Monday, February 2, 2009

Library Instruction Realities

melt, sunshine

The spring semester is in full swing, and so I'm back in the classroom trying to teach information literacy to our college students. As I think I've mentioned before, I'm glad to be working in a library that doesn't teach information literacy as an abstract idea but tries to integrate it into specific assignments for classes. So our instruction program doesn't spend much time and energy on the 'how to use the library'-type of classes; rather, we teach students how to use the library in the context of an assignment, and let them explore independently from there.

As this is a fairly big part of my job, I've taken on the responsibility of learning a few things about pedagogical theory. I won't bore everyone with that here, but I'm finding that theory is frequently unhelpful when it comes to physically being in the classroom. Here are some examples of what I mean:

First, creating interactive lessons can be REALLY hard when I'm smashing everything into 20-30 minutes. (The famous one-shot library lesson.) I'm all for inspiring students to be independent learners, and trying to make research interesting, but I'm lucky if there's sufficient time to cover everything -- just the basics! -- never mind do anything interesting like play a game or get a little discussion/audience participation going. (Sometimes this sounds like an excuse to me, though.)

Second, it's very easy to let extraneous details creep into the lesson. When I try to integrate past students' questions into what I'm talking about, I end up covering certain 'how-to' details that are less relevant to the overall lesson and may instead be confusing and overwhelming. (I recently heard this attempt to tell the students everything called 'librarian mouth.')

Third, I'm noticing that what motivates students to do well in a class is the grade, rather than some touchy-feely desire to become better people and lifelong learners. At least, they're fine if they become lifelong learners, but only if they get a good grade for it. (And this reflects our standards-driven culture, so it's not the students' fault.) But I can play that game: rather than expect them to naturally be in the thrall of the library, I only teach classes where the library component directly applies to a graded assignment. (Very glad to be backed up here by my department. On a side note, why is it so hard for us to admit that hardly anyone wants to learn information literacy for fun?)

In any case, I'm always trying to be a better instructor & teach information literacy more effectively, so I'm sure this topic will come up here again in the future...

1 comment:

  1. "On a side note, why is it so hard for us to admit that hardly anyone wants to learn information literacy for fun?"

    Why is it so hard to admit that hardly anyone wants to learn ANYTHING for fun?