LOEX 2021: day 4

This will be the last LOEX post until I have watched the videos they will publish. As I have said before, I often prefer to have everything from one day in the same post, even though the blog posts get loooong that way. I just think it is easier to see connections etc. this way. I don’t know whether I’ll just add on the original posts when I have seen the recordings or if I’ll write them up separately, but .. we’ll see. Anyway, I managed to catch two sessions on Friday night. The first one was the best.

Strengthening your teaching philosophy through reflection on your beliefs about teaching and learning

Ashlynn Kogut from Texas A&M University said that though it is not strictly necessary to write your own teaching philosophy, it is highly recommended. A teaching philosophy is about expressing how you think about student learning, what kind of teaching role you want to have etc.

Schönwetter, Sokal, Friesen & Taylor's quote on what a teaching philosophy is and nine components of a teaching philosophy
[Screen dump from presentation]

The first two rows of the model above are probably the ones that are the most tangible and easiest to incorporate in a teaching philosophy, while the last row, i.e. Assessment and evaluation, outcomes and professional development, is harder to explain in a teaching philosophy.

Kogut’s own teaching philosophy is about student-centered teaching, active learning, developing the students’ confidence, the need for reflection and a connection to the curriculum/assignments. Librarians often have a clear strategy and plan for teaching, but Kogut said that most probably don’t think a lot about why we do what we do or have a clear philosphy in mind.

Kogut is working on her thesis, and she did a literature review on on the job instruction training and the roles librarians embrace and emphasise. Wheeler & McKinney (2015) wrote a good article about this, Kogut said. Do we think of ourselves as teachers? Are we valued as such? The outer factors influence how we feel about ourselves.

Kogut found that there is not always a connection between the literature (+ expectations) and the reality when it comes to the teacher role. The ACRL expects us to consider ourselves as pedagogues, but many librarians in real life have too little training, and may even have some reservations to the teacher role or even resisting it.

screen dump on teaching beliefs and learning beliefs.
[screen dump from presentation]

Kogut has done interviews with librarians in connection with her thesis. She found that librarians are generally interested in finding out what the students’ needs are. They want to understand the students’ needs, and what level they are at, and do not want to force them to be where the librarians are at [starting point/level/understanding]. (Clumsily written, I know.. My notes were a little sketchy here.) The librarians also wanted to understand the students’ affective and emotional needs, and put emphasis on being compassionate and understanding. The librarians wanted to respect the previous knowledge and experiences of students (hello, critical pedagogy – there you were!:) and to acknowledge that they might have knowledge unknown to us.

Most people agree that there are multiple ways to teach and learn, and that our preferences might not be the same as the students’ preferences. The process of learning often include interaction with others, learning by doing and reflection. Students don’t often learn something by just hearing a lecture or watching a video. Most need to be activated a little, and they need time to think.

The next thing struck a chord with me, as it is something I have tried to talk about so many times. Students need to understand WHY they should write about something or solve a problem. Teachers don’t always take the time to talk about this, and Kogut found that many librarians are trying to take on the role of putting things into context. How can the students use this in their profession, their internships or in other papers? Librarians often talk about this. Most also agree that students need to have their emotional needs fulfilled before they are ready to learn. They need to be emotionally ready, to feel empowered and to be connected and active in the learning process.

So what happens to us when there are conflicts between your beliefs (teaching philosophy) and the reality of teaching? The lecture is often the standard mode of teaching, even though we know that it has great limitations when it comes to learning. Maybe the reason why so many prefer the lecture is that it feels safe, easy and controllable? (I have written about this, too. I really think this is the reason. It’s not just the time issues.) It suits the library culture. We have to find a way to align ourselves to our beliefs, Kogut said.

Truly excellent session, this. As a part of my course in pedagogy for higher education, my first assignment was to write my pedagogical credo. It wasn’t really until years later that I got why that was a great assignment. I really hope that we’ll be focussing a little on teaching philosophy in the near future. It is a great way of knowing who you are and what you believe in.

Reaching higher with scaffolded learning

Christina Hillman and Mia Breitkopf from St. John Fisher College talked about the transition from one-shots to an integrated four-year developmental program. Hillman and Breitkopf talked about how the college has made some big changes in how the students move through their programs. Until fairly recently they have had a few obligatory courses, and they have been able to pick the rest in a free fashion (as long as some requirements have been met) whereas now they are following or keeping more to a laid path. The librarians felt like this transition has given them more liberty, as it is less focus on forming personal relationships with faculty and negotiations to gain access to students. There will also be less need and requests for the one-shot seeing as the courses are pre-determined.

Hillman and Breitkopf talked about a scaffold they have used to be able to say no to one-shots:

[Screen dump from presentation]

They explained that now, when teachers ask for one-shots, they are able to say what the students have already had when it comes to lessons and content because they follow a certain path. They are able to give the teachers the previous learning outcomes and lesson plans.

Hillman and Breitkopf also talked about how they have described learning outcomes for the entire information literacy (almost like the National Qualifications Framework, I thought, by the description), and it looks very comprehensive, but the librarians emphasised that they do not do all the teaching themselves. The learning outcomes have been developed in collaboration with faculty and they plan on using the outcomes together.

Hillman and Breitkopf explained that they are using HEDS, and if I understand correctly, this is a standardised research practices survey. The librarians are doing a lot of assessment, and have started to use a posttest system to evaluate the learning outcome. They are currently designing and planning a new course for juniors where they, among other things, will be focussing on citation tracking, as they believe that this will improve the students’ knowledge about citation types.

Disclaimer: I was really starting to feel that it had been a very long week at this point in the session, and it was Friday night here. I cannot guarantee, therefore, that I have understood everything here. I think I should point that out before I present my thoughts here.

My thoughts on this session:

I have been teaching for almost 16 years. At my university, most of the courses taught at my campus have been designed to be taken in a certain order. We are therefore used to the students following designed paths through their years with us. Maybe it will be different for St. John Fisher College library, but I have to say – I am always negotiating with teachers for access, there is no less need for good integration and personal relationships, and there is no less requests for one-shots. Still, I feel like I have always had the right to turn down requests if I have felt like the one-shot was out of context or it was not connected to an assignment.

Another thing that struck me was that it seemed like Hillman and Breitkopf have fallen into the “trap” that they think that what is taught is learned. To me, showing a teacher that I have already given a lecture on something and telling the teacher about the learning outcomes I used for the students two years ago, would be a useless exercise, and it does no good. How well do you remember something said to you out of context two years ago in a lecture? I mean.. that is just not how I see this thing working. If you want to say no to a one-shot because you can see that it would be to no avail or just not have the effect that you are after (perhaps because the timing is wrong, or you know that you are being called in as a substitute teacher without context) – well then, suggest an alternative, by all means, or say no. I just don’t think that saying no because you can say that you have said the same thing before is a good idea.

I just felt like there was a lot of behaviourism in the philosophy here. Testing for learning outcome, assessment all the time etc. I don’t know that I felt very connected to the ideas here. The citation idea for juniors can be a good idea.

I am highly in favour of developing more embedded programs and a closer collaboration (a real collaboration) with faculty where we are seen as valuable partners that can be involved in planning, teaching/ co-teaching and assessment, and I am often highly sceptical of the one-shot standard and the skewed power relations between the librarians and the faculty, but still.. I don’t know if this is the way forward. I don’t think that a standardised program, one-size fits all, embedded program will work better than an authentic, contextualised collaboration, even with some one-shots here and there. But again.. it might have been the time difference and the Friday night thing that made me misunderstand this whole session.