Throughout my life, teaching has had a constant presence. My mother has taught language arts in secondary education as far as my memory reaches and during this time in my childhood, I had the opportunity to watch and help her carry out various preparations for class instruction.
In the library, I have held sessions on using learning technologies such as LibGuides, Online Public Access Catalogs, website navigation and design, and more. I have also trained new employees in various jobs and disciplines. I always try to learn everything I can about the learner(s) beforehand so that what is being taught can be taught in the most effective way possible.
To me, librarianship is promoting community and learning through inclusivity, compassion, and information. Instruction of research techniques and navigation of library services can be accomplished with the following three objectives: investigate, create, and evaluate.
Investigate: Understand the needs and know the learners.
To be able to effectively teach others on any subject matter, one must know the needs of the learners as well as critical information about the learners. In library instruction, this includes knowing general demographics as well as the disciplines in which the learners are invested. While I would want the outcome to remain the same, teaching bibliographic instruction to a class of English majors would need a different approach from teaching a class of chemistry majors. Both sets of students need to know how to retrieve, analyze, and cite information effectively, but this would look different in different disciplines. The students within each discipline will also tackle problems and retain information differently.
Understanding learning differences is really at the heart of library instruction as libraries are places to find more information about cultural and learning differences. This is not only because information is provided there, but also because libraries are places for students from all backgrounds and disciplines to intersect and coexist. Also, conversing with individuals from different disciplines than our own gives us new perspective and is extraordinarily helpful.
Create: Determine goals, outline ideas, design and implement instruction.
Before beginning instruction, it is important to know the desired outcome. Do I want the students to know how to navigate medical journals? Do I want students to be able to site sources in APA style? These are questions that must be asked before creating the instruction method. Once I know what my goals are, I outline a plan of action. This consists of organizing concepts in a way that I think is most beneficial, starting with the basics and working through to what I ultimately want the learners to understand. Next is designing and implementing instruction. I like to teach concepts with the following formula which I have compiled based on my experiences as a teacher and a learner: absorb, observe, execute, and understand. This not only gives structure to the instruction time, but offers something for each type of learner.
Absorb: learner is provided information through a mixture of lecture and readings.
Observe: instructor demonstrates what is being taught in conjunction with visual aids.
Execute: learner is given the opportunity to practice what is being taught.
Understand: instructor evaluates understanding of concepts through open discussion.
Offering instruction for different types of learners allows for everyone to have an equal level of understanding. Having open discussion allows concepts to be clarified and practiced.
Developing instructional methods is an on-going process. As a librarian, I think of instruction as creating and implementing a plan to meet the interdisciplinary learning desires and needs of a diverse population of learners. Thinking of it in this way defines it as a changing process because the variables, namely what is being instructed and who is being instructed, constantly change. While we have to make changes based on the content and our audience, these core elements of instruction are still consistent.
Evaluate: Determine success and achievement.
Evaluation can be determined in many ways. Surveys, suggestion boxes, and ensuring that learners know how to contact a librarian for further help are all helpful in being able to later evaluate the retention of information. Being actively engaged in the academic community of which I am a part of includes collaboration with professors across disciplines, and promoting the library’s resources and services throughout the campus.
Library instruction is an evolving collaborative process. It can mean teaching an entire class of students and/or instructors or having one-on-one research help with an individual student on the topic of their interest. I feel that all of the weight should not be placed on the learners but that I have a responsibility as their instructor to present information in the most effective way possible.
Research instruction can be manifested in many different ways, but it ultimately consists of creating an instructional process to meet a learning need. I want to do everything I can to make sure that those I am teaching are learning as effectively as possible in order to see them succeed in their academics and ultimately in life.