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Steele Lawman
Folks who do instruction, do you think of yourself as "teachers?" I don't, and I wonder if that's a small problem.
I do. I bounce back and forth between thinking of myself as a "teacher" and as a "highly advanced novice." The second works really well at the reference desk when dealing with stuff outside of my expertise (zone of proximal development and all that). The first works for everything else but committee work. - lris
Instructor or facilitator, but yes. Then again that's part of being an Education Coordinator. - Nikki D.
Yep. Dunno if it's a problem for you if you don't, though; that's for you to decide. Also, depending on your campus culture, you may find that "instructor" is a better term to use around the teaching faculty. Some get their knickers in a twist at the mere mention that anybody but them might "teach." - Catherine Pellegrino
I guess it is because I have no training as a teacher, not even a library school class on instruction. Instruction is an important part of my job, but it's not the only thing I do. For me, it also seems like an exaggeration--I see people for an hour to 90 minutes once. But maybe that's just an excuse for not trying harder, trying new things. I think of myself more as a guy who knows a lot about the library. - Steele Lawman
Dude, and you think the teaching faculty have any such training? ;) The only difference is, we librarians KNOW we haven't been trained in how to teach. - Catherine Pellegrino
But they practice it every day for 3 hours at a stretch. - Steele Lawman
And we practice it every day at the reference desk. I know it's not exactly the same, but I really do think of my self as a teacher at the desk, too. - lris
Steve: so what? There are lots of people who drive badly for hours every day - the hours spent behind the wheel don't make them better drivers. (I'm sorry, I don't mean to sound combative. I'm being cranky because I just got back from Immersion, which is all about teaching and learning and doing them WELL, and wishing this kind of training was more readily available, and accepted, for disciplinary faculty.) Also, what Iris said. - Catherine Pellegrino
Hm. It's something to think about. One of my goals/resolutions is to take instruction more seriously this school year. I used to think that pretty much all library instruction was simply to make the librarians feel better. I have a better attitude now, but "librarianing" still seems very different from "teaching." Catherine, where's the reading list for Immersion? Or do you have a few standouts to recommend? - Steele Lawman
When I was a TA, we got three days of "how to teach" lessons. At least I think they were supposed to be how to teach lessons. I'm a grouchy person who thinks that teaching skills are not something that can be taught, but I suspect there are aspects that can be. - laura x
Steve: that's a hard question to answer. The readings are posted on a (locked) Moodle course page; I could send you a bibliography (heck, I could send you the files; I've got 'em all in electronic format), but it wouldn't really capture the essence of what Immersion teaches you. The best place to start is probably Barr and Tagg's "From Teaching to Learning": - Catherine Pellegrino
Well, maybe I'm putting too much emphasis on that. I guess I mean no one has ever called me a teacher. I have never had any formal or informal training in "teaching," so I have never referred to myself as a "teacher." - Steele Lawman
There are aspects of teaching that can't be taught, I think, but I've learned a LOT from my co-workers, from you guys, and from Immersion. Also, Steve, my reading list from Immersion was mostly quite forgettable. Hopefully Catherine's was better. But I really like that Simmons article I've talked about before: Not exactly "how to teach" but it shaped the way I think of myself on campus. - lris
Catherine, yeah, I know I can't get immersed with just a few articles, but it seemed like better than nothing. - Steele Lawman
Laura: I used to think that too, and to some extent I still do, insofar as some people have more native ability, especially in public speaking. But I've also come to realize that there's a great deal that one can learn, and that native ability isn't a substitute for really careful and intentional thought about how people learn and what you want them to learn. - Catherine Pellegrino
Iris, that is one of the very few library articles that has stuck with me over the years. - Steele Lawman
Heh. My training is in acting, and I think I think of myself more as a performer than a teacher. Interesting. (Thanks, all, for chatting today.) - Steele Lawman
Oooh, hey, that Simmons article is new to me. *adds it to post-Immersion reading list*. Steve, I'll DM you a bibliography from this year's Immersion with commentary. - Catherine Pellegrino
Oh, and I think that articles about instruction (whether from library types or educators) are generally boring, which is too bad. - lris
+1 Iris. Teaching skills (native or acquired) are not a substitute for writing skills. Also, Steve, one of the biggest things I got from Immersion was the realization that I have been leaning way too much on my presentation/speaking skills, and neglecting more careful thought about other aspects of teaching and learning. So that's what I'm going to be working on for the next few years. - Catherine Pellegrino
One thing I've learned over the years is that my initial inclination is to approach teaching as "training," which is boring so people turn off (I'm in training right now, and see how well I'm paying attention to it?). I've worked really really hard to move beyond "training" and over toward creating richer learning environments in which I may cover less (relying on office hours and the desk to fill in the cracks) but do so in a way that opens up my students' imaginations to what is possible and why things work the way they do. If I can get them interested and engaged, they'll either figure out the steps or come talk to us later. If not, it doesn't matter what I'm doing anyway, so nothing's lost by giving up the training anyway. - lris
Iris just summed up Immersion in one FF comment. :) - Catherine Pellegrino
I'm buying that intellectually, but not wholeheartedly. Perhaps I do need immersion or something like it, because I think I really need some kind of (forgive the phrase) paradigm shift if I'm to do anything differently. Because most of the stuff I have heard about instruction (e.g., colleagues reporting back from LOEX (is that right? What a terrible name.)) seems gimmicky and bogus. - Steele Lawman
Our Executive Director thinks that all of the librarians are Instructors. Made it part of their job titles and name badges. She feels that our "programs" are not that but actually classes. We teach not just "do programs". This helped the County put our budget under Education (nice place to be as our County put a lot of emphasis on education). Training is part of my job so yes, I consider myself a teacher. - Mlibrarianus
Yeah, I'm with you about things I've heard about "instruction techniques." Even the much-lauded "active learning" only works sometimes and not others. It's not about techniques for me. It's about goals and roles. I've learned great frameworks for thinking about things or great vocabulary from my co-workers and such, but those are highly specific and context-bound, usually. the problem with the literature or the LOEX-type presentations are always too broad for me, and therefore come off as gimmicky (for me, I know some people get a lot out of them, and I wish i could). - lris
Absolutely. In fact, even working at the reference desk or 1-1 with students is teaching. A teacher is a person who educates others. That's what we do, right? On our campus, we are faculty but they call us "non-instructional" faculty. I would like to debate even that but haven't the energy to go there yet. - Kenley Neufeld
Well, this is where I need to overcome a negative attitude about my own profession and work, because my knee-jerk reaction is "yeah, but what we teach is so lame." It's like calling a travel agent a teacher. (I'm never going to get hired for another job, am I?) I don't *really* think that, but that's where my brain goes. - Steele Lawman
Chet: But why do you think what we teach is so lame? Because people find it boring and unuseful? What about all those generous teachers on my college campus that teach the lowest levels of 7th grade level English in college. Is it our own perceptions? - Kenley Neufeld
Kenley, probably because I haven't made this switch from thinking about "training" to thinking about "teaching." - Steele Lawman
In general, i think of myself as an educator, but when I was an instruction librarian, I also thought of myself as a teacher. And my instruction class in library school was far more training in how to teach than I got as a TA in my doctoral program, or when I created my own classes. Professors have (had?) zero training in pedagogy -- unless it's their field. - RudĩϐЯaЯïan
Steve, I'd say it's somewhat a problem if you're teaching and don't consider yourself a teacher. But more to the point, what do you feel is effected by not considering yourself one? Your engagement? your willingness to learn about pedagogy? Your ability to connect with your faculty about their students, or to the students themselves? If all those things are strong in you -- and you excitement and satisfaction are also intact -- then maybe it isn't a problem at all. - RudĩϐЯaЯïan
Rudy, good point. And getting back to what I originally was getting at, I would say that I don't call myself a teacher, but I wouldn't deny that I teach people things. Of the things you list, I'd say the pedagogy part would be where I struggle--I struggle to believe that there is a pedagogy of library instruction. - Steele Lawman
I have to say, this thread is particularly interesting today as I put together a presentation on the pedagogy of information literacy. - lris
Good timing on the question. (Just had a 2.5 hour retreat on instruction assessment techniques this morning.) But anyway, should I go into class and call myself Prof. Kraus instead of /just/ Joe Kraus. Would the students perceive me and my instruction differently? Dare I profess to call myself a professor, even though I don't have a Ph.D. like most of the other "teaching" faculty on campus? I feel more like an instructor than I do a teacher, though. - Joe
Iris, of course I would like to see as much of that presentation as will survive the trip to Colorado. - Steele Lawman
I'll see what I can do. :-) - lris
Nope. I consider myself a facilitator of learning. :) But I think all library people are teachers/educators at heart. - Lori Reed