Featured Teaching Librarian: Megan Hodge

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!

Name: Megan HodgeMegan Hodge

Institution: Virginia Commonwealth University

Job Title: Teaching & Learning Librarian

Number of Years Teaching: 3 in higher ed, 4 including my time student-teaching as an undergrad.

Are you a dogs or cats fan?

I’ve got nothing against dogs, but cats all the way. I love that they’re completely autonomous beings who don’t feel any obligation to do what humans ask of them.

What’s your favorite season?

Fall. The students are back and fill the campus with energy. Plus: the smell of woodsmoke, brightly colored trees, and sweaters; what’s not to love?

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

Students usually get a kick out of playing Password/Taboo to help them ‘think outside the box’ in terms of keyword generation. To play, ask for a student volunteer; I’ve found that it helps to offer candy as a bribe, as they’re often shy about volunteering until after the first round. The volunteer stands at the front of the classroom facing away from the board. Write a word on board (for example:  vehicle, USA, happiness). Other students shout out single words (this is important–no leading phrases!) that describe or are related to the word on the board in order to help the student at the front guess what the word is. It’s most helpful to go through 2-3 rounds. After all the words have been guessed, discuss as a class: Why did you choose these words? Any themes (types, descriptors, etc.)? Explain how students can go through this same process when thinking of additional terms for their keywords.

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

VCU has a couple FYE-type courses for which my department teaches 100-150+ one-shots each semester. I love to include pop culture references in my instruction,
like meme-themed slidedecks (see some examples at http://www.slideshare.net/mlhodge) or referencing trending hashtags like #thedress or #tbt. For one thing, changing these out throughout or at the beginning of every semester ensures that my examples are fresh to me as well as to the students. More importantly, though, is their unexpectedness: students generally don’t expect librarians to be whipping out things like memes. In their (fascinating! check it out!) book Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath discuss how useful the surprise factor is in helping people remember what it is you’re telling them–a good thing for any instructor to keep in mind.

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

1. Take the first couple minutes of class to prime your students for what to expect. In their coursework, K-12 teachers learn about the ‘anticipatory set,’ a question or exercise that piques student interest in the lesson and establishes a rapport between class and instructor. These couple minutes are especially important for one-shot instructors as they’re the one opportunity to convince students that the instructor is worth listening to. If the lesson will involve active learning, it can be especially helpful to have the anticipatory set involve an activity (such as writing questions on sticky notes and sticking them to the board) that will alert the students at the beginning of class that their involvement will be expected throughout the class. This can help prevent a lack of participation later on in the session.

2. Take the time to reflect on each class you teach. Especially in the beginning, when you’re trying lots of new things at once, it can be helpful to record what worked and what didn’t, and to speculate on reasons and solutions, which will improve your teaching in the future. Char Booth’s Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning has some effective strategies for this.

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