Role of Librarian/Teacher
Before I became a librarian, I worked as a teacher of English as a Second language. I view my role as a librarian as similar to my role as an English teacher. As an English teacher, I was helping students gain the English skills to go on to further studies in their chosen field. As a librarian, I help students become self-sufficient researchers, so they can be successful in their field of study. As both a teacher and a librarian, I work to help others achieve their educational goals. I enjoy working with students from a range of educational backgrounds and fields and learning about many topics.
Goal of Teaching
I remember a moment when I was an undergraduate and had a realization that I was not going to remember many of the facts and content in my classes, but that college was teaching me how to find and evaluate information so that in the future I could teach myself. I strive to help students learn these skills. I want students to become independent learners and realize that they can find and evaluate information on their own. At LCC, I work hard to keep my hand off of the mouse when I walk students through the research process. I want students to learn how to help themselves.
How Do We Learn?
Although we each have a preferred learning style, we can all learn from a variety of approaches. It is important to appeal to a wide variety of learning styles in my classes and in designing the website. For example, on the library Citing Sources webpage, I include links to an online guide, printable handouts, books that can be checked out, and an interactive citation builder. In my classes, I use a combination of showing videos, group work, individual work, and hands on exercises. I teach Boolean searching to kinesthetic learners by asking students who are wearing jeans to stand and then asking students wearing jeans AND a jacket to remain standing. I use a Venn diagram to teach this same concept to visual learners. To appeal to auditory learners, I teach students that “OR gets more.” Even though we have a preferred learning style, I believe we all need to be willing to step out of our comfort zones and try new things.
When I was trained as a language teacher, I learned about Krashen’s theory of i + 1. It stands for input and the idea is that language learners should be exposed to language that includes some of what they already know and some language that they are unfamiliar with. I try to keep this theory in mind in my information literacy instruction. In teaching developmental reading classes, I may only introduce the idea that you need to use different words when searching for a topic, while in a Writing 122 class I get into the finer details of Boolean searching.
I believe that learning occurs when you realize there is a gap or disconnect between what you currently believe and new information. Living outside the U.S. offered numerous opportunities to have my beliefs challenged. I spent one year in high school in Zimbabwe. I remember arguing with classmates about who the first person to fly an airplane was. I was sure it was the Wright Brothers and everyone in class laughed at me, of course it was some British pilot! I have now learned from my Brazilian husband that in fact Brazil claims a first flight as well. As a teenager, it was shocking to me that something I had learned since I was a child could be wrong.
I experienced first-hand this challenge to my existing beliefs in a Development Politics class in college. We read a book called Violence of the Green Revolution by Vandana Shiva in which the author criticized many of the institutions I had grown up trusting. My father is an agricultural economist and I had spent my life moving around the world from the Philippines to Indonesia to Arkansas as he worked for different agricultural research institutes. This book was highly critical of all of these institutions and it was the first time I had ever even thought to question them.
I want to help students be open to new ideas that may not match their preexisting beliefs. Often, students come to the Reference Desk and they already know exactly what they are looking for. They want an article that confirms what they already know. I attempt to help students move past this when they find information that forces them to question what they already know. Teaching students to be critical thinkers and evaluators of information is a first step in helping them begin to accept information that does not conform to what they already believe. This is one of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Threshold Concepts, research as inquiry: “learners who are developing their information literate abilities need to be able to formulate questions for research based on information gaps or on reexamination of existing, possibly conflicting information.” Both in my work doing reference and instruction, I try to help students recognize these gaps and try to understand rather than just dismiss conflicting information.
When I think of great teachers I have had, I think of a professor I had in college, David Blaney. He was the instructor of the Developmental Politics class I wrote about above and he helped me begin to reconcile the different visions of the social institutions I had grown up with. He also recognized that students have different strengths and strived to make his political science classes accessible to all students. I was in an international politics class and he explained at the beginning of the semester that participation was mandatory. He explained that if you knew that speaking up in class would be difficult, you needed to come and talk with him immediately. He allowed those students who were shy to speak (myself included) to submit a journal each day before class with their reactions to the reading for the day. By doing this, I was more prepared and therefore more likely to speak. I remember this in my own teaching and provide students who find speaking up in class challenge less intimidating ways to participate, such as talking with a partner, participating in an anonymous classroom poll, or writing a One Minute Paper about what they have learned.