Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Becoming a Better Teacher


Over the past several semesters, I think I've become a better teacher.

What I mean is, I'm slowly attaining the delicate balance of imparting something valuable rather than just giving away answers. It's a fine line between being perceived as useless (or worse, lazy) and being credited with helping a student learn something, and librarians are usually not recognized for their teaching capacities. Yet though I was never trained to be a teacher, I'm slowly picking it up, checking my initial impulse to 'give' everything away. I'm starting teach students to fish rather than giving them fish, so to speak.

Interestingly, in lectures and in-person interactions, this balance is difficult but not impossible to achieve, but I find it much more challenging when it comes to web design. There, you want to encourage certain behaviors (eg. use the catalog to find books) but it's so much easier to provide a list of books, for example. And online there are alternatives -- to persist with the example, if you create a complicated page explaining how to use the catalog to find books, students will turn elsewhere. I think learning how to function online is a repeated process of acting --> reacting --> acting (trial and error). Whereas, in a classroom or interpersonal experience, the learning process is closer to reading or listening --> absorbing --> acting.

I'm still mulling this over, but it has a lot of implications for how we should be designing our online library services to be truly useful to students.

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