Featured Teaching Librarian: Jessica Kohout-Tailor

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.

Name:

Jessica Kohout-Tailor

Institution:

Clemson University

Job Title:

Undergraduate Experience Librarian

Number of Years Teaching: 

10


Why did you become a librarian?

I became a librarian because I wanted to work with middle school students to make the library a welcoming environment for young people. I wanted to empower students through reading, research, and technology and help to make middle school a more positive experience. I had the privilege to work with middle school students for six years prior to moving to higher education. In my current position, my goals and inspiration are similar to why I wanted to work with middle school students, as I want first-year students to have positive and empowering experiences with libraries and learning.

What are you reading right now?

I am currently reading Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh, which centers on mindfulness. I am collaborating with our health organization on campus and our student government to facilitate a book study for students, so it’s been a fun and helpful community where we are learning together.

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

I like to have opportunities for students to teach during a class or workshop, whether it’s in-person or in an online environment. I will divide students up into small groups and have them work through a search tool or research strategy. I will give some guiding questions for students to think through and after some time working together, then they have the opportunity to teach all of us what they know after working with their group. With the shift to online learning, I use Zoom Breakout Rooms and Google Docs or Sheets to have students answer the guiding questions. This allows me to see where students are in their discussions and then I can jump from room to room to provide feedback. I also like to give feedback to students on Google Docs/Sheets while they are working with their groups. Students bring so much to the classroom and I continue to learn from them. Giving them an opportunity to share what they know or have learned enhances the learning experience and gives students more voice in the classroom.

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

I encourage you to be kind to yourself. Be kind as you continue to learn and develop your teaching craft. There are always good things to celebrate with teaching and learning and even though something may not go to plan, that’s where we learn and grow.

I would also encourage you to use reflective practices to continue to learn. Asking yourself questions like “what worked well” and “what would I do differently next time” can help you think about how to improve your practices. As educators, we never arrive—we are always striving to improve our practices. Reflection is important in our process so that we can continue to evolve as teachers.

What are you doing to make your instruction more inclusive? (This could include particular strategies you’re using, trainings you’ve attended, or articles you’ve read.)

Some strategies I use to try to make my instruction more inclusive include using an agenda, differentiating content, and using norms for group activities. I like to explain to students what to expect before I teach a session and lay out an agenda, as well as explain how they can ask questions. This helps students know what to expect and can clarify any questions, especially in a virtual environment. I try to provide multiple access points to content to meet the learning preferences of learners. With direct instruction, this includes using visuals or multimedia and using group work to apply what they’ve learned. I will also put notes on presentation slides and share the slides with students so they can refer back to the information at a later point. When students are working in groups, I use group norms to help guide the expectations of their work. One norm that I typically use is to “share the air,” so that students are mindful of letting their classmates have the space to speak or contribute.

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