and explore the different people and perspectives in the conversations. The students could then share findings with the class.

Teaching or Tyranny: Class and Course Guides

In this presentation, Nancy Noe from Auburn University took a close look at LibGuides, a tool many librarians use to develop subject, course, and class online research guides. You can download Noe’s slides here. The slides also offer articles to read on this subject. She became interested in doing more research about online guides when helping a student one day who corrected her in how to find something based on the pathway he had learned from a one-shot instruction session that used an online guide. Noe examined 500 guides from 9 institutions and found that most of the guides looked like subject guides and while useful for librarians, they weren’t utilized much by students. She also was critical of online guides because they are not a learning tool and “dehumanizes the nature of inquiry.” In a time when education is incorporating more active learning techniques and when librarianship is moving towards a more holistic view of information literacy, I can understand where she is coming from in light of critical pedagogy. The presentation also reminded me of an article by Hicks that I read last year, “LibGuides: Pedagogy to Oppress?,” in Hybrid Pedagogy.

However, there is room for directories in our landscape. Throughout the presentation, I kept thinking about the visitors and resident continuum Lanclos introduced in her keynote address at the conference. Second, simply analyzing a LibGuide does not tell you what is being done in the classroom with the guides. There could be analog activities going on in conjunction with the tools on the guide. At my own institution, some of the librarians also create online activities that are embedded into the guide, so while that shows evidence of active learning, but I can think of times at my previous job at a community college where I used a guide with paper-based activities in the classroom. Third, library instruction programs do not merely consist of guides; they are not being used a substitution for teaching.

I am not defending the standard guide as much as I am saying that everything has its place, from the subject guide that merely points out some of the subject-specific databases and websites to the class guide full of interaction and focus on process and inquiry.

I do appreciate the fact that she indicated that there didn’t seem to be much difference between subject and course guides from the guides she analyzed. Her willingness to look into a tool critically that the profession embraces can help us to be more critical of the guides we make, and it also speaks to the importance of continuing to reach out to faculty regarding instructional efforts and working with them to develop instructional materials. There is no point to make these things if instructors do not use them or recommend that students use them.

The Road Untraveled: Alternative Outreach for Instruction

In this presentation, Carrie Moran and Rachel Mulvihill of the University of Central Florida shared how the library has reached out and engaged with campus partners to reach faculty and students. You can find the presentation slides here. Traditionally, many libraries outreach to specific departments through subject specialists and liaison models. For example, there might a librarian who is the psychology librarian or there may be librarians who are responsible for reaching out to faculty in a few specific majors. UCF Libraries, instead, have sought partnerships based on specific programs, such as the graduate school, first year experience program, Honors program, online programs, international student program, transfer student program, and faculty.

The library partnered with the Center for Distributed Learning to put the library’s information literacy modules in the learning object repository and had them incorporate library tools into Canvas, the university’s learning management system (from the image on the slides, it looks like they incorporating library tools into Canva using the LibGuides CMS). They also worked with instructional designers to design a Library Canvas Course.

Rather than start new ideas from scratch, the library sought places where library expertise could contribute to what other programs were already doing. The library found ways to reach the campus community through an online video presentation with the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning, presented at New Faculty Orientations, played a role in the Summer Research Academy through the Office of Undergraduate Research, held College of Graduate Studies workshops in scholarly communication and a dissertation forum. For the Honors program, the library held an Honors in the Major workshop covering research basics (the library got a list of students with their majors prior to the workshop) and a series of thesis development workshops. They partnered with Transfer and Transition Services’ Foundations of Excellence Transfer Initiative, participating in two interdepartmental workshops, “Bagels with TTS” and “Are You on the Knight Track? Transfer Student Seminar.” To help with library myth-busting at New Student Orientations, the library invited First Year Experience Orientation leaders to go to the library for a session. Although too much time has passed for me to make sense of my notes, the library also did something with the Office of Research and Commercialization.

Moran also offered that the library can also seek out partnerships with non-academic departments, such as personal/social groups or clubs. For example, being involved with the Pride Faculty and Staff Association at UCF, United Faculty of Florida UCF chapter, and the Center for Success of Women Faculty has fostered opportunities for library outreach. Being on search committees can also foster opportunities. The library definitely needs to meet people where they are and get involved with the spaces, places, and activities other departments do on campus.

There is something I wrote here regarding librarian paper dolls and insomnia cookies. I’m a little bummed I can’t remember the details, but I can always contact the presenters. It was a fun, inspiring presentation.

Breaking it Down and Climbing Back Up: Learning Theories & Approached to Instruction

In this presentation, Erica DeFrain from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Julia Glassman and Doug Worsham from UCLA, and Nicole Pagowsky from the University of Arizona discussed using active learning, constructivism, and critical pedagogy as instructional strategies to motivate learners and make learning memorable, meaningful, and transformative.  You can download the slides and the handout that went along with this presentation here.

During the first part of the presentation, the presenters had us work in pairs and think and share about a time when learning was memorable, meaningful, and transformative. I really struggled with this question, and I know that reflecting on our own positive and negative learning experiences can inform our own instruction, but I think transformative is what threw me off. Using our experiences, we made a list of characteristics. For example, what makes learning memorable, meaningful, and transformative might be that it is authentic and engaging and happens when learners and teachers are motivated and motivating.

  • Active learning focuses on being memorable.
  • Social constructivism focuses on being meaningful.
    • Constructivism: we learn when we build knowledge with our concepts and experience.
    • Social constructivism: we learn when we interact with each other to build knowledge with concepts and experience (this is why we were doing think-pair-share)
  • Critical pedagogy focuses on being transformative.
    • Social justice perspective that challenges status quo and how things are/came to be
    • “Habits of thought, reading, writing, and speaking which go beneath surface meaning, first impressions, dominant myths, official pronouncements, traditional clichés, received wisdom and mere opinions to understand deep meanings, root causes, social contexts, ideologies, and personal consequences of any action, event, object, process, organization, experience, text, subject matter, policy, mass media, or discourse.” (Shor, Empowering Education, 1992, p. 129)

Interestingly, the panelists asked who had trouble coming up with an experience from higher education that was memorable, meaningful, and transformative and prompted a discussion about barriers to this kind of learning. Barriers that our group came up with include lecture forma, lack of confidence, language/culture, research vs. teaching focus, quantitative assessment, prescription, and lack of personal interaction.

The next part of the presentation had us look at one of four case studies. We were asked to identify the learning outcome for the case study we selected, and then were asked to develop active, constructivist, and critical approaches for this learning outcome. I really struggled with this workshop. I think it was more helpful for me to hear from other people about what they would do, but, unfortunately, I didn’t write anything down. I think this might be a good in-house professional development session for instruction librarian teams to do.

Note: I’m not sure why, but I wrote down Bean’s Engaging Ideas (2011).

Mapping Landmarks in the Territory: What do Threshold Concepts Look Like to Students?

This was possibly my absolute favorite presentation and workshop of the whole conference! Margy MacMillan of Mount Royal University analyzed the transcripts of 400 student interviews from a long-term qualitative study of the student experience at Mount Royal University. The questions and initial study did not originate with the library, so the questions were not specific to research. MacMillan, independently, decided to see if anything in the interviews revealed students’ experience with information literacy. She specifically wanted to know if students were touching on anything related to the threshold concepts (now called conceptual understandings) outlined in the new Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. She coded all the data based on the specific concepts or concepts and also indicated students’ various stages learning of the concept, such as unaware, aware, or understood. Some students could not see any “doorways,” “where lack of awareness of a frame is a barrier to learning.” Other students “…appear to be looking through a frame, but may not have crossed a threshold, and other reflect the impact of gaining a deeper understanding of the frame, and how that changed the participant’s view of research, information, or learning.” Understanding where students may be struggling based on their perspective can help inform the language we use in instruction and in the development of activities and assignments.

After introducing her work, MacMillan also had us try out this metacognition reading exercise. We read and coded various excerpts from transcripts that she had pre-cut. She asked us each to find a partner and look over the strips together. My partner pulled up the Framework on her laptop, so we could see the concepts, practices, and dispositions. Together, we coded the strips based on the concepts we thought students were touching upon. Below are some photos from the data my partner and I coded.

During the session, I remarked what a great exercise this would be for librarians and writing faculty to do with our own student populations. At my library, we have Instruction Brown Bag meetings every so often to talk about new ideas, things we have read, or presentations we have watched. We’re actually meeting tomorrow to go over things we learned at this conference. We mostly attended different sessions, so we could get the most out of the conference program. I’m planning to share this research and idea. I am also going to a workshop on Friday where I might have time to talk to a writing lecturer and longtime online friend (I was a writing tutor for her students at my undergrad institution where she was a new instructor) about this idea. I know that in the past that the writing sections participating in the pilot with embedded information literacy had a reflective writing assignment, so I am curious if those could be looked at again and coded…

MacMillan also provided her PowerPoint slides and notes from the discussion part of the presentation and workshop. You find these documents here. For more information about the data collected through four rounds of Assessment Seminar interviews at MRU, see http://bit.ly/mruasem. Contact MacMillan at mmacmillan@mtroyal.ca and @margymaclibrary.

Note: It appears that someone may have introduced what they feel is a missing frame in the framework: Reading as Translation. That’s all I wrote next to the listed frames. I wish I had been more precise in my note-taking.

Lofty Conversations, Grounding Teaching: “Threshold Concepts,” “Decoding the Disciplines,” and Our Pedagogical Praxis

In this presentation, Andrea Baer of the University of West Georgia introduced threshold concepts, the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, and the Decoding the Disciplines model. She related the model to threshold concepts, and asked how we might apply this model in our teaching of the conceptual understandings found in the Framework. This presentation made me think about “Inventing the University,” in which Bartholomae (1985) speaks to the idea of demystifying academic writing.  Working in groups, we discussed how we might apply the decoding model for a specific scenario. You can find Baer’s slides at the link here; make sure to check out her reference list.

Land, Meyer, and Baille (2010) write that threshold concepts are “core or foundational concepts that, once grasped by the learner, create new perspectives and ways of understanding a discipline of challenging knowledge domain.” Meyer and Land (2003) characterize these concepts as being transformative, irreversible, integrative, bounded, and troublesome. Formerly, ACRL’s Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education identified six threshold concepts, but due to some disagreement about whether the frames really are threshold concepts, the frames are now called conceptual understandings. These threshold concepts or conceptual ways of understanding offer a way to “…articulate…shared beliefs providing multiple ways of helping us name what we know and how we can use what we know…” (Yancey, Introduction to Naming What We Know, 2015). They provide a lens.

The six core concepts, which address areas that students can find difficult or messy to understand, include:

  • Authority is Constructed and Contextual
  • Information Creation as Process
  • Information Has Value
  • Research as Inquiry
  • Scholarship as Conversation
  • Searching as Strategic Exploration

Bottlenecks of learning, as noted by Anderson (1996) cited in Middendorf and Pace (2004), are “points in a course where the learning of a significant number of students in interrupted.” For example, in history, students may struggle with what is essential and nonessential information. In literature, students may struggle with the idea that they must interpret and argue based on textual evidence, rather than gut instinct.

Each discipline has its own ways of thinking. Middendorf and Pace (2004) note that many students are not necessarily taught disciplinary skills, practices, or ways of thinking, nor are given much practice. There are seven decoding steps instructors can take to help students learn these skills, practices, and ways of thinking. They include:

  • Identifying cognitive and affective bottlenecks—where are students getting stuck?
  • Unpacking a process—how does an expert do this task/process?
  • Modeling—how can the task/process be demonstrated explicitly?
  • Student practice and feedback—what opportunities can students have to engage in the task and get feedback?
  • Motivation—how will students be motivated?
  • Assessment—how well are students doing the task?
  • Sharing results—how can the gained knowledge about learning be shared with other educators?

The last point made me think about Lanclos’ keynote with regard to professional vulnerability.

Threshold concepts are similar to bottlenecks of learning in that both address the stickiness students face when working through the lens of a particular discipline. While threshold concepts provide the conceptual understandings in a discipline, decoding provides a model for instructional planning in the discipline.

How might we apply decoding to the Framework? How can these challenging concepts be explored through modeling and activities?

  • What are the bottlenecks?
  • How can we unpack the process?
  • How can we model it?
  • What sorts of activities can we have students do and what kind of feedback might they get?
  • What will be the motivation for students to learn this concepts?
  • How might we assess this concept?
  • How might we share results?

At this point in the presentation, Baer had us think of a discipline in which we often work and identify where students often get stuck when doing research of using sources in that context. Someone in our group mentioned that when he works with students in the social sciences who are writing literature reviews, they often get stuck in how to annotate and synthesize the information from the scholarship. This relates to the threshold concept Scholarship as Conversation. While the process had been unpacked, the process hadn’t been modelled explicitly and the students hadn’t had opportunities to practice and get feedback before turning in their literature reviews. Together, we discussed strategies for activities students could do. One of the group members had actually attended a workshop called “Bridge t­­­­­­he Gap Between Faculty Expectation and Student Experience: Teaching Students to Annotate and Synthesize Sources” that introduced activities to help students write annotations and read and synthesize articles, so he shared those materials and activities with us. You can find the presentation slides and other information, including activities and lesson plan, for the Bridge the Gap session on this LibGuide. The accompanying source sheets, summary table, and the lesson plan are all available for download.