Featured Teaching Librarian: Christina Holm

Several times a year, the ACRL Instruction Section Teaching Methods Committee selects and interviews a librarian who demonstrates a passion for teaching, innovation, and student learning. Nominate yourself or someone great!

Christina Holm of Kennesaw State University

Name: Christina Holm

Institution: Kennesaw State University

Job Title: Instruction Coordinator

Number of Years Teaching: 2

What are you reading right now?
Shifting Shadows by Patricia Briggs

Who’s your favorite fictional villain?
Alice Morgan from Luther

Describe a favorite activity that you use with students (this could be for a face-to-face class, online, or hybrid class).

I have two favorite teaching activities, and I can’t really choose one over the other as my favorite! One of these activities is a Research “Mad-Libs” handout that I use to help students understand the importance of developing thorough research questions. This worksheet states “I want to research [what] and [who/what] in [place] during [time] because [why]. I then ask students to fill in the blanks. If a class is at the beginning of their research process, I can take volunteers and ask different students to supply each part of the Research “Mad-Lib,” and if they are further along in their processes, I can have them complete the activity individually. This worksheet usually gets students away from overly vague statements and also gets students used to entering just their search terms as opposed to a whole sentence. My other favorite activity is human modeling. For this activity, I instruct students that they are to think of themselves as books in a database, and at my instructions they are to stand or sit. As I provide my instructions, the ways that a database works to narrow search results based upon search terms becomes really obvious. This activity also demonstrates Boolean operators very well. I find that most students enjoy this activity, and they generally identify that it helps them better understand why they need to be specific with regards to their research questions! It also makes them laugh when I visually demonstrate why it can be a bad idea to search for something as broad as college students (in this case the whole class stands up).

Name two things you would share with a librarian who is new to teaching.

1) It’s not always about you., What goes on in the class can depend more on the class dynamics and the day you attend than on anything to do with you. This can mean that the class will go really smoothly right from the get-go, and it can also mean that the class will do poorly no matter what you do. I think that it’s important to acknowledge that as the teacher you are not all-powerful—students bring their own circumstances to every class.

2) Expect the unexpected. Because classes involve real people, you cannot plan for everything. Instead, you need to prepare yourself ahead of time that the unexpected is kind of normal in a classroom setting. I feel that it takes some pressure off of new instructors to know that the unexpected will always occur.

What’s your teaching philosophy?

Briefly put, my teaching philosophy is to meet students where they are, and also that no one gets left behind. In practice, this means that no question is too basic and that most of my classes are designed with multiple feedback mechanisms so that a quiet student can get just as much out of my sessions as a talkative student. Most recently I have been influenced by the principles of Universal Design for Learning. In the past I was very much influenced by Donald Finkel’s Teaching with Your Mouth Shut. For me, the student’s ability to walk away from my sessions with a new set of skills, or more basically an improved research process, is really important.

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