AMICAL Workshop (2015)

It Takes a Campus: Creating Research Assignments that Spark Curiosity and Collaboration (Invited Workshop)

You may be familiar with the old story about a group of blind men trying to identify an elephant? Each person in the story can only ‘see’ a small part of the whole. And each one tries, and fails, to extrapolate from that limited perspective to the big picture. Sometimes, this is what information literacy instruction feels like. Learning how to learn from information, to stay open to new ideas and to use information to solve problems and make decisions — this is a big picture that is hugely complex, doesn’t happen all at once, and doesn’t just happen in the library. Librarians, classroom faculty, technologists and students all share this goal, but none of us control the whole picture.

In this workshop, we’re going to think about the big picture — the cognitive, affective, and practical conditions that affect how our students approach research and inquiry and the cognitive, affective and practical skills they need to be successful with those assignments. We will work together to design activities that consider the whole student, and the complex information landscape they have to navigate.

  • 13:30—15:00. Designing Effective Research Assignments
  • 15:00—15:30. Break and Reflection.
  • 15:30—16:30. Encouraging Curiosity and Creativity in the Research Process.


No Training Wheels, Revised — I wrote this blog post about an insight that came to me in a conversation at the AMICAL Conference. I learn so much from these events.

Connecting the Dots: Curiosity, Motivation, Affect — Lori Thompson’s blog post following the conference connects my workshop with her keynote, and other conversations around the conference.


LOEX Opening Plenary (2015)

Reflections on Reflection or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Meta

As teaching librarians, we firmly believe that reflective thinking improves learning and improves practice. At conferences, in hallway conversations, alone in the early morning hours — we reflect on our teaching and on our students’ learning. For some of us, reflection is easier than breathing. For some of us, it’s a struggle. Reflective thinking is a powerful tool, one I can’t live without, but it’s not without its own dangers, pitfalls and stressors. It can make us feel powerful and accomplished, or alone and confused. It can point the way forward, or reinforce our existing assumptions and prejudices. And sometimes, the easier it comes, the less useful it is.

In this session, I want us to turn a reflective eye on our own reflective practice. We’re constantly evaluating and reevaluating our teaching. Our reflective habits need the same kind of attention and focus or they can become pro forma, stagnant and a whole lot less useful. When we don’t critically examine our reflective practices reflection can become just another tool we use to justify whatever we want it to, instead of inspiring meaningful change. Pushing ourselves — to uncomfortable truths, to activities that challenge us, to complicated ideas — keeps our reflection fresh and useful.



First-Year Experience @ USF (2015)

In April of 2015 I went to the University of San Francisco to have some conversations and facilitate some workshops with faculty and librarians involved with USF’s first-year seminars. This was a follow-up visit; I was also there in the spring of 2014. This trip was action packed – two workshops and a lunchtime talk/discussion with faculty and librarians, and visits to three different first-year seminar classes. This is a great group of people, doing really interesting work.


Culture is what people do — I wrote this blog post about an insight that I had during these talks.

Thursday in the park with students — Barbara Fister’s reflection on her visit to this same group in 2015, and the ways that curiosity and authenticity are still baked into their FYE program.



Library Instruction West (2014)

Marijuana Legalization Papers Got You Down? You Won’t Believe What We Did About It!

Co-presented with Hannah Gascho Rempel (OSU)

Current research shows that for many students, choosing a topic is the scariest and most difficult part of the research process. They want to stick to safe ground where they know they’ll find sources; we want them to explore the unknown and learn new things. Tired of reading papers on the same topics over and over, and concerned that students weren’t making the connections between research and learning, librarians and composition instructors at Oregon State University developed a new approach to teaching topic selection, putting curiosity at the center. Providing a structured and supportive process, we help students overcome their fear of the unknown. Using tools and resources easily found on the open web, we encourage students to follow their interests, sometimes to places they didn’t know existed! And doing it together, we emphasize the importance of curiosity to the research process, and to the classroom experience.

Followups —

Concept mapping for better research questions (Veronica Douglas)