Antiracist pedagogy panel

I was honored to be asked to sit on a panel about antiracist pedagogy. Here are the thoughts I prepared ahead of time:

Library instruction is traditionally, and incorrectly, identified as “point and click” instruction, teaching students to navigate databases and search catalogs for books. These technical skills that are imperative to implementing successful search strategy are no longer the most important learning outcomes of a library instruction class. Our students struggle in an information environment that includes news aggregators and misinformation, not to mention social media. My grant application was to learn about and pursue flipped instruction as an opportunity to carve out time to facilitate conversations during class time and attend to critical information literacy learning outcomes. Critical information literacy emphasizes the ways that power and privilege influence our experiences with information. Therefore, information literacy lessons, or conversations about information creation, use, and maintenance, that are focused in this way allow students to investigate power and privilege in their daily lives.

Learning outcomes are important to my antiracist classwork, as is the pedagogical approach. Flipped instruction is an example of collaborative and antiracist teaching practice. There are two components – the instructional material -tutorials, videos, etc- and a classroom discussion. In my discipline, library and information science, it is part of the ethic of the profession to make work open and able to be reused by colleagues. Through my research for this grant I discovered PRIMO, Peer-reviewed Instructional Materials Online, which is an amazing database created and maintained by the Association of College and Research Libraries. Using other individuals’ instructional materials goes against White culture norms of competition and individualism. Being open to using others’ materials in class has allowed me to put my energy into understanding antiracist facilitation and topics of conversation for class time. Collaborative teaching practices like flipped instruction allow me to build my own capacity through my ability to focus on facilitation by leaning on my teaching and learning community. This is my small way of challenging norms and decreasing my complicity in a white supremacist system that asks us to stand independently of one another and decreases our connections as community.

To me, flipped instruction is really an intermediate location between a banking model of lecture, described by Paulo Freire as an oppressive practice and an inclusive classroom that focuses on relationship development and dialogic learning as described by bell hooks. At Muhlenberg, librarians are often included in a classroom environment in one or two 75-minute instruction sessions at the invitation of the professor. This is referred to by librarians as a one-shot model. I often feel like an interloper and so it is difficult to engage a class in conversations that include analysis of race, privilege, and power. Flipping a classroom means I have twice as many touchpoints with students to pursue the intended learning outcomes. But this literally wouldn’t happen without collaboration with professors. In order to facilitate classroom dialogue in this less than ideal circumstance, I feel that practicing vulnerability and utilizing my own experience and consideration of social identity to begin conversation is necessary. It sets the tone for the class and models the type of personal reflection I seek to inspire in students. Asking students to consider information access as a facet of social identity or which voices are privileged in information structures is important for students in information literacy learning, but specifically within a primarily White institution.

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