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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

AlA/RUSA Learner-Centered Pedagogy Online Course With … US!!!!

Dani and I will once again be teaching a course on Learner-Centered Reference & Instruction, with a focus on the science & psychology of learning,  via RUSA/ALA. You can now register for the course that begins on 7/18/2016 and ends on 8/28/2016.

Here is a bit of info on the course:

This course will introduce library practitioners to empirically sound approaches to learner-centered teaching that can be applied to creating effective reference and instruction services that maximally facilitate student learning. The first part of the course will be devoted to understanding the current science of how students learn from the perspective of cognitive and educational psychology, and concrete ways that library practitioners can apply this learning to the library context. The second part of course will deal with motivational aspects of learning: What does the psychological research say about what makes students want to learn, and how can we use this research to motivate information literacy learning? The final part of the course will cover issues of diversity and inclusive pedagogy from within the framework of culturally responsive pedagogy: In a diverse educational landscape, how can we construct our teaching so that it includes, rather than alienates, as many students as possible?

The aim of this course is to give librarians the tools to feel more confident in their instructional strategies and ability to support student-centered learning. Not only will the course introduce participants to scientifically grounded pedagogies, but will lead them through exercises to concretely apply these theories to their own library contexts. This course will be of interest to any librarian who engages in reference or teaching, and is unique in providing a current overview of the current educational literature alongside practical strategies.

We’re excited to teach it again; please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

For questions about the logistics of registration you can contact: registration at ala dot org

For questions about the course itself you can contact me at kevin dot michael dot klipfel at gmail dot com (Dani is on leave for a little bit right now so it’ll be easiest to get in touch with me at the moment). I’m happy to answer answer questions you might have!

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Filed under Education, Library Instruction, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel, Uncategorized

Interesting Carol Dweck piece on ‘Mindset’

Lots of educators and librarians are becoming more and more aware Carol Dweck’s mindset research – the belief that talent and ability our not fixed, but that our efforts, combined with deliberative practice and expert feedback, can help us improve our ability to learn within a particular domain – and, as with any good intellectual idea (cf. the Humanistic Psychology Movement), people have started to adopt a superficial understanding of the idea that leads to poor applications of it.

Dweck has recently addressed some of these misunderstandings in a recent piece in Education Week that’s really worth checking out.

Interesting excerpt:

A growth mindset isn’t just about effort. Perhaps the most common misconception is simply equating the growth mindset with effort. Certainly, effort is key for students’ achievement, but it’s not the only thing. Students need to try new strategies and seek input from others when they’re stuck. They need this repertoire of approaches—not just sheer effort—to learn and improve.

We also need to remember that effort is a means to an end to the goal of learning and improving. Too often nowadays, praise is given to students who are putting forth effort, but not learning, in order to make them feel good in the moment: “Great effort! You tried your best!” It’s good that the students tried, but it’s not good that they’re not learning. The growth-mindset approach helps children feel good in the short and long terms, by helping them thrive on challenges and setbacks on their way to learning. When they’re stuck, teachers can appreciate their work so far, but add: “Let’s talk about what you’ve tried, and what you can try next.”

I thought that was interesting, specifically for librarians, because it shows us how we can be encouraging and helpful to students. We can talk about growth mindset and effort, but also discuss that it’s effective research strategies that librarians can help them with, and that these strategies and asking for help are not supplemental or remedial, but part of the very process of learning itself.

Interesting read.

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Friday Quote

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by | October 16, 2015 · 5:01 pm

LOEX Slides: Librarians as Action Researches

Alex Carroll and I presented on the topic “Librarians as Action Researchers: A Practical Framework for Evidence-Based Information Literacy Instruction” at LOEX in Denver this past weekend. Alex has made the slides – which include the now infamous opening Rasheed Wallace slide – available via the University of Maryland’s Digital Repository.

Here’s the abstract for the talk:

This presentation proposes a framework for evidence-based practice for instructional librarianship drawn from discourse in education regarding the role of evidence in professional practice. We propose a framework for librarians to conceive of themselves as “action researchers”: professional practitioners who (1) adhere to the best available evidence about teaching and learning; (2) methodologically test their assumptions about their practice by conducting research in their local environments; and (3) apply these learnings in their own research and instruction practices. This definition differs from the current library literature on evidence-based practice in two main ways: it provides librarians with an established theoretical framework for becoming evidence-based instructors in practice and it elevates data about student learning, rather than professional intuition or faculty perceptions, as the driving force behind our decision making as teacher-librarians. We will next discuss the major practical benefits of this framework. First, it offers librarians a practical model that can be used to professionalize their teaching. Second, this increased professionalization as educators can help librarians more successfully meet the institutional priorities of higher education, the facilitation and assessment of student learning on campus. Lastly, by seriously engaging with the craft of teaching, teacher-librarians are better equipped to become genuine co-collaborators with faculty across campus. The implications of this shift in professional ethos may be considerable; such paradigm shifts do not often occur within a community of practice quickly or without some resistance. Consequently, we will conclude our talk by noting potential challenges and offering concrete recommendations for success for instruction librarians and library leaders seeking to foster an evidence-based community of practice in their own libraries.

Slides here. Thanks to everyone who attended!

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Scholarship as Conversation: Teaching the Deep Structure of Attribution with Authentic Problem Contexts

Alex Carroll and Robin Dasler have an important new article out on “Scholarship is a Conversation: Discourse, Attribution, and Twitter’s Role in Information Literacy Instruction” in The Journal of Creative Library Practice that I wanted to draw to the attention of our readers. The article nicely models how we can teach the deep, conceptual structure of something like “why it’s important to cite stuff,” and does so while building a narrative around scholarship as conversation, using a relevant case study students will understand – Twitter – as a meaningful, real-life example.

In my view, one reason this kind of instruction is deeply valuable is that, according to cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham’s summary of the research on the cognitive science of learning,

The surest way to help students understand an abstraction is to expose them to many different versions of the abstraction […] new things are understood by relating them to things we already understand [… ] it’s not simply that giving concrete examples helps. They must also be familiar examples … It’s not the concreteness, it’s the familiarity that is important.

Why Don’t Students Like School? pp. 88-90.

Hence, using Twitter – a concrete example that is familiar to students – is a really effective method from the standpoint of evidence-based teaching practice to teach students the difficult abstract ideas of “attribution” and “scholarship as conversation.”

An excerpt from “Scholarship is a Conversation“:

When addressing scholarly attribution, citation, and plagiarism in one-shot instruction sessions, librarians often fail to present these issues in a manner that has relevance for students. Librarians often focus on intellectual honesty and the potential ramifications of plagiarism, both individual pursuits, rather than explaining that by creating an academic work, students are participating in academic discourse […]

One of the major deficiencies of this compliance-based instruction is that it presents students with a false dichotomy that does not align with their authentic life experiences; plagiarism is demonstrated as a black and white issue, rather than existing in shades of gray. Students who have come of age within a twenty-first century information ecosystem rife with remix and parody culture will likely find teaching that presents the re-use of source material as a non-nuanced issue unconvincing. Because students respond positively to instruction that aligns with their authentic experiences, this suggests that librarians need to develop new methods for teaching attribution and scholarly discourse that not only recognize the nuance inherent to these topics, but also presents these concepts within a familiar framework . As a familiar platform for social interaction with multiple avenues for giving credit and a shorter timescale, Twitter presents an opportunity to place attribution, plagiarism, and integrity into a humanizing, real world context that models how discourse unfolds in an authentic manner for learners. By embedding attribution instruction into a meaningful context, librarians and other educators can make substantial and much needed improvements to traditional compliance-based instruction, which is often built upon the slow, rigid, and unfamiliar patterns of how to cite scholarly works […]

Rather than limiting attribution to the realm of in-text citation and bibliographies, librarians working within libraries of all types should consider connecting these issues to case studies, which can convey to the public and students of all ages that attribution and copyright have relevance beyond the confines of academic writing.

Great case study in teaching students in a relevant way that moves beyond pointing and clicking; definitely worth a read, and a fine example of quality work in evidence-based information literacy instruction.

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