Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning

Booth, Char. Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning: Instructional Literacy for Library Educators. Chicago: American Library Association, 2011. Print.

Hello there–I hope everyone is having a happy October! This is the month where school often takes off at full speed. Projects and papers are beginning to be due, midterms are just around the corner, and of course, you can’t forget the fall festivities and fabulous amounts of candy just waiting to be consumed!

Despite the fact that I will be caught up in all of this (as I am a graduate student as well), I am trying to take the time to “reflect” on my teaching practices in library instruction as I begin to observe and co-teach more classes this fall. In order to do this, I have begun reading Char Booth’s excellent book Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning. This is an ALA publication that (already, even though I have not finished reading it) I think everyone who is involved with library instruction should read or at least glance at from time to time. Booth, a former UT iSchool student, gives a very practical and customizable model for framing the life-cycle of successful library classes: from inception to assessment (xviii).

However, I’d like to focus on something that Booth states in the beginning of the book. This statement really struck a chord with me, and has made me think more about my interactions with students while teaching and observing in library classes. Booth asserts that “As librarians, we are nerds for knowledge. By making information more findable, usable, and interpretable, we help others in their quest for specialization. This makes us nerd enablers–and therefore more accurately described as uber- or meta-nerds” (4). I have always identified with “nerd” culture and as someone who has wanted to work either in education or higher education for a long time, I would even describe myself as someone who has a passion for sharing knowledge, indeed: a “knowledge nerd.” Booth recognizes that many librarians feel this way–this passion for sharing knowledge resources is why libraries exist in the first place (4). But as librarians, we must be careful to realize that library users and students don’t necessarily think the same way that we do. We want to enable someone with a passion to learn about what inspires them–but sometimes people (especially new students), haven’t figured out what that passion is and so have not reached an expert status or the “self-directed learner” (4) status that the library has been built to serve. If we reflect on this fact that libraries have really been designed for “knowledge nerds” as we are, I think we can see just how important library instruction is for our users and our students. It’s not just a way we can communicate our knowledge, it is also a way that users and students can engage with our resources for the first (or maybe the zillionth) time without feeling lost or hopeless if they haven’t achieved the level of self-directed learner.

I sincerely hope that everyone who is a library instructor or has some part in library instruction will take a look at Reflective Teaching. So far it has been very helpful to me as a new instructor–and I haven’t even completed the book!

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