Curious yet?

This is a project I have been working on for a couple of years now with Hannah Gascho Rempel, one of my colleagues here at OSU.  A few years ago, Hannah and I were working with our first-year composition program and as part of that, we were assessing some student papers.

Quite aside from the question we were trying to answer, we noticed a marked lack of curiosity driving any of these student papers. This sent us down an exploratory path that we haven’t emerged from yet. So far we have:

  • Reworked the information literacy portion of WR 121 to more intentionally build in curiosity.
  • Conducted a small qualitative case study, checking in with four FYC composition students over the course of a term, and evaluating their written work to pull out themes related to curiosity, exploration, learning and risk-taking.
  • Created a short self-assessment instrument to start people thinking about their own curiosity in more complex ways.
  • Changed the way we provide training and support to the GTA’s who teach FYC, and designed a case study to help inform how the program should develop moving forward.
  • Given presentations and workshops on the topic of curiosity in library instruction at the First-Year Experience conference, Library Instruction West, Online Northwest, and AMICAL.


Curiosity self-assessment (and Scoring Guide)

Zotero library: Curiosity in college



Together with Rick Stoddart (University of Idaho) and Bob Schroeder (Portland State University), I am currently co-editing a book exploring autoethnography as a research method in LIS.  We are working with ACRL Publications and have an anticipated publication date of December 2016.

This project is really important to me, on a couple of levels.  First, we’ve put together a learning community of librarians to explore the method with is.  As my good friend Nicholas Schiller said, “we may not learn research methods in library school, but as librarians we have learned how to learn.” This project taps into that. Secondly, this is a method that I think is very exciting because it offers a way to capture and share that embodied, in-the-moment practice knowledge that informs so much of what we do in librarianship.

From our CFP:

Autoethnography is a research method associated with anthropology, but may be more commonly seen in sociology (and it occasionally pops up in most social science disciplines). The method requires the researcher to do two things: engage in a deep, reflective and rigorous examination of their own experience; and systematically analyze that reflection, drawing connections to society and culture as they do. These analyses can take very different forms (narrative, scholarly prose, poetry, dialogue, etc.).

We are hoping that this book will do two things —

First, we want to join with efforts to push the conversation about research in LIS to explore how different research methods and ways of knowing can inform our practice. We think this is important for a couple of reasons –

  • Practical — we should actively seek out and explore methods that busy practitioners can do rigorously and regularly, and
  • Philosophical – methods like autoethnography can allow voices to be heard that are drowned out in larger aggregations of data. And, quite simply, like all research methods, there are things they do better than the alternatives. No method answers all questions, and we should not limit ourselves.

Secondly, one of the things that autoethnography does well is let us dig deeply into questions of practice, experience and identity – so we think that a collection of autoethnographic narratives about librarianship, collected in one place, will be powerful and compelling.