Featured Teaching Librarian: Andrea Baer

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!

Indiana University Libraries 09.16.2014Name: Andrea Baer

Institution: Indiana University

Job Title: Undergraduate Education Librarian

Number of Years Teaching: 4 years in academic libraries, 12 years total in teaching (began in teaching college courses in German, comparative literature, and English)

Are you a dogs or cats fan?

Cats, no question.

What’s your favorite “thinking” beverage?

A very strong double latte.

What is your favorite class to teach and why?

It’s hard for me to identify one specific class I enjoy teaching most, but a context I currently teach in a lot and really enjoy is workshops for instruction librarians.  One of the things I find most exciting about these environments is how they lend themselves to focusing on “real-world” situations (like developing instruction for a particular context and audience) and the eagerness with which people engage in constructive peer dialogue.  While I realize this isn’t the typical instruction most of us do on a day-to-day basis, I think many of the principles of such workshops (for example, identifying a real-world scenario, problem-posing, dialogue in a learning community) are incredibly powerful for college students as well.

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

I think for many of us teaching requires a great amount of not only mental energy but also emotional energy.  When we teach we are putting ourselves out there.  When teaching goes well, I think this willingness to be somewhat vulnerable can be very rewarding, but it can also be exhausting.  For me it’s helpful to remember that other educators share that experience. Related to this, I try to create time to recharge after teaching and remember that I am not my teaching. As an instructor, I will have successes and I will have flops, and that is just part of the process.  In fact, the things that don’t go right are often what I learn from the most.

Related to this, when I start getting wrapped up in self-criticism about my teaching, I think it’s important to re-center my focus on the main reason why I teach: because I want to support students in their learning at the same time that I learn from them and with them.

What’s your teaching philosophy?

Though I find it hard to encapsulate briefly how I approach instruction, among the most important things to me are centering instruction on problem-posing and on inquiry and viewing learning as an ongoing exploratory process.  As I mentioned, I also see myself as a learner along with my students.  I bring an expertise to the classroom that is essential to structuring a class and facilitating dialogue, but I try to foster an environment in which people feel their ideas are valued and are focused on developing and sharing their own ideas, while listening and responding openly and critically to the ideas of others.  This kind of learning focuses a lot on critical thinking, dialogue, and the construction of new meanings that are informed by that dialogue.

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