Category Archives: Education

Is the ‘Reference Desk’ Student-Centered? (Guest Post by Melissa Harden)

Over the last ten to twenty years, academic libraries have experimented with different reference services models (tiered service model, roving reference, etc.) and desk configurations (unified service point, separate desks, no desk at all). The goal has been to improve user experience while also using the librarian’s time more efficiently. But even when new ideas for services or physical spaces are implemented, some libraries still refer to these services and desks by an old name: “reference.”

We often talk about student-centered learning in our instruction, and we aim to design user-centered physical and virtual spaces. Which leads me to a key question: Is calling the reference service point a “reference desk” taking a user-centered approach? We have long been reminded that we should avoid using jargon when communicating with patrons, including on signage. I would argue that the term “reference” slips into jargon territory.

But what other word or phrase best communicates what we offer? Reference work has changed over the years, and we’re now spending very little time on basic questions and more time on helping users grapple with big ideas and concepts related to finding, using, and creating information. However, some users may not know that we can help them navigate the more complex stuff. The term “reference” doesn’t seem to communicate it very well, either.

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Filed under Education, Guest Posts, Library Instruction, The Library Game

The Language of Learning

A few weeks ago, I had coffee with my talented colleague Robin Katz, and we talked about teaching things, just like you might expect. I was struck then, and in a later co-consult with a faculty member, how Robin talked about “learning goals” for library sessions, and how that language choice really seemed to open the door to seeing librarians and course instructors in collaboration about the library session.

Now, of course, for those precisionists among us (I see you), there is a difference between “learning goals” and “learning outcomes,” and what we usually actually mean when we talk about the library session is outcomes, BUT:

  • I learned long ago (and probably many of you did too) that people get a bit less excited to talk to you when you start talking in the language of assessment, so I usually ask questions like, “What do you hope your students will be able to do after the library session?” instead of using the word “outcome.”
  • There’s just something about the word “goal” that really resonates: It’s aspirational, and encourages us to try new things. It gives us something collaborative to work toward, together.

And in a conversation with an instructor, it seems to me that the precise definition of terms doesn’t matter–it’s the outcome of the conversation that is valuable (see what I did there?).

Since that coffee, I’ve started incorporating the language of “learning goals” into my discussions with course instructors, and I think it’s making a difference. When I go back to plan my class, I do return to thinking about “outcomes,” but that’s for my own personal use.

All of this is just to say that I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the language that we use to describe what we do, and how we do it. Have you had any experiences like this, where a language change seems to have made a difference? I’d love to hear about it!

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Filed under Education, Library Instruction, Posts by Dani Brecher

“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.

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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.

 

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

Important Articles in Library Science #1: Don Fallis’s “On Verifying the Accuracy of Information: Philosophical Perspectives”

A common complaint about the literature in library science is that, well, it basically sucks. This is, in my anecdotal experience, more often than not, claimed by people who don’t actually write such literature themselves, and seem to have a relatively dismal view of theorizing and reflecting on the nature of what they do. Those claims need not be taken very seriously.

But a lot of the library science literature out there really does, in my never humble opinion, kind of suck. The reasons I’ve usually heard cited to support this tend to be something like small sample sizes; lack of rigor; lack of transferrability from one library context to another; and so forth. I mean, this seems true enough, I guess, though I’ve never personally taken these reasons to be especially compelling evidence for the lack of usefulness of our professional literature: even if a study is pretty small it can still, for example, give you useful ideas to try at your institution, inform you of stuff other people are trying that you may be able to adapt for your own purposes, or whatever.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I guess, for me, the main reason I think a lot of library literature sucks is that it’s superficial: it’s not really grounded in any deep sense of what it means to be a human being.

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Filed under Education

An Opportunity to Directly Support Public Library Education

My friend from library school Laina Stapleton is now a school librarian in North Carolina and is in need of a little funding support to better the lives of her students. Before I say more about that, let me say something real quick about Laina. When I was in library school I, quite literally, thought I was going to fail out every semester. During my first year we were required to take a computer skills course, which included things like basic programming where we had to built a website. I was absolutely lost in this class, was struggling to build a website, and was hopeless at coding. Laina sat near me, and though she barely knew me, took absolute mercy on my soul and helped me through the whole process even though she barely knew me. She just did it because I was struggling. She is, you see, a good person.

Laina’s school is now looking for a little help to turn their library into a dynamic, 21st Century learner-centered environment. Here’s a little bit of info about Laina’s students:

We serve a large, diverse group of students in a mixed urban-rural setting. Many of them come from low socio-economic families; this area of our school system is the poorest. They are historically underserved and are a high immigrant population; we have students from Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Samoa and other Pacific Islands, Romania, Albania, and the highest population of Micronesians in our county. They bring their cultures, backgrounds, and experiences to school, creating a fairly unique learning environment that the library is truly the center of.

They visit the library of their own accord to 3D print, check out board games, socialize, access technology, talk books and reading, and as a safe space in an environment that can be volatile at times. They want to learn, to meet our high expectations, and are smart enough to recognize when we aren’t doing all that we can to help and encourage them and notice when things aren’t up to par.

Donations will directly support student learning in the library:

Our library has been undergoing a change beginning two years ago when both librarians arrived new to the school. Last year, we wrote a Five Year Collection Development and Library Management Plan. One of the goals is to update the physical appearance of the library to bring it into the 21st century and support our 1:1 program. We see an average of 120 students during our open tutorial period, 3 classes, and 17 individual students per day. Our furniture is approximately 30 years old and no longer viable for our programming.

It’s a wonderful proposal for a great person, so please donate to a cause that will really benefit the educational experience of North Carolina’s children. In this difficult political climate where many of us are not sure what we can do or how we can facilitate change, donations such as these, however small, can make a huge and direct impact onchildren’s education.

You can read more about Laina’s proposal (including a detailed breakdown of how donations will be spent) here.

UPDATE: The funding goal on this project has been reached; thanks to those of you who donated. You the real MVP’s.

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Filed under Education, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel, Reading & Literacy

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.

 

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

Everything is Fucked … The Class

Interesting:

In a much-discussed article at Slate, social psychologist Michael Inzlicht told a reporter, “Meta-analyses are fucked” (Engber, 2016). What does it mean, in science, for something to be fucked? Fucked needs to mean more than that something is complicated or must be undertaken with thought and care, as that would be trivially true of everything in science. In this class we will go a step further and say that something is fucked if it presents hard conceptual challenges to which implementable, real-world solutions for working scientists are either not available or routinely ignored in practice.

The format of this seminar is as follows: Each week we will read and discuss 1-2 papers that raise the question of whether something is fucked. Our focus will be on things that may be fucked in research methods, scientific practice, and philosophy of science. The potential fuckedness of specific theories, research topics, etc. will not be the focus of this class per se, but rather will be used to illustrate these important topics. To that end, each week a different student will be assigned to find a paper that illustrates the fuckedness (or lack thereof) of that week’s topic, and give a 15-minute presentation about whether it is indeed fucked.

I took a few classes in library school that could have been titled this, but I don’t think it was intentional.

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Filed under Education, On Being Human, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel, Uncategorized