Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction

During the month of July, I took an online course offered via Library Juice Academy entitled, “Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction” taught by Maria Accardi. Each week, we read a chapter of Accardi’s book, helpfully titled Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction, posted to a discussion board, and interacted with other students’ posts.

I found the book eminently readable: educational, personal, and entertaining. I highly recommend it for anyone remotely interested in this topic. I (gleefully) found that I already had some feminist pedagogical instincts and that it was a short step to infusing my regular teaching practices with a few tweaks to make them more feminist.

Everyone in the class had one learning outcome in common: to better understand feminist theory in terms of pedagogy and what that means for our own library instruction practices. I took it one step further and tacked on being able to explain feminist pedagogy and why it’s important in my own words. As I learned, a big part of feminist theory is making things your own and appreciating different ways of knowing. This is a departure from lecture-style delivery and quantitative assessment that were my go-to techniques.

The major elements of feminist pedagogy that popped out to me are as follows:

  • De-centering the classroom: moving from a traditional, patriarchal, authoritative “sage on the stage” delivering lecture-style lessons to students who are viewed as empty vessels toward more of a “guide on the side” approach who puts the students at the center of the lesson
  • Privileging marginalized voices and ways of knowing: a feminist classroom makes room for alternate ways of knowing, which could take many forms; for the library classroom it raised my awareness of the need for a variety of input mechanisms, not just students raising their hands and giving factual answers on the spot, but perhaps allowing for written answers, story-telling, etc. to make sure voices are heard that may be lost in a conventional classroom
  • Consciousness-raising about societal injustice: considering it a duty to infuse the class with social issues; one excellent example was using search terms that would elicit thought-provoking search results in databases (like “women in engineering”)
  • Ethic of care: “feminist teachers demonstrate sincere concern for their students as people and as learners.” In librarian work, we already talk about our role in creating lifelong learners and equipping students with the skills to interpret information in their daily lives. This one was a no-brainer for me.

The book covers many other issues, for instance Accardi’s critical take on the ACRL framework, feminist approaches to assessment, classrooms and libraries as “neutral” places (spoiler: they aren’t neutral), limitations of feminist pedagogy, what happens when students don’t want to be active participants in their own learning, and how to sell coworkers and faculty on this approach. It also has a healthy dose of encouragement for any librarians/feminists/instructors who want to try something new and feel like they are going out on a limb.

It was really nice to interact with the other students (there was an AD, a public librarian, and a variety of others), but the book is short and engaging and you will certainly feel empowered just by reading it, in lieu of taking the class. Highly recommended! And I’d be more than happy to talk with you about any questions you may have about this post.

TLS Tips: Playing to Learn

As we brought up the Media Lab over the past year, Andy and I have had to think about creative and interesting (well hopefully interesting) ways to ensure that our Media Lab Assistants have a baseline level of skill in the most frequently used digital media programs. Since this software is supposed to help communicate creativity, we really wanted this training to be fun. By the end of the year the students had created individual projects with accompanying tutorials to help reinforce teaching skills as well as digital media software creation skills and we heard from them that they were overall pleased with the training.

What does this have to do with my TLS tip? Well, thanks to Krystal’s last post, I’ve been reflecting on this year and realized that much of it has been focused on encouraging play and experimentation with new tools and software. While I didn’t focus on hot new tech tools like Apple Watches or Google Glass (RIP), I did look at software that could complement teaching like Guide on the Side, Audacity, and Google Forms.  Sometimes the tools worked well and were easy to implement and I could see clear applications for using this tool. Other times, like in the TIS Sandbox where a group of us played with Guide on the Side we encountered some software hiccups, but knowing that this was a common experience made it easier to laugh off and find a workaround.  We were more resilient when encountering software issues when we were together because we could use one another as resources and it was a collaborative learning experience. Going forward into the Fall, we’re going to be experimenting with technology in the classroom once the Learning Labs are open and operational.  There will be training and more opportunities for collaborative learning in these spaces!

In the process of doing research on how best to approach adult acquisition f technology skills, our recently graduated GRA, Grace Atkins, came across a great article about technology and Life Long Learning habits.  Below I’ve excerpted their philosophical approach to lifelong learning, which I feel is especially apt as we head into a  new academic year under new leadership and in brand new learning spaces.

The habits are the following:
1. Begin with the end in mind.
2. Accept responsibility for your own learning.
3. View problems as challenges.
4. Have confidence in yourself as a competent, effective learner
5. Create your own learning toolbox.
6. Use technology to your advantage.
7. Teach/mentor others
7½. Play.

So, I suppose this TLS tip is not so much a tip but instead encouragement to allow yourself to get messy when playing with new things. Even if you don’t see an application for something right away, it might come in handy later.

And, just for fun, here are some of the tools and apps I’ve been playing with recently and why:

  • IFTTT (IF This Then That): Uses “recipes” to connect programs and automate tasks; an easier and slicker Yahoo Pipes.
    How I use it: organize spreadsheets – I get monthly Canvas reports that I tell to upload to a folder in Box.
  • Sunrise.am: An app and web-based calendar that integrates multiple calendar (OWA, Google Calendar, iCal, Facebook events and birthdays)
  • Padlet: An way to create an online bulletin board that integrates audio, images, and video in addition to text. Great for brainstorming and for visual learners.

What tools, software, or web apps are you playing around with?

TLS TIPS: Summertime…and the teaching is easy

The end of the semester always feels weird to me. As classes wind down and I find myself with more open blocks in my calendar, it usually takes me a while to transition from the stop-and-go pace of class planning to the long haul of projects that I have lined up for the summer. It can be all too easy to set the teaching aspect of my job largely aside for a few months, but I know I’ll be better off in the fall if I use the slower pace of summer to work on my teaching practice. I searched online to see if I could find any good ideas for  ways to systematically think about teaching during the summer, and found a post on the ProfHacker blog focused on “looking backward and forward” at the end of the academic semester. While some of the tips are specific to faculty (let’s all be glad we don’t have grades to submit), many of the ideas translate to our work. Here are a few things I plan to do this summer to keep my mind on my teaching and my teaching on my mind.

Review & renew online teaching materials

I often forget that the students I teach are likely to spend more time with the course research guides I create than they spend with me in the classroom. When I’m in a hurry to plan classes, the course guide sometimes becomes an afterthought. Summer is a great time to take an in-depth look at SubjectsPlus guides and other online materials we use and refresh them where needed. I plan to spend some time creating at least one brand new guide for a class that I know I’ll work with in the fall so that when things do get busy, I’ll have a great template to use for other guides. In TLS, we usually review and update our “how-to guides” during the summer. If you see something that needs our attention, let us know.

Revisit conference notes/bookmarks/inspiration

I’m sure we’ve all experienced it. You go to a conference and see tons of great ideas, but jump right back into the fray before you can put anything into action. I’m going to set aside some time this summer to go through my notes from ACRL and find things I want to try in the fall. Since I’ll be revamping a lot of my lesson plans anyway to prepare for our new Learning Labs, this is a great opportunity to take a closer look at my teaching practices overall to make sure they don’t get too stale. I also have a list of articles and links I bookmarked throughout the semester that I didn’t have time to fully investigate. Many of these are related to using technology in the classroom, so I’ll use the summer to make a short list of things I want to try out when the Learning Labs are ready.

Look at data & feedback

I can’t seem to write one of these posts without sneaking in something about assessment. I usually spend a lot of time in the summer analyzing data, so assessment is already on my mind. I think that summer is the perfect time to look for trends in how are students might be changing and what’s working or not working in our teaching. Something I’ve been thinking about lately (and that seems to be reflected in our UGS post-test results) is how difficult it is to fully convey the keyword brainstorming process, especially when students are at the beginning stages of refining their topic selection. I’m not sure how to approach this issue differently (let me know if you have ideas) but the data I’ve been looking at reminded me to think about it. If you have any feedback or data to review, now is the time to do it. If not, personal reflection can help you pinpoint specific areas to focus on.

Before we know it, summer will be over and we’ll be back to the grind. Do you have any tips for using this time to improve your teaching? Please comment if you do.

TLS Tips: Choosing a Topic…during the one shot?

There are two types of one shot instruction sessions – the ones where students arrive with really well-formed and researchable topics in hand – and the rest. I feel like this semester I got mostly the latter.  Don’t we all? Even when the professor assures you that students will have topics in hand, even when you’ve worked with the class in the past.

But conversations with other librarians lately have made me question this approach of emphasizing topic selection before the instruction session. Selecting a topic is research (check out this video from NCSU), afterall, and we want to teach students that research is an iterative process. We have all had the experience of working with a student who has either chosen a topic on which there is little written, or who has written an entire paper and needs to shoehorn in three sources by 5pm.

So, I’ve thought of a few ways to come at teaching students how to choose and refine a topic in the instruction session. This tactic was the most interactive and fun, but I’m eager for suggestions. I’m excited to experiment with it next semester and make the exercise better.

The class was about vampires and they had to compare and contrast vampiric folklore with one of the other texts they were reading in the class. This sort of made topic exploration easier, because basically they had to find themes common in both of the works. So, asking them to follow along, I first I demoed searching Beauty and the Beast OR La belle et la bete (one of their readings) in Academic Search Complete.  I asked them to pull out keywords that they thought were interesting (the key to this is to get students to do all the work). Some of the keywords that came up in the search were desire, queer, sexuality, gender, body image, feminism, violence. Now they had a list of keywords that came up in the titles or subjects that they could brainstorm broader or narrower terms from. We then took those keywords and added them to vampire, as in ‘vampire and queer’. Then we went over how to use AND and OR to diversify your search. Students were excited to play around with how adding and subtracting keywords changed results significantly and sometimes led them down new paths of discovery. We brainstormed what this fake paper would be about and what articles would be most relevant. I thought some of the fake titles the students came up with were great!

Doing topic selection this way allowed me to talk about a few key things we always cover in instruction sessions – how to brainstorm broader and narrower keywords, how to link them up with AND and OR, and, something we don’t typically cover, how to examine a results list in a database quickly and effectively.

During active learning time I worked with students on their keywords and helped them follow their topics down all the winding paths research takes us down. They seemed to be having fun. But, then again, their class is about vampires.

Do you ever go over topic selection in one shots? Please tell me about it!

What We Shared at the Active Learning Sandbox

On March 31, Roxanne and I held an Active Learning Sandbox with  people from around the Libraries who were interested in sharing ideas about how they incorporate active learning into their classrooms.  Here are a few of the many great ideas that were shared.  I’ve put an asterisk next to those that don’t require technology.  I’m sure there are others I failed to capture and ideas out there that other people have.  Feel free to add anything in the comments.

Keywords and Boolean logic:

  • *Think, pair, share:  Have students take their own research topics/questions and turn them into keywords.  Then pair students up, have them share their keywords with each other and give each other ideas.
  • *Finding keywords in a source:  Either give or have students find a source (such as an encyclopedia or an abstract from a paper), have them find keywords within it, and have them use those keywords to build a search.
  • *Stand up, sit down Boolean logic:  Ask students to stand up if they are wearing jeans.  Then ask those who are wearing jeans and have brown hair to stay standing to demonstrate AND.  Then ask students who are wearing jeans or have brown hair to stand to demonstrate OR.  (Play with your terms – it doesn’t have to be jeans and brown hair).
  • Keyword tool:  Bring up the keyword tool for everyone to see and, using a sample topic, fill it out together.  It demonstrates visually how keywords are combined using AND and OR.

Evaluating Sources:

  • *Building evaluation criteria:  Put students in groups and have them review a source (either online or one you’ve printed for them) and write down what criteria they used to determine the source’s credibility.  After giving them time to do this in groups, have each group report out one criteria, discuss it, and add it to the board.  By the end you should have built a list of evaluation criteria together.  This can be used with any type of source and you can either preselect it or have them search for something themselves.  For more details, see this blog post.
  • *Why does this source exist?:  Provide a variety of sources to students, some that would be better for an assignment and some that wouldn’t be.  Use these sources to discuss choosing good sources, with an emphasis on purpose.  Katherine Strickland uses this approach with classes in the Map Room where she shows them different maps of the same place (such as a CIA map and a Chamber of Commerce or Cracker Barrel map) and asks them to evaluate them.
  • *Archival sources: select items from an archival collection (could be print or digital) and ask students to analyze those items with specific questions to answer.  These questions should be customized to the class and materials but could include questions about what you learn by comparing drafts with notes to final printed/published versions, or how the format itself provides meaning.  Kelly kindly shared two examples she and Christian use at the Benson.  If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll send them to you.

Source Types:

  • *Evaluating scholarly sources:  if students have to use peer-reviewed sources but don’t know what they are, instead of telling them what they are, use an activity where they will end up explaining it to you.  Divide them into groups, give them a source either online or one you’ve printed out for them, have them answer a series of questions and then use those answers together as a group to build a definition of what scholarly sources are and how they are useful.  For more details, see this blog post.
  • *Popular versus scholarly:  choose a topic and give students an example of a popular source and a scholarly source on that topic. It could even be a popular source reporting on a scholarly one (ie; a health magazine reporting on a recent scientific study).  Have students explore and discuss the difference between these two source types.
  • *Archival sources: select items from an archival collection (could be print or digital) and ask students to analyze those items with specific questions to answer.  These questions should be customized to the class and materials but could include questions about what you learn by comparing drafts with notes to final printed/published versions, or how the format itself provides meaning.  Kelly kindly shared two examples she and Christian use at the Benson that I am happy to share if you email me.

Choosing and Searching a Tool:

  • Poll everywhere:  Give them a topic such as “Does eating late in the day cause weight gain?” and then ask students to identify at least two databases that are good choices to search for articles on this topic via PollEverywhere.  As students enter their answers and they scroll by, comment on them. (e.g., “Pediatric Nutrition Care Manual is actually a handbook, with chapters, so it’s not a good choice for this particular question, because we need to find articles.” “Academic Search Complete has articles on a variety of subject areas, and has both popular and peer-reviewed articles, so it’s a good starting database for almost any topic.”)
  • *Best tool for the job:  Use a worksheet or a GoogleForm and ask students to consider what type of information they need for their project and where they might find it.  (Ex: statistics from the government; research studies from journals).  You can set this up for students to do in groups if they are working on group projects, individually, or in groups on a topic you give them.  Review and discuss what they come up with and discuss which tools are the best for different information needs.

Other :

  • *How to Read a Scientific Article:  Roxanne teaches this in sections of an upper-division NTR class with a writing flag, where (some) students seriously engage with scientific literature for the first time. Working in pairs, students answer questions about a section—introduction, methods, results, discussion—of a scientific research article. The article title and abstract have been redacted. The pairs of students then compare their answers with the answers of student-pairs who had other sections of the article.
  • *Finding Books:  Laura takes students into the stacks to engage with the art and art history literature.  She writes down call numbers on cards and has groups of students find the books and then report back about what they found.  They learn how the library is organized and how to browse for additional information.

TLS Tips: Trying New Teaching Techniques from Conferences or Colleagues

You discovered a new teaching method, technique, lesson, activity, etc. from a conference or colleague. How can you incorporate it into your own teaching?

Something I picked up from ACRL is the BEAM method. I had heard of it before, but had only seen it used in upper division undergraduate classes (junior and senior research seminars). At ACRL, Meredith Farkas talked about how she used BEAM when teaching first-year students how to do research.[i]So, should I try it with first-years in my own UGS classes? How? I ended up following this path to figure out how to incorporate the new method into my own teaching: Own It, Apply It, Try It.

What is BEAM?
Before I go into my example, I should explain that BEAM was a method created by Joseph Bizup in 2008 to teach research-based writing strategy.[ii] According to Bizup, these are the four main ways you can incorporate outside sources into a paper:
• Background – using a source to provide general information to explain the topic.
• Exhibit – using a source as evidence or examples to analyze.
• Argument – using a source to engage its argument.
• Method – using a source’s way of analyzing an issue to apply to your own issue.[iii]

Own it
BEAM could be taught in a variety of ways: a lecture, a handout or box on a course guide, an active learning activity, etc. Any of those methods of delivery are valid. But when I thought about how I would teach with BEAM, I thought that facilitating a discussion about the four categories would be the best fit for my critical pedagogy.

In the last Classroom Teaching Series (Active Learning Sandbox), Michele and Roxanne talked about developing authentic teaching styles. What works from one person might not work for you. Can you own the technique and make it yours? Maybe not, maybe so. You may need to tweak the delivery of a certain kind of lesson so that it works for you.

Apply it
I wasn’t sure that a discussion on BEAM would apply in any of my one-shot sessions. But I kept the idea in the back of my mind. And sure enough, an opportunity presented itself. A multi-section class had an assignment that required them to find only one source outside of the course materials. I anticipated that students would struggle to find one “perfect” source, and I thought it might help if they approached the search by thinking critically about how they would use an outside source to strengthen their paper: Would the outside source provide context (Background), act as an example to analyze (Exhibit), engage with the argument they’re making (Argument), or provide a framework for how to make their own arguments (Method)?

Try it
Before trying it out in class, I came up with a strategy for some formative assessment. To measure whether or not BEAM worked (for me and for this class), I had these two questions:
1. Were students engaged in the discussion?
2. Did they then use BEAM vocabulary when consulting with me during active learning?

In the first section, the conversation resonated with the students and they were, indeed, using the BEAM vocabulary to ask me questions. Example of a student question: “I’m comparing these two films, but I want to talk about how they are a product of the times. So, I need a Background source. What is a good database that can provide some historical background?” Having this vocabulary and understanding definitely made stuents more strategic about their searching before they even asked me a question. Most students decided to use the course materials as Exhibits and to use their one outside source as Background or Argument. After determining that it worked, I decided to move forward and use it in the next two sections and it also resonated with those students.

Moving forward
I’m still thinking about other ways to use BEAM for other classes. Whether you are using BEAM or any other new teaching technique, remember to Own it, Apply it, Try it.

For more information on BEAM:
Rubick, Kate. “Flashlight: Using Bizup’s BEAM to Illuminate the Rhetoric of Research” (presentation, Library Instruction West, Portland, OR, July 7, 2014). http://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/liw_portland/Presentations/Material/10/
Woodward, Kristin M. and Ganski, Kate L., “BEAM Lesson Plan” (2013). UWM Libraries Instructional Materials. Paper 1. http://dc.uwm.edu/lib_staff_files/1

[i] Meredith Farkas, “Good for What? Teaching Sources for Sustainable Lifelong Information Literacy” (presentation, Association of College and Research Libraries, Portland, OR, March 25-28, 2015).

[ii] Joseph Bizup. “BEAM: A Rhetorical Vocabulary for Teaching Research-Based Writing.” Rhetoric Review 27, no.1 (2008): 72-86. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07350190701738858#.VTaHdCFVhBc

[iii] “How to Use a Source: The BEAM Method,”Hunter College Libraries, last modified 2014, http://library.hunter.cuny.edu/research-toolkit/how-do-i-use-sources/beam-method

TLS Tips: Lowering the Stakes to Teaching with Technology

When I began teaching, incorporating active learning into my class plan was a big step. It meant that I may have to field unexpected questions, realize I didn’t have all the answers, and have to think on my feet.  [Sidenote: I think this is the perfect librarian job description].  It meant that I needed to let go of control and share the teaching responsibility with students to truly be more of a guide on the side.
So, if you’re just getting started with the idea of integrating active learning into your teaching, adding in technology may sound a bit overzealous. Anything and everything can go wrong with technology, right? Well, I’d like to share a few examples and techniques that may lower the stakes to using technology meaningfully as part of your pedagogical practice in different kinds of teaching environments and situations. I hope these examples will help illustrate how some of these tools could facilitate not only more active learning but also meaningful dialogue and teaching. And also, there’s a lot that can go right with technology, too!
Using GoogleDocs for Group Work and Collaborative Discussion
Previous TLS tips have name checked GoogleDocs or GoogleForms for integrating active learning. I’m going to go a little bit further in-depth to explain how I set this up and why I take my particular approach.
Most, if not all, of the learning outcomes I identify for UGS classes aim to discuss source evaluation. As Krystal mentioned in her previous TLS tip, I prefer to have the students do this exploration and discovery on their own in groups and then come together to share their experience. During the larger group discussion, I try reiterate the most important takeaways of source evaluation.
Here’s a few examples of GoogleDocs that I’ve used in the past to get students working in groups:
  • Exhibit 1 : Prof. Min Liu’s class
    About the class: 65 min total in a computer lab classroom in SZB. The students worked in groups for 15 min and then the report out took about 30 minutes, which was longer than I originally allotted for but the discussion was really fruitful.Document design: This is an openly editable GoogleDoc so students do not need to login to edit which means that there are FERPA fewer issues. I selected a topic based on the students assignments and then found a variety of sources that would enable us to cover multiple aspects of evaluation. I added the “final answer” of Read It, Skip It, or Cite It to help reinforce the idea that research is an iterative process and that background information can come in many different containers (not just Wiki/Encyclopedia articles). I link these documents to the class’s course guide (in this instance, this one) so they can find everything all in one place.How I use it:  As the students are working, I have each of the Docs opened in different browser tabs and toggle back and forth between them. I actually project their documents up on the screen so they know I’m paying attention; i think they also like to look and see how far other groups have gotten and that provides some motivation.  As I’m looking through, I note (mentally, digitally, or analog) which groups have covered a particular point I want to highlight as well as something that I want to discuss further with them. I make sure to start out with one thing they’ve done well since often students can be shy to share and talk about their work in front of the class.

    Changes: Over time I added “Whys” to some of these questions because I wanted the students to delve deeper into their answer. Additionally, this really helped our class discussion because I could see their thought process.

  • Exhibit 2, Form + Responses : Prof. Charumbira’s class
    About the class: 75 minutes total and this took up the entire class. The is the second of two classes I taught for Prof. Charumbira and this took up the entire class session.Document design:  Since we had already had one session about source evaluation, the second session was focused on getting the students to be able to understand the types of resources available to them.  Through assigning each group a different resource to find using tips from the course research guide, the students filled out the form with one student assigned as the recorder so there weren’t multiple entries for each group, a bit of difference from using the GoogleDoc for class activities.How I use it:  I circulate as students fill out the form; those that have identified their       source as a book are free to go into the stacks to retrieve the book (I make sure ahead of time it’s in PCL.) As in the exercise above, I pull up the Google Spreadsheet and check-in noting some of the points I’d like the group to discuss. In this activity in particular, I also ask the students to provide their feedback on the research process so we can also talk about that. This gives me an opportunity to see what I’ve missed covering and where I need to make changes for next year.

    Changes: I wanted to focus the students on a the questions and creating a GoogleForm over a GoogleDoc enabled me to do this. GoogleForms limit the participation, but I think it also sort of forces students to talk. In the future, I would also definitely think about asking students to fill out the form ahead of time, and then discuss their answers in groups or as a larger discussion if there wasn’t available technology in the classroom.

I hope this gives a little bit more insight into some of the ways that just one form of technology can be integrated into the classroom and can help facilitate discussion. Students are very familiar with the Google Suite of tools so hopefully using this tool won’t be as scary as some others.  If you are interested in creating something similar or have an idea about translating a paper activity into something digital, I’d love to hear about and/or help!

TLS Tips: Strategies for Classes with Lots of Active Learning

I recently worked with our TLS GRA, Grace, to prepare for and teach a set of instruction sessions that consist entirely of teaching students about evaluating information. I always look forward to this class because it gives me the unique opportunity to spend an entire class period focusing on a single learning outcome. Any time I get a chance to plan a class with a narrow focus, I immediately think about active learning. Me lecturing about evaluation for an entire class period sounds like a painful experience for all involved, and in my experience, students learn this skill better by talking with one another and working through examples.

The basic class plan included students working in groups to read a short assigned article (different kind of articles on the same topic), then answer a set of questions in Google Forms designed to lead them through info evaluation. After that activity, we had each table report out on what kind of information they had, its strengths and weaknesses, and whether they would recommend it for a friend considering trying a specific diet (the topic of the articles). We then had a class discussion on different information formats and their possible uses. Although I’ve been teaching with active learning for years, I still get nervous before leading a class that relies almost entirely on student engagement. I’d like to share a few strategies and challenges I typically think about when planning active learning sessions.

1) Set expectations for participation early and often. I told students from the start that there would be lots of group work and class discussions. This probably wasn’t surprising, as the setup of the tables in PCL 1.124 naturally lends itself to group work. Before beginning the activity, I had students designate one group “recorder” and one “reporter.” This gets them talking and makes it difficult for each student to work through the example independently. While they worked, I walked around and reminded quiet groups to work together, clarified that they only needed to submit the form once per group, etc.

2) Come with flexible plans. In classes like this, I usually plan more activities than I think there will be time for. While it may seem like overkill, this has saved me more than once when classes work through an activity more quickly than I expect. My backup plan was to have them work together to find a “better” article than the one they were assigned if time allowed. As it turned out, the first activity took so long that I had to cut some of the debrief time. I was ready for this possibility, and Grace and I chatted after the first class to come up with strategies for time management in the following classes.

3) Outline the most important points you want to debrief. This is something I continue to find challenging. You never know if students are going to report out all the salient points you want to cover, or if you’re going to need to guide them there. If I’m not careful, I find myself going off topic during discussions and debrief sessions. Sometimes writing things on the board can help with this, but I find that providing students with a structured way of reporting back helps too. If I provide myself with an outline of the essential points I want to hit, I am more likely to facilitate a focused discussion.

4) Assess! And share that info with faculty. I love using Google Forms for these kinds of activities, because I can watch groups’ answers roll in in real time on my iPad, and I can easily share their work with faculty afterwards. Faculty often overestimate students’ evaluation skills, so I like being able to show them exactly where their students are at. This information also helps me plan future sessions and refine my approaches and activity materials.

What are your strategies for leading active learning sessions?

TLS Tips: Building an Arsenal of Active Learning Activities (and alliteration)

A few weeks ago,  about 30 staff from across the UT Libraries got together to give TLS input to help us plan the classroom teaching series.  This is a series of workshops to be held this spring and next fall to support people as classroom teachers in all types of classrooms, from the traditional auditorium classroom to the technology-rich active learning classrooms we are planning for the Learning Commons.  The common theme of the input was active learning.  In fact, our first workshop on March 10 from 1-2pm will be about getting started with active learning for people new to it and those who want a refresher.   If you are interested, you can RSVP here and also see and RSVP for other workshops planned for the spring.

I thought I would get the conversation started by asking you to share what you do and sharing something I am doing.   First, you!   Please take a moment to fill out this GoogleForm with something you do in class that you think works well.  If you want to share more than one thing, fill it out multiple times.  I’ll compile the results and share them so we can begin to build a bank of activities we can all use.  Since most of what we do in TLS is focused on the non-major freshman, it would be especially fantastic to get examples of what you like to do with your majors and your upper division students.  So, let me just thank you in advance for sharing!

Ok, now me.  Today I had a class of freshmen who had to use 10-12 peer-reviewed articles for their research paper.  Although they’ve read a few for their course this semester, they didn’t know it and hadn’t discussed what one is and why people write and read them.  I decided to  start out with an activity where they would discover for themselves what a peer-reviewed article is and why all their professors want them to read them.  That would inform everything else in the class from brainstorming keywords to choosing a database and searching.  Here was my plan:

–          Select one popular and one scholarly source on the same topic and link them from the SubjectsPlus course guide as Article 1 and Article 2.  (It would also be great to find a scholarly article and then a popular one reporting about the scholarly article, but that didn’t work out for this class topic.)

–          Break the students into groups and ask them to review both articles and answer a series of questions.  You could do this in a GoogleForm or give them these questions in paper. Give them about 15-20 minutes to do this.

–          Have groups report out and use what they say to facilitate a conversation about the differences between scholarly and popular sources and when you might want to use one or the other.  As you take notes on what they say on a white board or a document on your computer, you could build a popular versus scholarly grid.

Due to the power outage causing us to get a late start, I wasn’t able to do this full exercise as planned  but I did have them look at the scholarly article and, as a group, we figured out the characteristics together and I wrote them on the board.  This worked pretty well and one girl even took a picture of the board.   That never happens and it made me really happy.

I hope you will take a moment to share what you do or try out the above exercise in full and let me know how it went.

TLS Tips: Designing Meaningful Archives-based Assignments

Some of us are lucky to work with faculty or staff who incorporate our campus’s fantastic special collections into their work. And some of us wish our students worked with these collections more and wonder what we can do to encourage curiosity for these one of a kind objects. Seeking a richer dialog surrounding archives and special collections based assignments for undergraduates, I co-developed, with a then-lecturer in English, a half-day workshop for faculty in spring 2014. Too often archive and special collection based assignments result in tours or show and tell affairs. As librarians and archivists, we recognize that archives offer rich possibilities for undergraduate teaching and learning and want to encourage faculty using archives in their classes to create meaningful assignments that support course objectives.

My involvement in this conversation came about because of the Gem requirement for UGS classes. We in TLS and other librarians with whom we collaborate wanted to find a way to link the information literacy requirement with the Gem requirement. As a preliminary step, I sought out partnerships across campus to learn more about what a fruitful engagement with an archive or special collection can look like. This included joining a campus-wide archives working group (co-chaired by T-Kay) and building deeper partnerships with campus archives and special collections in order to facilitate the exchange of ideas surrounding this topic.  All across campus and disciplines, I found individuals who were excited about getting undergraduates in the archives.

The resulting workshop was designed for faculty wishing to integrate the use of archives and special collections into their undergraduate courses either in a short term manner or in a semester long engagement. We communicated useful information about how faculty can work with archivists and librarians on archives-based assignments and projects, the logistics and preparation required for bringing students into archives, working with archivists and incorporating their expertise into the engagement, and integrating the use of digital archives into the classroom. We also shared examples of archives-based assignments that could be adapted into their courses.

There is still so much work to be done around this topic! I’m excited to be presenting at ACRL this spring, in poster format, some of the work I did. I hope to meet people from other institutions who have thought creatively about this issue.

Here is the guide we made for faculty attending the workshop. Would you guys like to see this workshop adapted for librarians? What would you like to know? What would you like to share? Email me!