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:

 

31

It’s been a while. March and April are busy months for me at work, and there was a stretch of time where I was feeling pretty disorganized on top of it. And maybe distracted knowing that I am heading to a new job in June, but, as always, I eventually come around. I bounce back. I turned 31 last Friday, and I can tell you that “bounce back” is my 21-31 theme.

I’ve written about some of this before, but it’s good to reflect. I grew up in a small religious environment that was mostly built around immediate and extended family, and although I went to public school my entire life, I was shy and didn’t really live a life outside of school, home, and church.  When I was 19 and 20, I lost a lot of weight–almost 70 pounds. It started well enough, but by mid-2005, I was dieting excessively and addicted to exercise. I was finally thin and happy for a while, but in 2006, at 21, I was in a very sad, confusing period. I was unsure and insecure. Not that you can really tell in the photo below, taken on my 21st birthday, but I wore sweaters and blazers to cover up my thinness. (And I didn’t even eat any of that cake!) It took me a whole summer, fall, and winter to get out of my funk. I took off the Fall 2006 semester; I just couldn’t concentrate.

21

I didn’t know just how much my life would change that following spring. Around my 22nd birthday, in 2007, I met my now husband online via MySpace. (Hey, now, it was popular back then.) We had our first date on my birthday, and we’ve been together for nine years now.

I graduated from college in 2008. I got married in 2009. I graduated from graduate school in 2011. We bought a house in 2013. I also got my first full-time librarian job in 2013, and now I’m headed to the library at University of California Merced, the first library I ever volunteered at, in June.

At 31, I am really pleased with where I am. I am happy about where I am in my career and in my relationship with my husband. This is also the best I have ever felt about myself. I have come to accept many things about my(INFJ)self. Here’s a little list. 

  • I have a little rebellious streak. I wish I were a Phryne Fisher, but I’m a Dot who is at least brave enough to team up with Miss Fisher. I did go to both D.C. and Vegas by myself, after all.
  • I am creative. I sometimes wonder if I followed the academic path because I didn’t know any other alternatives.
  • I am a reflector.
  • I am always going to be a little shy. For example, my little secret is that I enjoy singing. But I will die first if you think I will ever reveal that side of me. I have the worst stage fright. Comparable to my fear of heights; just ask my husband about when we went to the Grand Canyon.
  • Underneath my reserved exterior, I am actually a little funny. Like, honestly, I did not see that one coming.

Also, rather than hate myself for not living up to certain standards, particularly expectations of others, I just focus on what I can do with the time and energy I have to give away. Lately, that’s taking care of me, which means no longer saying yes to every project or opportunity that comes my way: I quit that OER adult learning MOOC I mentioned I registered for a few posts back, and I am rethinking my plan to go back to graduate school, also mentioned a few posts back, too. Life is too short to do things you think you have to do, though my little overachieving heart is breaking as I type this.

Here’s to 31!