Category Archives: Bibliographic Instruction is Dead

Students’ Own Interests Will Drive the School Day of the Future

Came across this Mind/Shift article via twitter and though it’s a couple years old it’s worth sharing. Nice to see thinking about our education system catching up with the extensive research in this area.

An excerpt:

I think if many of the innovators I see working in the sector today are successful, we’ll see a school experience that looks significantly different in 2020 than it does today. Technology will play a role, but the key changes will have been in educational approach not technology.

Interest-driven learning, with a focus on projects that are relevant to individual students, will be key.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bibliographic Instruction is Dead, Education, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel, Quotes, Uncategorized

Great Articles in Library Science: “Lab-Integrated Librarians: Engagement with Unreachable Researchers”

Our friend Alex Carroll recently published an article with his North Carolina State University colleagues Bertha Chang and Honora Eskridge that I think is really great and wanted to draw our readers’ attention to. The paper, “Lab-Integrated Librarians: Engagement with Unreachable Researchers,” outlines a novel way that their team of STEM librarians has been able to embed themselves in live, authentic research situations at engineering students’ moment of information need. Rather than waiting for the engineering students at NC State to come to them, these librarians engaged in a learner-centered outreach project where they actually joined the research work groups of engineering faculty and students, thereby allowing them to assist with research questions students had in real time. I highly encourage you to read the entire paper, as I think it’s inspiring for how subject liaisons can work with their stakeholders in dynamic, learner-centered ways.

Though there are many things I think we can learn from this article, there’s two points that happen to strike my own fancy;  both transfer to lots of contexts aside from those specifically discussed in the article. One of the things I think is most interesting about the article is how clearly it demonstrates the openness and willingness of faculty members to collaborate with librarians on novel approaches to connecting with students for the purpose of facilitating successful research experiences. Over the years I’ve had many experiences, either hearing things anecdotally or having other librarians say to me directly, something to the effect that their experience with faculty is that they aren’t interested in substantial pedagogical support from librarians aside from the usual one-shot on pointing and clicking.  For example, early on in my career I had several colleagues tell me that all this pedagogy stuff I was talking about was well and good – it’s interesting and all that –  but faculty won’t want to hear it. This was, quite literally, the exact opposite of my experience to that point and it usually only took expressing a basic interest in pedagogy, collaboration, and evidence-based approaches to research instruction in order to initiate pretty robust campus collaborations.

So I really was interested in the authors’ statement that initiating this quite substantive collaboration was much less complicated than one might think:

Getting into research groups was surprisingly easy – in each case it simply involved asking the principal investigator, explaining why we wanted to do it, and what we were hoping to learn.

This resonates directly with my own experience. I’ve typically found that if you approach a faculty member about a teaching strategy, approach, or intervention that you think can help support and improve their students’ research – especially when you can articulate pedagogical reasons drawn from previous literature, research data, or data you’re hoping to collect that seem to indicate that this will be so- it’s exceedingly rare that they aren’t interested in collaborating with you in a meaningful way. As the authors of this paper point out, literally all you have to do is ask.

A second point I really appreciated and wanted to draw attention to is the authors’ response to a question that people are often wont to ask whenever someone presents them with a new teaching idea: “But how does it scale?”

I know this question is supposed to, like, sound smart and all, but it’s never particularly seemed that way to me, and I think the authors get at the underlying reasons for this nicely in the following passage:

One question that many will ask is, does a program like this scale? The answer is that it doesn’t, because it isn’t meant to. We do not see this program as a service — library services (instruction, access services) attempt to scale to the whole campus population. Embedding in research groups is more akin to statistical sampling or user research methods, a means of getting some data on what users are doing that can help inform decisions and policy on library collections and services. Viewing this initiative as a needs assessment, rather than a service, informed our decision to use ethnography for capturing our impact. While our ethnographic methodology does not provide empirical measurements of whether we are altering our researchers’ information seeking behavior, it captures how services can be offer through this model of engagement, while also providing us with authentic needs assessments of our communities without subjecting our users to time-consuming forms or surveys.

In any case, the primary goal of this effort has always been community building, which involves developing relationships one-by-one. To put it more plainly, relationships don’t scale [KMK emphasis].

There’s a number of things I like about this passage, but let me start by saying that what I appreciate about this passage is the idea that lack of scalibility is not synomymous with lack of quality. In fact, I think that in many cases it may actually be the opposite. I think that most good reference or instruction with fundamentally be characterized by individual encounter: our ability to tailor our instruction to a unique individual or group’s needs. For example, it takes me way longer to read a particular syllabus, read that classes’ specific assignment, and design a tailored instruction session with a unique modeling scenario for each a particular class I teach, than it would to do a generic “demo” for the class.  But the former is good pedagogy that gets me invited back, integrates me into students lives, and helps me build relationships with other faculty, whereas the latter almost always bores students and makes us seem much less relevant to faculty. In other words, the demo scales, but it’s not really the kind of things that’s worth scaling. In short, I’d much rather librarians spent a ton of time doing “non-scaling” things (whatever that means, exactly) that are quality, than doing generic demos and then spending the next ten hours making a lib guide.

A second thing I really like about this passage is the importance of relationships for information literacy instruction and curriculum building. In our new book Learner-Centered Pedagogy, Dani and I devote an entire chapter to the research on the importance of positive student-teacher/librarian relationships for effective learning.

The same is true for collaborating with faculty. Just like we want to be student-centered in our practices, we want to be faculty-centered in our collaboration. That is, we want to build relationships of mutual trust with faculty members, by giving them innovative methods for helping them do the thing they care about and enlisted us to do: help students improve their research. When we can demonstrate our effectiveness in achieving this goal, it’s been my experience that we can take projects to a large level of “scale.” And my opinion of that has always been the following: as a manager, info lit coordinator, or just a person trying to teach info lit, I’d always rather devote librarians time, resources, and creative energies toward personalized teaching that makes a real difference to students, than do things of “scale” that take very little librarian time and resources but that … don’t really work all that well.  So though this point is not necessarily central to the outreach done in this particular article, I think their response to this possible objection makes a very important point that is worth paying attention to.

At any rate, these are just my takes on the article – I encourage you to take a look at it. I think there’s a lot to learn from it (and a lot that ties into Dani’s previous discussion of teaching librarians as well).

Leave a comment

Filed under Bibliographic Instruction is Dead, Education, Library Instruction, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel, The Library Game

What Does It Mean to be a Teaching Librarian?

This summer, my department is in the midst of an organizational transition, as we move from a traditional, disciplinary-bound reference department to a “Teaching & Learning” team. I’m excited to undertake this work alongside some really amazing colleagues (and you can bet your buttons that we’ll be writing and presenting on this process in the future), but this context is (for now) only to set the stage for why I’m thinking about the question in the title of this post.

As I’ve been thinking about what a library department of teaching and learning looks like, I’ve been considering what makes someone a teaching librarian (as opposed to a librarian who happens to teach, or a teacher, or some other category of educator). What are the qualities that are unique to this group of professionals, that position us to engage in the work of information literacy instruction?

I started by looking at ACRL’s recently released Roles and Strength of Teaching Librarianswhich is pretty useful for thinking about qualities that teaching librarians need to have in order to be successful in their work. There’s a nifty little graphic in the report that shows the various roles that a teaching librarian may need to embody:

Hats off to the committee who put together this report, as it’s helped me to think through goals for a teaching and learning department, and areas where we might need to grow. I certainly self-identify with most (if not all) of these roles, but it still didn’t really help me get at the librarian part of the teaching librarian equation. Basically, if my professional identity is about being a librarian (hint: it is), then how can I view my role and strengths as an educator more explicitly through that lens?

School librarians in K-12 institutions are often explicitly “teacher-librarian” positions, and the Australian School Library Association has a nice breakdown of how those different identities play together. Librarians in these roles (both in the U.S. and elsewhere) typically are required to have training in both education and librarianship–something that academic librarians generally do not, which explains the emphasis in the ACRL document on developing competencies related to teaching and instructional design.

After sitting with this for a few weeks, I’ve come up with a few thoughts on what the specific strengths of teaching librarians might be, and I’d love to hear your ideas too.

  1. We understand the organization of information and hierarchies of knowledge. Basically, this is the bread-and-potatoes of the library school curriculum, and I’d argue the most important part of having an MLS. All those cataloging and metadata classes? Those ideas are transferable across disciplines, which means that we can usually figure out how information is structured in any given database (with enough time) and help people find the stuff they need with a little librarian magic. Sometimes, even people immersed in a discipline don’t quite understand how or why information is organized in these repositories. Shedding a light on that is what we do.
  2. We understand the pedagogy of research. On a broad level, we understand what goes into the research process across a variety of disciplines. Librarians contributing to a reference service or leading library instruction have seen hundreds of research assignments–some excellent, some not-so-good. After a few years on the job, we can spot assignment pitfalls from a mile away, because we’ve seen how a large number of people approach this process. I’d argue that even if we don’t have formal pedagogical training, most librarians have some sense of what works and what doesn’t in student research assignments. The challenge is to tease out that knowledge and apply it to our work as educational partners.
  3. We’re really good at asking questions about things we know very little about. A.K.A. the reference interview. Most people don’t have this skill, because it’s uncomfortable to admit that you don’t know about something and ask a zillion questions to get to the precise knowledge you need to help someone find what they are looking for. But that’s what we are trained to do as reference librarians, and we can put that skill to work in thinking about consulting on research assignments, which could lead to interesting opportunities involving the collections, or a more scaffolded assignment structure, or something equally exciting. Bonus: This is also a student-centered approach, because students might be nervous or afraid to ask questions about something that’s unclear in a research assignment, but we can use our positionality to ask those “stupid questions.”
  4. We continually bring a beginner’s mind to our work. Again, because that’s the basis for reference. Librarians are trained not to make assumptions, and we can use that same mindset for approaching research assignments, thinking about what students might already know (and what might be confusing), etc.

Of course, we also have idiosyncratic expertise in research tools, disciplinary knowledge, etc. based on our individual unique experiences, and I want to acknowledge those as well.

The more I think about it, the more I think that reference experience (or perhaps a general ethos of reference?) is crucial for the role of teaching librarian. I don’t know that we have to “do” reference, but many of the ideas and approaches that we cultivate in that sphere seem entirely important for teaching work.

What do you think? Are there other things that you would add to this list?

6 Comments

Filed under Bibliographic Instruction is Dead, Education, Library Instruction, Posts by Dani Brecher, The Library Game

Press Release for ‘Learner-Centered Pedagogy’

Our book, Learner-Centered Pedagogy, which has been available for pre-order for a little while, is now going to be officially released by ALA and begin shipping on June 22. And if  you’re going to be at ALA annual, the ALA store will have some copies for sale.

Both Dani and I now both have copies in our hands, and we must say that we’re extremely pleased with the book. ALA took really great care with the cover, layout, and presentation of the book. We’d like to thank everyone involved, and give special thanks to our acquisitions editor at ALA, Patrick Hogan, for supporting the project, and for the high and somewhat unusual degree of autonomy he gave us over the book.

The book is something we worked really hard on, writing it mostly at night and in our free time, and it’s crazy to see something of this scope go from its initial stages to come to fruition in an actual, published book. We both really put our selves into it, and feel proud to have written an evidence based book that puts students first in our instruction and practice of librarianship.

If you’re interested in ordering a copy, you can use the following code to get $5 off our purchase if you acquire the book directly from the ALA Store:

COUPON CODe: LCPP17

I’ve gone ahead and pasted the text of ALA’s Press Release for the book below ( and if you’re so inclined you can see the whole thing here).

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Bibliographic Instruction is Dead, Education, Library Instruction, On Being Human, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel, The Library Game

“Learner-Centered Pedagogy”Book Now Available for Pre-order!

Dani and I have been relatively quiet about this, but we have a book coming out from ALA Editions, and it’s now available for pre-order.

screen-shot-2017-02-08-at-1-11-34-pm

Here is a short synopsis of the book’s first chapter from the introduction, which gives a sense of the core thesis of the book in broad outline:

The overall thesis of this book is that learner-centered pedagogy involves taking seriously the idea that who we are as people matters in the context of learning. We’ve organized the book into six main chapters; each chapter builds on this core idea. In the first chapter, we introduce a working definition of learner-centered pedagogy drawn from the education literature, counseling psychology, and previous work on learner- centered teaching. We follow the pioneering “person-centered” vision of humanistic psychologist and educator Carl Rogers in placing empathy as central to humanistic education and therapies, by placing the concept of empathy at the heart of learner-centered librarianship. We therefore pose, “What is it like to be a person learning something?” as the central question of the book, which we partially answer in each of the following chapters. Finally, we reframe information literacy to be an explicitly learner-centered concept that involves learners using information to think well about what matters to them. This definition of information literacy will inform the practical strategies suggested in the rest of the book.

So there it is: essentially we aim for a “person-centered” approach to teaching research grounded in empathy, by which we mean that the central question for learner centered librarians to consider is, “What is it like to be a person learning something?” For example, the first chapter considers the educational and psychological research on “What is it like to be a person learning something from a motivational perspective?” It turns out that there’s a ton of empirical evidence on questions like this. So we consider:  What does the empirical research say about what makes people want to learn something, and, given this research, what concrete strategies can we use as information literacy educators to tailor our instruction to learners’ motivational needs?

Thus, our goal is to help librarians help learners use information to think well about what matters to them by providing theoretical and practical tools librarians can use to facilitate learning that places the learner’s own experience at the center of our teaching. Subsequent chapters consider different elements of what it’s like to be a learner, e.g., from a cognitive standpoint. As we fill out our picture, we’ve tried to present an entire learner centered approach to teaching info lit that’s not only based in the empirical evidence about learning, but also fundamentally grounded in the nature of what it means to be a human being.

I’m extremely pleased with the book, and look forward to it being available.

Let us know if you have any questions; we’re happy to answer them.

The book is available for pre-order via ALA’s website and you can also pre-order the book from Amazon. It looks like it should be out by June 22nd.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Bibliographic Instruction is Dead, Education, Library Instruction, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel

Librarian in a Strange Land

It’s a Tuesday afternoon, and I’m teaching an introductory STEM class using a lesson plan that I’ve used approximately one billion times before, asking students to located a scientific study based on reporting in the popular media (shoutout to my awesome colleague Cynthia Cohen for first introducing me to this idea). Each quarter, I switch up the article so that it’s current; this time, I choose one about how consuming chili peppers can potentially help you live longer. In this class, we looked at two reported pieces: one from The New York Times that was a bit light on details, and one from The Olive Oil Times that included a surprising amount of evidence from the study. I’m hoping to complicate the idea that source type is a foolproof heuristic for quality, expecting that the students will claim that the NYT is a better source because…it’s the freaking New York Times.

We begin our discussion by looking at the NYT piece. “What do we know about this publication?” I ask.

“It’s not reliable,” one student says. “You have to be careful because it can be biased.”

This catches me by surprise. I ask the rest of the class, “Do you think the New York Times is a reliable source?” The majority shake their heads. I’m taken by surprise (not only because we’re specifically talking about peppers here): In every instruction session that I’ve ever led, sources like the New York Times are held up as gold-standard sources, basically the next-best thing you could get to a peer-reviewed scientific study. And, today, suddenly, it’s not.

In the days leading up to the inauguration, with “fake news” becoming an everyday part of our cultural lexicon, Danah Boyd publishes a piece called “Did Media Literacy Backfire?“, where she posits that, as a culture, we have done too good a job of encouraging people to question information, especially information that does not jive with their personal experiences and networks. Boyd writes, “Media literacy asks people to raise questions and be wary of information that they’re receiving. People are. Unfortunately, that’s exactly why we’re talking past one another.”

I read this piece, and it feels right: My social networks are echo chambers, and when I see postings from the other end of the political spectrum, I doubt them more and more quickly than those that implicitly align with my worldview, ultimately true or not. I hear and participate in conversations about how social media is so distressing these days, and my corner of the Internet gets more and more homogeneous as those people who don’t agree either fall silent or unfriend. The echoes amplify, but I barely notice, and I have trouble imagining that there could be an inverse version of my world, but of course there is.

I appreciate the irony that I am validating the conclusions of this post on my own experiences.

One way to understand information (and media) literacy’s goal is to create wary consumers of information. In some ways, this project seems to have been a resounding success; in others, not, as this skepticism tends to come out more in certain contexts, and not at all in others. The project of information literacy feels like success in small ways (e.g., “My students can find peer-reviewed articles!”), but feels like failure once writ large. What happened?

My hypothesis is that we all took the concept of “evidence” (and, consequently, “good” information being rooted in evidence) for granted. And now, thanks to world events, we discover that a concept that we implicitly thought everyone understood the same way… well, we didn’t. And now we have to face that.

So what do we do now? In an analogy that seems more and more apt by the day, librarians and educators must be Vergils, leading learners through an informational hellscape. And to do that, we can’t rely on our old tricks, like CRAAP, because they presume an agreement about meanings of terms like “reliability.” We’ll have to break down these concepts, and build them up together toward a shared meaning. This is going to require empathy, and collaboration with our educator colleagues because this can’t be done in a 50-minute one-shot–it’ll have to happen over years, with consistent reinforcement, and librarians can’t own it alone. It’s going to need us to advocate for spending our efforts on more challenging material, like why someone might want to find a peer-reviewed study in the first place. If we live in a world where people question everything (or everything that doesn’t align with their worldview),then let’s help them think about the questions they’ll need to ask to interpret those sources.

Every morning, I wake up and am not sure how I will find the world. I question things I thought I knew (Sure, CNN is sensationalist, but is it really “fake news”?). I wonder if the work I’m doing will have any impact. I don’t presume to know how learners will respond to questions now. This new world requires humility.

10 Comments

Filed under Bibliographic Instruction is Dead, Library Instruction, Posts by Dani Brecher

Libraries and Critical Thinking: No Better Time Than Now

It is a depressing time to be both an American and a person who thinks that facts matter. We have a President who denies the reality of climate change; claims that performing a study into whether voter fraud occurred is in and of itself grounds for concluding that voter fraud occurred; and, of course, prefers “alternative facts” [sic] when the way the world actually is turns out not to be in his liking. Donald Trump’s world is a zero sum game where if you’re not a winner you’re a loser, and there’s no grey area between terrific and disaster. And this is, like, the first week.

But though Trump is as pernicious an enemy to critical thinking as we’ve seen in quite some time, this current state of affairs provides librarians with an opportunity to (re)establish ourselves as educators whose primary business is helping learners distinguish fact from fiction. Carl Rogers once said that when doing research “the facts are friendly.” I can think of no better credo for the information literacy enterprise, and no better message that we could hope to deliver to our students.

Librarians, I’ve always believed, are in the very business of evidence: we teach learners how to use reliable information so they can construct their beliefs based on the best evidence available to them. Whether helping a student find an article in a database; learn how to cite something in MLA; or write an annotated bibliography, all our efforts boil down to helping learners base their beliefs on the evidence.

The present situation affords us a unique opportunity to use our creative powers to make this expertise explicit, and help both students and other campus faculty see our value in the realm of critical thinking. There are any number of ways to do this that fall squarely within the realm of librarianship. And the best ways, in my opinion, will be lessons that maintain our neutrality in the face of politics and and our allegiance to the facts, whatever they may happen to be. Facts are not political, no matter what this, or any other government administration may prefer you to believe.

 

5 Comments

Filed under Bibliographic Instruction is Dead, Education, Library Instruction, On Being Human, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel, Uncategorized