Featured Teaching Librarian: Katharine Macy

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.

Katharine MacyName: Katharine Macy
Institution: Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis
Job Title: Business & Economics Librarian
Number of Years Teaching: 4

Why did you become a librarian?
I had been working as a business analyst in the private sector for about a decade when I realized that my favorite part of my job was helping people find, understand, and use information to make informed decisions. However, that was only about 20% of my job. I wanted to flip that ratio between information work and everything else, making it 80%, so I went to library school.

What are you reading right now?
A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger

What class do you teach the most and how do you keep it fresh?
I provide a 2.5-hour research workshop to all business students during their junior year, upon admittance into the business school. This workshop supports an integrative, semester-long project that allows students to apply class concepts from their finance, marketing, operations, and teamwork/leadership courses as they research and analyze the viability of entering a new market or introducing a new product/service for a local company. I keep this workshop fresh by working closely with the faculty to understand any trouble spots from the prior term, changes they’ve made to the project deliverables, and by learning about the local client companies the students will be working with during each term. This, combined with assessment of current-term student artifacts and assessment data gathered during the prior term from the instruction sessions and research consultations, allows me to refresh student worksheets, research guides, asynchronous teaching modules and in-class activities, ensuring instruction is relevant and examples resonate. I’m always on the lookout for a new way to improve part of the workshop. For instance, during research consultations, I realized my students struggled with brainstorming keywords for different aspects of their project, so the next term I integrated a collaborative jigsaw activity into the workshop that helped students learn from each other as they developed this competency. I ask different teams to brainstorm search terms describing either the company, industry, product/service, or customers before facilitating a group discussion that consolidates the list of potential terms. Students are able to bring their own experience and authority as we develop a list of terms, resulting in terms that may not have occurred to me but prove useful. Most groups develop a list of descriptive words; however, usually at least one group brainstorms disciplinary terms that will illuminate aspects of the business environment and performance of their client (e.g., competition, market share, profitability, financial data, customer perceptions). These disciplinary terms create a light bulb moment that allows for more complex searching as I show them how to combine terms later in the workshop. Since introducing this exercise, students have shown less difficulty in research consultations with developing keywords as they research a new product/service or market.

Tell us how you assess your classes (e.g., mud cards, clickers, reflections).
I use a mix of assessments that I determine based on the learning objectives and planned activities for the class. I use pre-tests to gauge student understanding as well as prime the pump prior to instruction sessions, often followed by post-tests later in the term to determine if concepts taught were able to stick. To gather formative assessment during class I may use worksheets, directed paraphrasing, and/or polling software. I recently discovered Plickers for conducting class polls, and I love it because I’m the only person who needs to manage technology during the activity, and it allows me to record the student responses for later analysis. I end most classes by distributing a half-sheet asking students to describe 3 things they learned that were new, 2 things they learned that were interesting, and 1 thing that they still have a question about. I find this feedback allows me to understand where students are. If they are listing new concepts that I had hoped students had already been introduced to in earlier instruction, it informs my instruction plans for classes mapped earlier in the curriculum. What students find interesting helps me determine what activities resonated with students, while their question allows me to follow up and clarify. Sometimes, I conduct authentic assessment using a rubric on samples of student artifacts such as papers or PowerPoint presentations to ascertain if students are applying the skills learned in class and achieving the student learning objectives outlined in my instruction plan.

Name two things you would share with a librarian who is new to teaching.
First, I would say that often we are strapped for time and sometimes sessions suddenly become shorter than anticipated. Don’t try to squeeze 60 minutes into 30. Instead, when lesson planning, star the activities and concepts that are most critical and focus on teaching those well. Going too fast may create cognitive overload for students. A well-designed worksheet is handy in these situations to provide additional backup for topics not covered.

My second piece of advice is that assessment and reflective teaching practice are powerful for becoming an innovative teacher. I approach information literacy instruction with a design thinking mindset. Each lesson plan is essentially a prototype. Each class allows you to test things out. It’s important to measure and reflect on what worked and didn’t, so you can make necessary adjustments to your next session.

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