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Setting Teaching Goals for 2021

Written by Abigail Morgan, Social Sciences Librarian at Miami University

 

January is traditionally a time to pause, reflect, and set intentions for the next year. While 2020 and the early days of 2021 have taught me that our world can be upended in an instant and flexibility and openness to change is more important than ever, I still believe that goal-setting is an important practice. I also find that it helps bring stability and routine, even when working in less than ideal circumstances. Setting goals for learning is an inherent part of the instruction process, so it seems natural that now is the time to think about what I want to achieve in my teaching practice in the next calendar year. Here are the goals I’m setting:

Goal 1: Redesign lessons to incorporate critical pedagogy from the ground up

While I have been an enthusiastic proponent of critical pedagogy methods for several years, I have only been able to make small changes into my class sessions – such as using more diverse examples. In 2021, I’d like to move from proponent to active practitioner. This will entail overhauling several lessons I have taught many times in the past. My first priority is redesigning our mandatory first-year business student information literacy module to add more activities about authority and inclusion into the coursework, as well as more opportunities for discussion. I hope this will have a high impact since it reaches over 1,000 students. For the one-shot sessions I usually teach, I also plan on using less time in class on lecture, demonstrations, and individual activity and more time on group work and discussion. These practices will give students more voice and help them actively engage with the material.

Goal 2: Add more assessment from students

I confess I’m not the best at allotting time for student assessment of my teaching. That’s not because I think my teaching is perfect – in fact I suspect I’m my own worst critic. While I always include some sort of meaningful activity for students so they can demonstrate their learning, this is not the same as getting direct feedback. Incorporating more regular assessment of my instruction will make me see my teaching more clearly. One advantage of remote instruction is that it is easier to make assessment flow naturally into the pace of the lesson. I plan to make the most of remote instruction this spring to get more in the habit of assessing my sessions so by fall it will be easier to include in all instructional situations, online, hybrid, or face to face.

Goal 3: Preparing for in-person instruction in Fall 2021

I have been lucky enough to be able to work and teach from home throughout the pandemic.  When we resume classes for fall semester 2021, I will have been out of practice teaching in front of a class for over a year. Of course, conducting instruction via Zoom or Canvas modules is real teaching, but it requires a different approach than in-person instruction. Just as it took time to get used to the feeling of teaching through the barrier of technology, I think it will take another adjustment to adapt back into teaching face to face. My skills are rusty: my ‘teacher voice’ is unexercised and my ability to stand comfortably for 50 minutes in work appropriate shoes is non-existent! At the same time, I’m eager to teach in person again and I believe that students and faculty will share the same sense of delight returning to the classroom.

I’d love to hear from others about what they are planning to work on in 2021. What are your 2021 goals for teaching and learning?

 

 

Being Flexible in a Pandemic: Learning to Edit On-the-Fly

Written by Kay Clopton, the Mary P. Key Resident of Cultural Diversity for the University Libraries.

I work for the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum and I was supposed to give a tour to a Comparative Studies class this Spring. Those plans were thwarted by the current pandemic, but I offered to create a video for the class so that they could get a virtual tour. What I did not anticipate was having to film the tour in a hurry because of the notification that people were being told to leave campus immediately, so I ran up to our galleries, filmed at least six versions of an impromptu introduction, and toured our galleries while describing the materials as if I were giving the tour. Having filmed this on my phone gave me the ability to use the cloud storage to later access the raw data.

However, there was one other issue: I wasn’t exactly trained on editing video outside of trimming videos I would film for church. So I also had to learn how to become an editor and find software that would allow me to take all of the raw data and turn it into something watchable. I researched and found a free editing program, OpenShot Video Editor, that allowed me to learn as I went while putting the video together, and I also found some free music to add to the video to keep it from being just me and my footfalls in the galleries. The video was sent to the instructor for the class and turned out to be very useful and well received (I also passed the video along to my colleagues at the Billy Ireland who also thought it was pretty good). Ultimately, it was an interesting experience where I learned more about my capabilities as an instructor by adapting a tour to a virtual experience. I was able to give the students an experience of visiting the gallery and giving information as if they were there, and by being available afterwards for questions via email, I feel the students were given the best experience possible under the circumstances.

The Undergraduate Libraries Research Fellowship: Centering Student Scholarship

Written by Jennifer Schnabel, English Librarian at The Ohio State University

On Monday, October 26 at 2:30 p.m., University Libraries will host our annual Undergraduate Library Research Symposium. This year’s event will be virtual, but the celebratory spirit will remain as we highlight research conducted by six students over the summer. This year’s projects include a digital exhibit on anti-sexual violence activism (Mia Carello, Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies); an oral history archive focused on women faculty and staff at OSU Lima (Hannah Stoll, English); an analysis of the enemies to lovers trope appearing in popular novels (Katherine Watson, English); a study of female refugees’ experiences in central Ohio (Dani Wollerman, International Studies); a repository of readings of poetry written by undergraduate students (June Beavers, Creative Writing); and a literature review comparing Hellenic systems of thought and those of indigenous populations (Shawn Walls, Classics/Political Science). All are welcome to attend the symposium. To register, please click here.

The Undergraduate Research Library Fellowship (ULRF) is a partnership between OSU Libraries and the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Inquiry. Students from across disciplines are invited to contact a mentor from the Libraries and discuss a potential summer research project, the proposal writing process, and their individual academic and professional goals. Submissions are reviewed by the Teaching and Learning Committee and awarded based on the project’s feasibility and funding availability.

As a subject librarian at a large research institution, it is often difficult for me to get to know individual students and encourage their research interests beyond a group instruction session or one 45-minute consultation. The fellowship program has given me the opportunity to advise an undergraduate scholar throughout the research lifecycle, from developing a research proposal to creating a presentation. I have mentored four students since I joined the OSU Libraries in 2015, and all have successfully completed projects that they have presented in the library and at research forums and festivals on campus.

As part of building my faculty dossier, I am required to report on ways I have impacted student success. However, I am the one who has benefitted the most from serving as a mentor in this program. I have been inspired and energized by the students before, during, and even after the fellowship period, when I have had the privilege of supervising an honors thesis and an independent study, write recommendation letters for graduate school, and provide references on job applications. I admire their creativity and curiosity when they propose projects, their eagerness to explore primary source material and the existing scholarship on the topic, their interest in learning new research tools and methods, and their willingness to revise original ideas as their research skills evolve and discoveries increase over the ten weeks. I often think about their enthusiasm and insightful reflections on the research process when I return to my own projects.

The 2020 fellowship students will be especially remembered for their flexibility during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several fellows had to rethink their projects to accommodate a remote working environment and adapt their timelines to changes in summer schedules. For example, Katherine Watson’s initial plan was to consult popular romance literature in the Rare Books & Manuscripts Library and the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. Instead, she focused on using digital research methods and tools to create a StoryMap that illustrates how Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy fell in love from a distance in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Dani Wollerman planned to conduct face-to-face interviews with area refugees for her project; she quickly revised her methodology in response to limitations from the pandemic, and the results of her research are presented here. Other students made similar adjustments to their proposed projects.

The fellows were also able to meet one another and share their research experiences. Instead of having an in-person session, we hosted an informal meeting on Zoom midway through the fellowship period. They also submitted a progress report and a final report to Craig Gibson, the URLF program organizer. The symposium on October 26 is an opportunity for the fellows to showcase their projects to the public and marks the end of a successful and unusual fellowship cycle. The event will be the highlight of my semester, and I know my colleagues feel the same way.

 

Librarians, what have you learned from mentoring undergraduate students? Please write your answers below in the comment section.

How to Keep One-Shots Fresh

By Janell Verdream, Instruction Librarian at Ohio State Newark and Central Ohio Technical College

 

At the Newark campus, we’ve become familiar with a number of classes that we visit regularly: mainly introductory English, History, and Biology courses. We’ve answered countless questions about the same research projects assigned in these classes semester after semester. Essentially, we could probably teach these one-shots in our sleep, but how can we keep these sessions fresh and engaging so as to not put our students to sleep?

Make a new presentation each time

It may seem tedious, but I’ve found that making a new PowerPoint presentation for each class keeps me from going on autopilot while I’m presenting. I switch up the order of topics, the example search terms I use, and the GIFs I include (did you know you can put GIFs in a PowerPoint?! It’s a game changer!). These little changes help to keep me in the moment during each presentation.

Break up your time wisely

One-shots are never as long as we’d like them to be, so it’s important to use our time wisely. Whether I have 30 minutes or 55 minutes, I never plan on lecturing for that entire time. Personally, I try not to lecture for more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time. The students like to talk with their peers and play games, so I like to do partner activities and review games. In pairs or groups of three, I sometimes have the students help each other come up with search terms for their individual research questions. Another small group activity could be asking each group to find one or two articles about an assigned topic.

Use apps

Along the same lines of group activities and review games, education apps are a great way to keep students engaged. I always try to leave room at the end of my one-shots for a short Kahoot! review game that goes over topics I discussed. The students get competitive with each other, and they always come up with funny usernames!

Another app I use often is Mentimeter, where students can vote in polls, post questions during my lectures that I can address later, or submit permalinks to articles they found during group activities. There are tons of different tools on Mentimeter, so explore it and get inspired to create new one-shot activities!

Constantly learn and experiment

If you come up with a new activity for one-shots, share that idea with your colleagues! Ask them what they’ve tried during one-shots. What worked? What definitely didn’t? Talking to your peers is a great way to discover best practices.

Don’t be afraid to experiment either. I keep a spreadsheet listing each class I visit, the activities we did, what worked well, and what didn’t work so well. Then, I can look back at my notes for ideas when I’m feeling stuck, or to remember why an idea I had failed.

Have fun!

If you’re not engaged and having fun, you cannot expect your students to be engaged and have fun. Like I said, I like to throw GIFs into my PowerPoints, and I’m sure there are tons of other ways to add personality to your presentations. My main goal for a one-shot is not for each student to remember every single thing I said. Instead, it’s to show each student that I’m a resource on campus (or online) that they should feel comfortable approaching for help. The best way to do that, I’ve found, is to have fun together during the one-shot.

Reflective Teaching in the Time of COVID-19

by Mandi Goodsett, Performing Arts and Humanities Librarian at Cleveland State University

 

Many instruction librarians have seen their teaching activities significantly change in the past few months, and keeping up with shifting sands of our communities’ priorities and needs can be challenging. But we’re also seeing more than ever how important it is to demonstrate our value and maintain a high level of quality in our services, as difficult as it may be in this changing landscape.

While the formats and delivery of library instruction may be changing significantly as institutions deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, one simple and inexpensive action that we can still take is to engage in reflective teaching. When teachers reflect, they recall their past instruction experience, ask questions about its effectiveness, and make plans for future instruction based on the answers they give. Taking the time to reflect about instruction when we’re all so busy and, in many cases, dealing with less-than-ideal working situations might not seem worthwhile. However, reflective teaching doesn’t require a lot of resources or time to be effective, and even a short reflection about your teaching can improve the quality of your instruction. And the current situation, in which many of us are recording our instruction by default, provides a new opportunity to engage in reflective teaching.

Video-recording your teaching — something you may already be doing to serve a growing number of online courses — allows you to compare your own impressions of your instruction with how it may be perceived by your students, which is a great opportunity for reflection. If you have the time, choose one or two recorded library instruction sessions to review. See if you can take on the perspective of a student as you view the recording and take some notes. Is everything clear? Are there any major gaps in the instruction that might confuse the listener? Is the instruction engaging and informative? Does the delivery of the content provide opportunities for students to ask questions and test their learning? Did you meet your learning outcomes? How do you know?

In your notes, make sure to provide enough detail to make your reflection findable the next time you teach this class or a similar one. If you record your reflections in a digital document that’s searchable, you may even want to provide some tags, such as the course name, instructor name, course topic/content, etc. 

This exercise does involve taking the time to re-watch your entire instruction session, but it can be extremely valuable. When this or a similar class rolls around in a future semester, you can take a moment during your preparation to review your reflection notes and make changes. I have found that this measurably improves my teaching.

While you may find reviewing a recording of your teaching to be helpful, reflection can be even more effective with the help of a peer observer. Since you already have recordings of your teaching at your fingertips, now may be a good opportunity to experiment with peer feedback. Work with librarian colleagues at your own institution (or elsewhere!) to exchange recordings of instruction with the goal of sharing constructive feedback. Doing this kind of activity can be scary! No one really likes to hear criticism about their teaching, and, especially for those who have taught for years, the thought of changing a tried-and-true teaching strategy can be daunting. However, with some ground rules, a willingness to change, and a foundation of trust, peer feedback can be a very valuable form of reflective teaching.

Start with a meeting between the instructor and the peer observer. The instructor should explain what they’re hoping to receive feedback about, and what their goals for the session are. After the peer observer watches the recording, the two should meet again. The peer observer can then ask questions about the instructor’s decisions and share their perceptions of the instructor’s success in meeting their goals for the session. This should be done in a supportive, tactful way — it should include some positive details about how the class went. Then, both instructor and peer observer can engage in some reflective writing about how they might change their instructional approaches going forward. 

As you rethink your library instruction in the coming months, regularly assessing your own teaching can help you improve your approach, especially given the fact that you may now have easy access to recordings of your teaching. Reflecting on your own teaching can be intimidating, but when you approach the task with openness and a willingness to change, it can facilitate a resilient approach to your library instruction in a time of change. Even as the sands continue to shift beneath our feet, reflective teaching helps us find our footing as we continue to show our value as teacher-librarians.


For more details about reflective teaching, see Mandi’s article, “Reflective Teaching: Improving Library Instruction Through Self-Reflection“, published in The Southeastern Librarian in 2014.

Celebrating One Year of Blog Posts

As I’m writing this month’s post in the office space I’ve set up at home, I’m blown away by how far this blog has come, and reminded of the resilience of our statewide colleagues in an incredibly challenging and confusing time. The Teaching & Learning Committee began working on this blog in 2018, and in early 2019 we launched it. The goal was to not only provide links to resources that we on the committee have found incredibly helpful in our own teaching practices, but to offer an advice column for our colleagues, both new to teaching and experienced in teaching, in order to provide guidance and confront challenges faced in the classroom. Since launching, we’ve had some incredible posts made to the blog from some incredibly talented librarians. To those writers who have contributed to the blog, or are planning to write an entry to this blog, thank you again for all of your time and effort in providing instructional guidance to all of our colleagues, not only within The Ohio State University, but across the state. And most of all, thank you for continuing to read the Teaching & Learning Blog.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m amazed at the resilience I’ve observed among librarians across the state. As the stay-at-home order was announced, I’ve seen librarians accomplish Herculean feats. From setting up websites dedicated to providing advice to those teaching online for the first time, to the creative work of committees and task forces working on transitioning events to an online format, librarians have met these challenges head on, and bounced back when circumstances looked troubling. There are many questions I’m sure you have during this time, and if you’d like our guest bloggers to tackle these questions and provide their instructional advice, please leave your questions in the comments section below. Similarly, if you have any stories of resilience you’d like to share, feel free to share them in the comments section as well.

Please know that any teaching librarian is welcome to contribute to the blog. If you’d like to add your own entry, address new teaching opportunities and challenges you perceive in the upcoming Fall semester, or just pose questions for others to answer, please get in touch with us via email (walton.485@osu.edu).

Advice for Teaching at a Distance

Considering current events, our guest bloggers for the month of April agreed that offering advice on designing instruction at a distance might be helpful. In this post, Stacey McKenna, Reference and Instruction Librarian at The Ohio State Newark campus, and Jane Hammons, the Teaching and Learning Engagement Librarian with University Libraries Teaching and Learning Department, provide their advice to librarians providing virtual one-shots and other forms of instruction, as well as fun tips for being quarantined. Please ask any questions, or leave any comments below!

– – –

Stacey McKenna:

Creating instructional videos to assist professors and students has gone from being a cool extra service we offer, to being completely necessary. However, creating these videos can be tricky, especially if you’ve never tried your hand at it before. The following are some of my tried and true tips for creating a successful video or screencast.

1.) Make sure you are on the same page as the professor about the research requirements

To help me better understand tricky assignment prompts I will ask the professor to send me the list of students’ topics to make sure I’m on the right track.

2.) Make your videos short and concise

There’s nothing worse than having to slog through an hour long recorded lecture from a professor, and since we can’t do our normal in class activities, there’s not as much to break up our talking time. Create videos that are around ten minutes or less to keep students’ attention, and so they can easily go back and review a research concept that is tricky for them. Make sure your titles clearly label what concept you are discussing in that video.

3.) Ask if you can create a supplemental quiz or assignment to go along with your video

There should always be some sort of assignment attached to any instruction you ever do, be it virtual or in-person. If the professor is worried that students will skip over your instructional videos, request adding a short supplemental assignment.

4.) Demonstrate the reference chat feature

Always, always, always demonstrate the chat feature if your library has one. This is a tool that many students have never used before and can be a grade saver. Before doing this, make sure a colleague is currently on chat and can respond right away so that your video flows seamlessly.

5.) Practice your searches ahead of time

I have heard both sides of the argument on pre-planned searches, and both sides have merit. However, I find it best when recording, to have my search terms and showcased articles planned out in advance since there isn’t the interaction there is in an in-person class.

6.) Use your resources

What’s my favorite part of being a librarian? The fact that each of us has a wealth of knowledge on specific topics that we can’t wait to share! If you’re having trouble recording, reach out to one of your more techy colleagues! Having trouble choosing the right search terms or database for a specific query? Hit up your incredibly knowledgeable and friendly subject librarians!

Recording instructional videos is a lot like doing research. It takes several tries and several failed attempts before it really starts to take shape.

 

Fun tip for being quarantined:

Movie Bracket: Draw out a basketball bracket on a piece of paper with as many head to head matches as you wish. Choose movies to go head to head that you can watch and argue about which is superior. Make sure you don’t include more movies than you think you can watch during the quarantine! You can do this with anything. If you like having enthusiastic debates, do this with anything! Most instrumental character in Star Wars (baby Yoda, obvi), tv show that had the worst finale, most delicious beer, most annoying family member. Be creative!

 

Jane Hammons:

Some other ways you can support course instructors, other librarians, and students during this crazy period:

1.) Keep accessibility in mind

If you create videos, make sure that your videos have captions or transcripts, or both. If you provide a PPT or slides, be sure that the contrast is good and the font size is readable. Some resources that can help include:

2.) Provide alternatives, if possible

This is more important than ever, since most students have lost the ability to use campus computers. They now may be using an older computer or sharing a single computer with family members. They may not have broadband access or may be watching everything on their phones. Think about alternative ways that they can get the same information or complete the assignment. For example, you could create a narrated PPT as a video, and make the PPT (with notes) available to students who are unable to watch the video. Or, you could provide an annotated bibliography or a Word document with screenshots to go along with a video. Some resources that could help include:

3.) If you have time, offer to serve as a practice audience for instructors or other librarians as they try out new technologies

Some instructors or librarians may be feeling nervous about using Zoom or some other technology, especially for a live session. It can be helpful to have a chance to practice first without the pressure of a student audience.

 

Fun tip for being quarantined:

Go back to your childhood or teen years. Spend some time watching those movies or tv shows that you haven’t watched in years (or decades, perhaps?). Have a themed movie day—best movies starring the first actor or actress you had a crush on. Or, listen to music by that band that you absolutely loved when you were 13. Play older video games (I have made it my goal for this period to once again be able to make it all the way through the original Super Mario Bros. If I could do it when I was a kid, I can do it now, right?) Pull out the old board games. Have fun!

 

A Hodgepodge of Citation Styles

By Danny Dotson, Mathematical Sciences Librarian & Science Education Specialist

 

Are instructors complaining to you about seeing a hodgepodge of citation styles in their students’ bibliographies? It may not be the students’ fault (at least not entirely) – it’s likely the fault of the publisher.

Increasingly, publishers are giving suggestions for how to cite an article – or outright saying to do it a certain way.

A quick search on some major publishers platforms indicate the following publishers do this, at least for some of their content, either on the items landing page or on the PDF:

  • SpringerNature
  • Taylor & Francis
  • Oxford University Press

Elsevier, Wiley, and Cambridge University Press were checked and I didn’t see this – but I only checked a few items.

So it’s entirely possible, and even quite likely, when students are provided a citation, they will assume it’s okay to use. Unfortunately, these citations are only in one style (although some of these give export options in addition to the default style). And for the three that give a default style, none appear to tell you what that style is.

This is a learning opportunity, but it is also perhaps a growing issue. Given that the three publishers that do this (for at least some of their content) are three of the biggest journal publishers, it’s quite likely this is a common occurrence.

So if instructors express stress over inconsistent bibliographies, this issue may be an explanation for some of these cases.

 

Surviving Instruction: A New Librarians’ Experience

By Stephanie Porrata, Mary P. Key Diversity Resident Librarian for Area Studies

Library instruction can be intimidating, especially for an early-career librarian with no prior knowledge or experience. This blog post will highlight my approach to library instruction as an early-career librarian through the process of preparing for my first instruction session. My goal is to provide a starting point for other librarians unfamiliar with instruction along with some insight as to how more experienced colleagues can support librarians like myself.

Pre-Instruction Preparation

One of the most helpful ways to cope with the intimidation of my first ever instruction session was to reduce it to its fundamental transferable skills—public speaking, knowledge of the library catalog, knowledge of the information cycle—and connect them to what I have already done. Upon reflection, I realized that my experience as a Residence Hall Library Supervisor coupled with my MLS class work and presentations were my connection points to library instruction. As a supervisor, it was my duty to familiarize my staff with the catalog so that they could connect students with the resources they sought. While these training sessions with my student workers were short and focused on a specific section of the libraries’ catalog, I was in fact doing some preliminary instruction. My MLS coursework involved many presentations and provided an opportunity to improve my public speaking, allowing me to feel —somewhat—confident in front of a crowd. Whenever my anxiety would spike about my upcoming instruction session, I would return to the idea that my upcoming instruction session is not a completely new experience.

With my anxiety under control, I moved into an information gathering phase involving asking for help getting started, shadowing colleagues, and doing my reading. Up until I started my position as an MPK Diversity Resident Librarian, I had very little familiarity with the literature on instruction and any guidelines for best practices. I reached out to our Teaching and Learning Engagement Librarian, explained my upcoming instruction session and lack of experience with instruction, and then she provided a suggested reading list based off our conversation. With this reading list in hand, I felt more comfortable going into my instruction session with some kind of best practice road map. At the same time, I made sure to shadow my colleagues’ instruction sessions whenever I could. By watching I could see first-hand what is effective and what is connecting with students. It is also helpful to see the kinds of questions, comments, and activities my colleagues used to engage with students and their learning. Taking notes of these sessions provided me with a toolkit of ideas to draw on when it was time to do my own instruction session. At this point in the preparation process, I was feeling pretty confident. I created my PowerPoint and had several practice runs with my supervisor, asking for any comments or suggestions. I was ready to present!

 

Post-Instruction Reflections

I survived my first instruction session which was in collaboration with two other librarians and learned a valuable lesson in flexibility and self-compassion. As with anything in life, you can prepare extensively and something will still stray from the plan. In this situation the straying factor was my allotted time. Because I was last to go, my allotted 25 minutes became 14 minutes. My 25 minutes of content had to become 14 minutes of content on the spot. I did the best I could, but there was no denying that I was a little distressed. I did not get to cover everything I wanted to cover and I felt like I did not do my job well. Upon reflection, I realized that flexibility and improvisation are vital skills if you are going to be doing instruction sessions. The ability to adjust according to your environment—timing changes, audience feedback, etc.— is dynamic and engaging and something that can only improve with practice. While I may not have handled the situation with as much grace as I would have liked, I was able to practice some self-compassion. Things did not go according to plan, and that was okay. I walked away with some experience under my belt and an understanding that sometimes things do not go according to plan. Doing instruction is an iterative process that calls for constant research and preparation, flexibility and reflection.

 

Here are some takeaways based on my experience:

For librarians new to insruction, break down instruction into its transferable skills, gather information through reading, shadowing, and reflecting on other colleagues' approaches, be flexible and self compassionate, and seek out opportunities to keep practicing. For supportive colleagues, share any resources that you think are helpful, invite less experienced colleagues to shadow your instruction sessions, provide opportunities for your colleagues through co-teaching/ connecting them with potential collaborators, and give feedback.