As the TLS GRA, I’ve spent the fall semester co-teaching UGS courses with everyone in the TLS department. The insight I’ve gained from observing and practicing different teaching styles and techniques has been invaluable. For this TLS Tip, I suggest that librarians who teach offer observational opportunities to other GRAs working in the libraries. Having a GRA observe your teaching can benefit both the GRA and yourself.
Most library jobs in Research and Instruction Services require a certain amount of teaching, but it’s difficult for new grads to make the leap from instruction theories learned in class to practical application. As one new librarian phrased it, “understanding pedagogical principles is one thing, applying them in front of thirty intimidating freshmen is quite another.” For students in library school, opportunities to actively observe library instruction sessions are difficult to come by.
When approached using PROT methodology, having a GRA observe your teaching can benefit you as an instructor. Peer Review of Teaching involves having a short meeting before the classroom observation to communicate your learning outcomes, and then having a debrief meeting after the classroom observation to discuss how those learning outcomes were reached. Having these dialogues with a GRA during planning and assessment can provide you with a fresh perspective and insight on your tried-and-true teaching methods.
To ensure that the GRA takes an active role in this observational process, I recommend providing your GRA with some points for him or her to focus on during observation that you can later discuss during your post-teaching meeting. Examples from Mentoring in Librarianship include:
- A recounting of what took place, a simple observation
- Which teaching proficiencies is the librarian is adept or excels at?
- How is the teaching reflective of your beliefs about librarianship and teaching, and where, if at all, does it conflict?
- Where in the session did students seem engaged, and to what does the GRA attribute their interest?
- Did the GRA observe any activities he or she would like to recreate in his or her own teaching? Why?
Remember that the purpose isn’t to evaluate your teaching, but to have a formative discussion about how and why you teach the way you do. My mentors and I have had many beneficial post-teaching discussions and it would be great for more GRAs to have that experience.
Enjoy the new semester!
 Aldridge, Emily Rae. “What they didn’t tell me in library school is that my colleagues would be my biggest asset.” from “What They Didn’t Tell Me (or what I didn’t hear) in Library School: Perspectives from New Library Instruction Professionals.” Reference & User Services Quarterly 52, no. 1 (2012) 28-29.
 Alabi, Jaena, and Weare, William H. “The Power of Observation: How Librarians can Benefit from the Peer Review of Teaching Even Without a Formal PROT Program” (presentation, Georgia International Conference on Information Literacy, Savannah, 23 Aug 2013).
 Smallwood, Carol and Tolley-Stokes, Rebecca.Mentoring in Librarianship: Essays on Working with Adults and Students to Further the Profession (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2011) 210.