Colorado Mountain College

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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

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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.

Autoethnography

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.

 

ALA Annual: Instruction Section Pre-conference Workshop (2015)

Reflective Teaching: Self-Examination to Assess and Improve Your Teaching Practice

Co-presented with Wendy Holliday (Northern Arizona University)

Reflection is a central component of effective teaching practice and successful student learning. But reflection can sometimes seem fuzzy, without purpose, and lack connection to larger program goals. In this three-hour workshop, participants will learn techniques and strategies for more structured and intentional reflection. Participants will learn how to identify, articulate, and diagnose teaching and learning “problems” that they encounter in the classroom, analyze their role as a teacher in that situation, and then apply techniques of reflective practice to address those learning problems and improve student learning. Participants will also explore collaborative reflective practices in order to build reflective practice into their instruction programs.

 

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.


Follow-ups