Colorado Mountain College


In late February 2017, my colleague Hannah Gascho Rempel and I were invited to Breckenridge, Colorado to teach a workshop for librarians, faculty, and instructional supervisors at Colorado Mountain College. This was exciting because we had the time and freedom to integrate some of the work we have been doing with critical reflection with the curiosity pieces we’ve presented before. It was a wonderful workshop, in a wonderful setting, and gave us lots of ideas to integrate into some of our own teaching projects at OSU.

Presentation materials are here — slides (in Keynote and PDF) and handout.

Beyond the Research Paper: Creating Assignments that Spark Curiosity, Inquiry and Critical Thinking

Creative and critical thinking, problem solving and inquiry, intercultural competence — we have big goals for our students. Creating a learning environment that encourages these ways of thinking transforms the learner. Big projects, like research papers, can provide opportunities for those transformative learning experiences, but when they’re used as a one-size-fits all pedagogical tool, their limitations emerge. Research papers can be sink-or-swim experiences for students, especially for students new to academic research writing. To do them well, many students need to start thinking about information, learning, and knowledge in new ways, and that’s a tall order. Success depends on giving our students repeated and intentional opportunities to engage with inquiry and analysis, in many ways and at many levels.

In this workshop, we will work together to develop activities that will help students develop new and effective habits of mind — habits that will help them do the independent learning research requires.  We will discuss what we know about: how students approach research projects, the barriers they face in the transition to college-level research, and how to create engaging opportunities for students to reflect and learn from their research experiences.

ECIL 2016


I taught two workshops at the 2016 European Conference on Information Literacy, and had a great time. Both workshops had small and engaged groups of participants who really made the time fly.

Curiosity: Collaborating with Faculty to Support Learning and Exploration.

Co-presented with Hannah Gascho Rempel. October 10, 2016.

Presentation materials.

All of our students are curious, but traditional research assignments privilege certain types of curiosity over others, leaving some students disengaged and disinterested. College students have many competing interests; sometimes research assignments are not their highest priority. But sometimes it is the university classroom environment that does not provide sufficient opportunity for students to safely explore their topics through the lens of curiosity. As librarians, we focus deeply on the research process in all of its dimensions — affective, cognitive and technical.

We use that understanding to share our expertise about academic research with students. However, we have increasingly come to believe that sharing that expertise with instructors and teaching faculty is just as (or even more) important. In this workshop, we will explore the ways that a deeper understanding of curiosity can help instructors create an environment that fosters exploratory research.

Metaphor and Critical Reflective Practice: A Cross-Cultural Workshop.

Co-presented with Wendy Holliday and Merinda Kaye Hensley. October 12, 2016.

Presentation materials.

Humans everywhere use metaphor to help make sense of the world, and metaphors are an essential part of the way we communicate. Metaphors are all around us. For many of us, metaphor is so intertwined with the way we think, write and talk that we do not always use it intentionally. Our metaphors can reflect our biases and the unspoken assumptions we make about our lives and our work. Because of this, critically examining and understanding the metaphors we use – what they mean to us and what they mean to those around us – is a crucial part of reflective learning.

Metaphor permeates our professional discourse (the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy; threshold concepts, scholarship is a conversation, the Seven Pillars of Information Literacy). Metaphor, analogy and other forms of representative language are so ingrained in our discourse about teaching and learning that we do not even notice it. Some metaphors are so deeply embedded in our language and our thinking that they become invisible to us. Research suggests that metaphors are more than communication devices; they are also conceptual, shaping the ways we think and act. In other words, metaphor does not just help us communicate what we think, it also shapes how we think. And this is critical, because metaphor is also socially and culturally specific. Metaphors only have meaning when we have a shared body of experiences or knowledge to draw upon.

This matters in our professional conversations, in our classrooms, and in the documents we use to define our practice. Used intentionally, metaphor can be a powerful tool in teaching and learning in an inclusive society — to reveal where we differ and to build new shared meanings. But when we use metaphor without critical reflection, without examining the assumptions embedded within, they can be confusing, exclusionary and frustrating.

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)