Featured Teaching Librarian: Lauren Wallis

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.

Lauren Wallis PhotoName:

Lauren Wallis

Institution:

University of Delaware

Job Title:

First Year Experience and Student Success Librarian

Number of Years Teaching:

7

What are you reading right now?

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

What’s your favorite “thinking” beverage?

Coffee

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

An activity that I like to do at the beginning of many classes involves asking students to think about a research project they have done in the past and identify one successful strategy they used and one challenge they encountered. I use a think/pair/share approach for this activity, asking students to first do some individual freewriting then share with a small group. Then, I go around and ask each group to share one challenge and one strategy they discussed with the whole class. I write these on the board and sometimes elaborate on why certain things are challenging or make connections between challenges and strategies that groups have mentioned. I move from this activity into a slide about goals for the session and try to illuminate how the goals will address specific challenges that have been mentioned. I like this activity because it uses the students’ experiences as a starting point for the class. It allows students a chance to recognize and share what they already know and also makes clear that it’s OK to experience some confusion and frustration when it comes to research. Throughout the class I try to look for moments to refer back to the students’ ideas and experiences, highlighting how specific skills or practices can provide concrete ways to address a challenge.

What class do you teach the most and how do you keep it fresh?

The class I teach the most is first-year composition. This is a required course at UD and all sections include a researched argument paper. The majority of instructors bring their classes in for a library session in conjunction with the research assignment. This leads to a high volume of classes, so I keep it fresh in two ways: one is by engaging with instructors to make sure the session is well-integrated into the course and the other is by engaging with students to delve into their research topics during class. When planning for a class, I ask instructors about the smaller assignments or in-class activities they have done related to the research project. I try to develop activities that build directly on the work students have already done so that they immediately see the relevance of the library session and are motivated to participate. During the class I build in time for students to work individually or in small groups and I go around and hear about their research process, ask questions, and offer advice. These one-on-one conversations with students remind me that the content of the session and the experience of doing college-level research is always new to the students and motivate me to be enthusiastic and engaged in every class I teach.

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

1) Don’t be afraid to think creatively about what information literacy teaching can look like. It can be frustrating to encounter limited views of a librarian’s teaching role. One way that I’ve dealt with this is by seeking ongoing opportunities to do research about pedagogy and information literacy theory. This experience has made me more knowledgeable but also more confident, allowing me to bring new approaches into my teaching.

2) Build connections and partnerships, formally and informally. In my experience, many universities talk about how they have a “silo” problem, where departments and units across campus don’t communicate with each other. That can make it challenging to connect with colleagues outside of the library, but not impossible! When you’re new to an institution, find ways to get outside the library and meet colleagues from offices that provide student support (such as tutoring centers or residence life) as well as from academic departments. Look for events like brown-bag discussions, training programs such as Safe Zone, committees, or informal reading or writing groups. It’s interesting to hear about how other departments and professions within higher education talk about teaching and student success–and conversations like this can lead to exciting collaborative projects!

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