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.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin. My kids participate in our state’s Battle of the Books program, so I’m trying to get a jump on next year’s reading list.
Where do you do your best thinking?
Walking—anywhere that gets me away from my desk—around campus, in the library, or on trails.
What is your favorite class to teach and why?
I teach several Zotero workshops each term—sometimes in a drop-in workshop format targeting graduate students and faculty, and sometimes as a guest lecturer in classes for undergrads or grad students. I really enjoy teaching Zotero for a number of reasons. One reason is that my practical side appreciates introducing learners to a tool that isn’t particularly abstract and provides tangible ways to help with their research journey. Another reason is because I use Zotero myself as a researcher, so my instruction is rooted in my own experiences. By modeling my research workflow—and emphasizing some of the idiosyncrasies of that workflow—I often see learners begin to think about their own research needs and how they might use Zotero to create meaning and connections from the sources they find. Seeing that light bulb go on for learners is always exciting. The third reason I enjoy teaching Zotero is because the tool itself changes just often enough to keep me on my toes and to provide me with new learning challenges, but not so often that I dread opening the program each time I’m in front of a new class.
What class do you teach the most and how do you keep it fresh?
In my role as the liaison to the College of Agricultural Sciences, I work with an upper-division undergraduate Animal Sciences class each term called “Ethical Issues in Animal Agriculture.” Students are tasked with writing a fairly standard research paper based on a range of sources, including peer-reviewed articles, and must use a journal-specific citation style. When I first started teaching this class, I approached it in a fairly standard kind of way—cover what peer review is, show some databases, practice searching for articles. Since then, I have made many changes to how I approach the class, and anticipate that I will continue making changes in the future. Part of what has kept the class fresh is my ability to make those changes. I have worked with the same course instructors for many years. They value my input and have rolled with my need to try new things in the class. Initially, some of the changes I made were driven by my desire to incorporate more active learning elements, such as topic mapping or small group brainstorming, into the class. More recently, the changes have been initiated because I wanted to try out new pedagogies based on theoretical frameworks. For example, when the new ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education was introduced, I wanted to try focusing the class more on the Research as Inquiry frame. Because this class focuses on ethical issues and sources can be drawn from many arenas, I wanted to spend more time in class developing dispositions related to open-ended exploration. This meant I needed to flip some of the content. The instructors were happy to give me both a pre-library and a post-library assignment to cover more of the procedural skills so we could spend more time in class modeling how to navigate sticky questions. More recently, I have used Wineburg and McGrew’s 2017 study on lateral reading to model how to approach the research (which includes reading) process. I look forward to trying variations of that approach again this term.
Tell us about the library instruction program at your institution. How many librarians at your institution teach?
At OSU, I am in the Teaching & Engagement department. Our department has eight members. While our department provides the majority of the input on strategic instruction initiatives, about 20 librarians total are involved in teaching in a variety of ways at OSU. Being surrounded by so many teaching librarians gives me a support network of other highly engaged teachers to bounce my ideas off of and gives me opportunities to observe and borrow from other great librarian teachers.