Thursday, April 25, 2013

Professional development for instruction

Beth asks:
I am in the process of developing instruction-related professional development for library colleagues who will be taking on new or expanded teaching roles next Fall. I would love to hear suggestions for activities, readings, experiences, etc. to incorporate into this professional development work. What helped (or is currently helping) you in your ongoing growth as an instruction librarian? What have you used in similar types of training that has been successful for you? Do you have a mental checklist of things that Every Instruction Librarian Should Know/Do? If so what's on the list? 
Truthfully, I am not very far along in my planning for this and so far I have just some basic ideas about areas to cover: adult learning styles, developing student learning outcomes, incorporating reflection, formative assessment, and some nuts & bolts things that just specific to our institution. I look forward to any ideas or recommendations you may have and I will be happy to share more details as they come into focus. Thanks!

What a great question Beth! What do you think? What advice would you give? How do you encourage your own professional growth?


  1. I've got a few things I try to remember.
    --What do I want the students to be able to DO when they leave? Not necessarily know, but DO.
    --If I were to do the assignment, what hurdles would I face? Then I try to address those in the instruction.
    --It's ok to let students see you "fail" in a search. It's a more realistic. And let's be honest, it's that troubleshooting the original messy search that is more likely to happen when we aren't there.
    --And I like to read one of my favorite quotes posted on the wall behind my computer as I design instruction, "If you aren't making it up as you go along, you are out of touch with reality." -Margaret Wheatley, The Berkana Institute

  2. Browsing through the ACRL Proficiencies for Instruction Librarians standards might help you brainstorm too:

    I'm hoping to have instruction librarians at my institution meet to reflect on these, ie. what is one strength for you & one area you'd like to improve? Then we can provide each other some ideas for how to strengthen our weak areas (observe, professional reading/workshops, etc.)

  3. Ooh! I'm presenting this at LOEX next week so it's a topic that has been very much on the brain. Since our librarians were new to teaching I found that focusing on practical / implementable right away went over best. I took the ACRL proficiences for instruction librarians and made them into a little survey where folks could rank themselves from not there yet to expert. Based on the results (which I didn't collect) we generated ideas for what to cover as a group. It helped provide language for us to start with.

    We ended up focusing on how to talk to faculty about incorporating IL into assignments and read a In the Library With the Lead Pipe article called "Stepping on Toes." We also talked about formative assessment, logistics, and some active learning grab-bag activities. Overall I would say think long term, while I am really jazzed about instruction not all my librarians are so we have to move slow. Next year we'll be working on some peer teaching eval.

  4. Last year was my first shot at library instruction. I was in my last semester as an undergraduate and on my way to library school. I am lucky enough to work with some spectacular librarians that were kind enough to let me lead first year orientation and seminars for almost a full semester. I learn best by observation and actually doing. Before I started leading instruction, I watched a few classes by different librarians and also co-taught to get a feel for how instruction goes.

    We also spent some time discussing instruction and the unplanned events that may occur (ex. questions). The most important lesson they emphasized was the ability to think on your feet, as Becky mentioned. Often, students would ask questions or had problems I couldn't plan for. However, I feel expecting the unexpected is one of the best attitudes to have when beginning a session, and I often find everyone learns from a question a student has. I know what information I need to get to students, but am always willing to stop if students have a question.

    One of the biggest worries I had when leading instruction was not knowing what was coming at me and how to answer the question. However, taking a moment to look for an answer is more realistic and also shows that you're only human, but still eager to help. If your comfortable enough, I always try to work in a little humor and keep it light-I find students are more willing to participate that way. I think the biggest area I am working on improving is not getting caught up on nerves, but I think that will come with more experience! :)