Narrative Inquiry, Autoethnography, and Reflective Assessment

I continue to think about qualitative assessment methods that may prove useful in my librarianship practice.  My research has led me to

Graf, A. J., & Harris, B. R. (2016). Reflective assessment: Opportunities and challenges. Reference Services Review, 44 (1), 38–47.


Behar, R. (1996). The Vulnerable Observer:  Anthropology that Breaks Your Heart.  Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Both of these texts have been useful in thinking about ways that I can write myself into my own story, recognize the meaning in what I do, and create narratives/artifacts that may be valued by a greater collective.  Ruth Behar writes, “Vulnerability doesn’t mean that anything personal goes.  The exposure of the self who is also a spectator has to take us somewhere we couldn’t otherwise get to.  It has to be essential to the argument, not a decorative flourish, not exposure for its own sake.”  These words deliver a personal challenge to me – I am determined to be vulnerable and to make that vulnerability count.  My internal monologue returns to the fact that every research and writing practice is one saturated by choices and personal values.  I believe that transparency related to my role in research and assessment reveals the values embodied in a final product. However, I also feel that Behar is warning of ulterior motives to incorporating oneself into a text – the allure of the ego, perhaps.

Anne Jumonville Graf and Benjamin R. Harris encourage assessment through community reflection and describe case studies in which librarians consider the unintended outcomes of their class instruction and, in another experiment, risk (in the tradition of bell hooks (Teaching to Transgress, 1994) – “…empowerment cannot happen if we refuse to be vulnerable while encouraging students to take risks” (p. 9)):

  1.  What risks did you encourage students to take in today’s instruction session?
  2. What risks did you embrace, yourself, in today’s instruction session?
  3. If you were asked to ‘take a risk” when teaching this class again, what might you do?
  4. Having considered these questions, do you have anything you’d like to add? (p. 15)

I find these forms of reflective assessment to be in line with my values (vulnerability, risk taking, teacher as learner) and am inspired to try them as a method of assessment in an upcoming internship experience I am providing to a Master’s student.

As I pursue this line of questioning, it occurs to me that narrative inquiry, autoethnography, or reflective assessment are all appropriate methods, but to use one may also require my being able to articulate the reasoning behind the choice of one tradition.

An Update from President Jess Denke

Happy Fall 2018 everyone!

I’m excited to say hello as I begin my year as DVC President.   Change provides opportunity for reflection, and so my thoughts go towards all the accomplishments of the past year.  In the 2017-2018 year, we held two successful programs on news literacy and library partnerships, we awarded $3,000 in scholarships to members to support their professional development, and we provided mentorship opportunities for students and librarians.  In effect, we continued to build community for you – our esteemed network of library workers in the Delaware Valley.

I’m thankful for all of the people I have met this past year and the new relationships that I’ve formed.  Each interaction reminds me of the value of the work of a local chapter of our professional organization.   Through our community we provide professional development, support one another during challenges and change, and build our ability to consider different perspectives and challenge our own lens.

Our upcoming fall program supports each of these endeavors.  Librarians as Advocates: Leading Activism on Your Campus and Beyond will be a day devoted to identifying our work as librarians as that which resists systems of oppression and supports those marginalized in our society. Library work has at its core the values inherent in access of information to all – equity, diversity, inclusion, and freedom.  However, sometimes these values are lost in the day-to-day business of running a library.  Join us on October 26th to be reinvigorated in the action of library work towards a better future for all.  We are currently accepting submissions for lightning round proposals, we are in the process of assembling an amazing panel of librarian activists and community organizers, and we are planning an afternoon of roundtable dialogue.  Stay tuned for registration information, which will be shared in the near future!

Libraries and librarians are well-positioned to make a difference in the lives of those who need us most.    Together we are stronger and can achieve more.  Please join me in building professional relationships; your participation will make us a more prepared, effective community of action.


This post was original published on 9/10/2018 on the ACRL DVC blog.

Diversity, voice, and community engagement: We are stronger together

It’s been such a long time since I’ve done any serious reflection on my work and consequent writing.  Spring semester ended in a rush of activity and my writing practice went down the drain.  Generally, I’ve been reserving Friday afternoons for an hour or two of writing, which I’ve published here (for the most part).  So, in keeping with that tradition, today I will be reflecting on my Spring semester accomplishments.

I’ve been involved in three planning committees that held programs this spring:  the Allentown Coalition for Economic Dignity (ACED, a committee of POWER), the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Association for College and Research Libraries (ACRL), and the Information Literacy Learning Community of the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges (LVAIC).  Planning these programs took months of committee work.  When these kinds of programs come to a close I feel such a sense of relief and accomplishment.  There are reports, schedules, and resources from each of the programs on their respective websites and I would encourage any curious readers to check them out.   The ACED panel allowed Allentown community members to discuss real estate development and consequent community action with local community leaders, the ACRL DelVal program was about library partnerships, and the theme of the LVAIC information literacy symposium was Structures of Power in Information.  In my mind, these three programs have a lot in common, but this lesson stands out:

Communities are better when everyone’s interests are represented. 

We are stronger together.

Though the marginalized members of communities may be easy to ignore, when they are included their voices bring strength and power.  In my work with ACED, we determined from the beginning that, though we represent the community, we don’t represent all of the community and needed to be able to engage the people of Allentown immediately to determine what their needs and desires were for our home.  This panel was an effort to engage by providing an opportunity for education and communication.  It was followed by round tables where community members could express their ideas and continue conversations with one another.

The panel and round tables were  helpful in guiding the direction of our continued organization work.  This is the kind of democratic community building discussed in Sarah Stanlick’s “Rethinking the expert voice:  Knowledge-making in community engagement,” which was presented at the LVAIC symposium.  Democratic community engagement is important for all library partnerships; it’s important that our work is relational, reciprocal, and that we co-create our knowledge of and in our communities. In my mind, this relates to the way that librarian’s design assessment measures and determine what kind of assessment we value, how we develop research projects and what stakeholders we include in research, and our pedagogical practices within the classroom.

I’ve also been reflecting on voice in preparation for my own presentation at the LVAIC symposium with Kate Richmond titled “Engaging students in identifying voice in scholarship.”  When presenting academic research to students in the classroom, it is often beneficial to discuss the identities of authors and research participants as part of a discussion of authority as constructed and contextual.  Of course, students need to understand the process of information creation that gives academics increased trust in academic journal articles before we break it down.  However, it’s important to remember that many scholarly conversations are only occurring in communities of privilege.  For example, in reviews of peer-reviewed psychology research by Eagly & Riger (2014), the majority of senior authors were found to be are white, upper-class men who were senior professors at top research universities.  And participant populations fall into similar categories.  One of my favorite statistics is in Henrich, Heine, and Norenzayan’s (2010) article “The weirdest people in the world?”:

“A randomly selected American undergraduate is more than 4,000 times
more likely to be a research participant [in the behavioral sciences] than is a randomly selected person from outside of the West” (p. 63).

Perhaps this doesn’t affect the way that you read articles, but what if it does?  Sharing this information with students helps them to develop a critical eye towards scholarly work and also allows for conversations about the development and value of different kinds of authority.  The authority of personal experience, or that developed by organic intellectuals (see Mentzell Ryder’s (2015) “Beyond critique: Global activism and the case of Malala Yousafzai”), is valuable and can be valued in the classroom.  One way to do this is by allowing students to design the classroom environment or direct classroom discussion.  We can also increase student’s opportunities to share their own experience and value self-reflection that allows them to contextualize learning.

Co-creation of knowledge in and about libraries is best done through inclusion of all voices. Co-creation of knowledge in and about cities is best done through inclusion of all voices. Co-creation of knowledge in and about communities is best done through inclusion of all voices.

And, in closing, I just want to state that I value the public nature of this blog and the readers who occasionally give me feedback.  I value reading and hope to continue to share my own experiences through publication, but I know that I need to continue my writing practice if I’m ever going to become a valued author.  Today I determined that I needed to write something to exercise my writing muscles.  If you want to be good at a craft, remember that growth comes through practice and process.


Eagly, A. H., & Riger, S. (2014). Feminism and psychology: Critiques of methods and epistemology. American Psychologist, 69(7), 685–702.

Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33(2–3), 61–83.

Ryder, P. M. (2015). Beyond critique: Global activism and the case of Malala Yousafzai. Literacy in Composition Studies, 3(1), 175–187.

Information Literacy Roundtable: Active Learning and Interdisciplinary Exchange

January 11th was Trexler Library’s annual Information Literacy Roundtable.  Nine faculty members joined librarians Kelly Cannon, Rachel Hamelers, Susan Falciani, and myself to discuss ways to integrate information literacy into disciplinary curriculum. Each librarian proposed activities for active instruction to engage students in evaluation of information and information structures.  These activities resulted in engaging conversations around disciplinary values, curriculum design, and student experience.

History professor Lynda Yankaskas joined Kelly Cannon in sharing a source evaluation activity that has helped students make informed decisions around resource selection.  In addition to giving her students source requirements for her annotated bibliography assignment, Yankaskas is transparent about the reasons behind these requirements.  Cannon begins a conversation around sources by asking students to evaluate seven sources  (see bottom of guide) that he specifically chose to challenge student’s evaluation skills.  For example, one resource is old and, therefore, not representative of the current scholarly conversation.  Other resources are not scholarly or not specifically written by historians, which are both requirements Yankaskas set for her students’ development as historians.  Perhaps the most challenging source within this activity is a book that discusses historiography, or the writing of history, but not history itself.  Through a class discussion of these resources students begin to recognize that there is a critical element to selecting the best resources for their projects; not all library resources are the same.

Following Cannon and Yankaskas, Susan Falciani brought out some letters from the Muhlenberg archive.  In classes with faculty from a variety of disciplines, Falciani utilizes these primary resources to excite students and inspire them to ask questions.  The Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education emphasizes that the process of research depends upon an increasingly complex line of inquiry.

In interaction with these manuscripts, students are asked to describe and evaluate the text and then identify missing information.  Students identify an information need based on the questions they have about the resource, and are then inspired to dig deeper.  Falciani connected with various faculty that had not previously considered use of Muhlenberg’s archive.  She mentioned that the archive is “not particularly deep, but wide” and that there are many disciplinary connections that can be made to the primary source material.

I suggested a constructivist approach to teaching students about the strategy required for searching databases.  Through student’s knowledge of social media, particularly Twitter, I proposed that students are posed to understand searching strategies required for efficient database navigation.  In my activity, I ask students to describe to a partner how to navigate to a Twitter post.  I draw direct comparisons to library database searching.  For example, searching for a Twitter handle is compared to Author searching and hashtags are compared to searching or controlled language.  Students quickly identify multiple search strategies that can be used within Twitter, but commonly use only one within databases.  This activity encourages use of multiple strategies and persistent searching, which is in line with the “Searching as Strategic Exploration” frame within the Framework.  Faculty questioned student’s knowledge of Twitter, but seemed to appreciate the comparisons, which can be used to connect student’s prior knowledge of databases with educational research.

Rachel Hamelers completed the day by leading a discussion around disciplinary values.  She asked participants to consider what barriers to creation, access, and use of information exist within their disciplines.  Then, she asked what disciplines values in information and how we can make these values transparent to students within their coursework.  Faculty in history shared the challenges that result from language barriers and how international multilingual conferences are breaking down barriers and resulting in greater exchange of information.  In psychology, the traditional value of quantitative methodologies and large sample sizes is being tempered by research within smaller, local contexts.  Interdisciplinary conversation around these challenges and values showed the variation in information literacy instruction across disciplines.

Faculty and librarians parted with knowledge applicable to classroom instruction and assignment development.  Keep an eye out for an additional conversation around information literacy later this spring over wine and cheese.

This post was initially published on 1/12/18 for the Muhlenberg College community on the Trexler Library blog.  I’m sharing it here because I think it’s valuable to the larger librarian community!

The Books I Read in 2017


Keeping track of books I’ve read over the year helps me reflect on what else I have accomplished as well.  2017 has been a year of growth – I have more roots and have become more of who I am; I am also branching out and trying new things.  When I take a look at these books I am reminded of my progress in my career, my commitment to rediscovering my love for reading, and the trips my partner and I have taken to visit family and friends.

Spring 2017 was my first semester as an adjunct professor – I taught Web Page Design and began my year hurriedly brushing up on HTML and CSS with the textbook.  I also started a library Student Advisory Board, which was a fun but short-lived experience because I accepted a position at Muhlenberg College as their Assessment and Outreach librarian.  I absolutely recommend Library Assessment in Higher Education for anyone who wants to brush up on how to create an assessment plan, it provides a straightforward guide and good questions to prompt brainstorming.

I attended my first ACRL Conference this year on a scholarship and read Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State and Bad Feminist in preparation for her keynote.  Gay is AMAZING, frank, perceptive, and brave and I read the rest of her books this year as well.

In my new position I’ve connected with some amazing professors.  I’ve worked very closely with one individual to prepare for her upcoming course this coming semester.  In working with her I’ve read Tom McCarthy’s Remainder and Satin Island as well as Philip K. Dick’s Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep?  I’m so thankful for this special relationship especially since it’s so challenging to make true connections in an entirely new campus community.

I’ve done a lot of reading for fun this year – I basically doubled the number of books I read last year.  In my childhood I chose to read for fun at every opportunity, but I’ve diversified my interests in part because I’ve struggled to find books that I find truly engaging.  This year I’ve read so many books that I loved.  Honestly, every book on this list has sucked me in… though I’ve felt more satisfied after some (The Woman Warrior, A Tale for the Time Being, Typical American) than others (The Shadow of the Wind; Boy, Snow, Bird; The Circle).  

Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Lena Dunham’s Not that Kind of Girl, and Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods were listened to on trips to Baltimore to visit my best friends.  They moved from Corvallis, Oregon during summer 2016, so these books remind me of the gratitude I feel that they are only an audio book away.  A few of the others I read on vacation to Texas, where I met my partner’s paternal family for the first time, and at the beach, where we enjoyed the sun and surf together with my family for the first time.

Firsts abounded this year and included: slack lining, skiing, hosting a best friends week-long staycation, hanging pictures in our new home, planting an extremely prolific vegetable garden, participating in grassroots organizing, and I started printing and water coloring.  I’m looking forward to a new year, reading books new to me, and continuing to grow roots as I develop in new directions.

Power, Generalizations, and Information Literacy

This year my colleagues and I have focused our collective attention on the politics of information.  The actions of congress (tax reform, budget changes) and the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality make this topic a classroom imperative (if given the time, control of discussion, etc.).  If we do not address the relationship between power and information in the classroom we are not preparing our students to resist the structures and individuals who seek to maintain power by controlling access to information, nevermind producing information that speaks to their ideologies.

Earlier this month our local librarian community had a reading group, which focused on Maura Seale’s (2016) “Enlightenment, Neoliberalism, and Information Literacy.”  Seale (2016) critically evaluates the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education by addressing its liberal and neoliberal epistemological tendencies, which went unnoticed by me (which is proof of my own bias – a good reminder that I am not a neutral reader).  Both liberalism and neoliberalism emphasize the individual over the group and ignore, or “transcend” depending on how you feel about it, historical, social, and cultural differences to achieve a universal goal (Seale, 2016, p. 85).

The very definition of information literacy, in conjunction with a framework written around threshold concepts, emphasizes this focus on the individual and their progress towards an ultimate enlightened status of information literacy.  Thinking about it now, it seems ridiculous that every individual in the world could have the same target for understanding information.  The very notion that there is an objective truth about information needs, structures, processes, … well, I’m still growing.

Library and information science has fallen into a common trap of social science research – belief that our goals or conclusions can be generalized, that the work of some is representative of the whole (see Henrich, Heine, & Norenzayan, 2010).  My primary takeaway from Seale’s (2016) article is that different students require different knowledge of information; their contexts change their understanding of and access to information.

[The education of metropolitan students in the global North] needs to be supplemented with responsibility to the other and rooted in recognition of difference in order to contest neoliberalism.  …Enlightenment notions of liberal subjectivity and rights are also important; they are aspects that are needed in subaltern education, so that subaltern cultures are able to act politically, within the institutions that are invested in those ideas. Seale, 2016, p. 88

This is a reminder to focus on the “local context,” emphasized by Emily Drabinski’s (2014) “Toward a kairos of Library Instruction,” of each class and each reference appointment.  In the places where the Framework does not successfully consider the context of power in regards to information, it is important to address these flaws.  Seale (2016) specifically mentions the failure of Searching as Strategic Exploration, Information Creation as a Process, and Research as Inquiry, which do not successfully recognize the constructedness of information systems and the complexities of knowledge production and the creation process (p. 83).

Active learning pedagogies allow for students to learn and contextualize new information according to their individualized experience.  As teachers, we have the opportunity to present problems in an effort for them to learn through inquiry, application of previous knowledge, and interactions with peers.  Through active learning and open discussions, metropolitan and subaltern students might interact with and learn from one another.

I have many more thoughts surrounding this theme and will continue to write.  I am challenged by these ideas and feel an ever-increasing need to reflect on my experiences in an effort to solidify them within my own mind and grow.


Drabinski, E. (2014). Toward a kairos of library instruction. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 40(5), 480–485.

Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33(2–3), 61–83.

Seale, M. (2016). Enlightenment, neoliberalism, and information literacy. Canadian Journal of Academic Librarianship, 1. Retrieved from


Transforming the Research Paper and My Perspective on Participation

In May (insert normal panic about time with some existential questions about purpose), I presented at the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent College’s (LVAIC) Adult Learners Conference with my colleague Eric Hagan, the Director of Distance Education and Instructional Technology and an MBA instructor.  Our presentation, titled Transforming the research paper one step at a time: Scaffolding learning outcomes and assessment, drew a few individuals to the conference and inspired great conversation.

This presentation was inspired by an assignment Eric assigned to his MBA students in his Organizational Management class.  Eric had been assigning a research paper since his first course, and wasn’t getting the results he wanted.  His students did not seem to understand the true nature of the research paper assignment, and were failing at creating an arguable thesis and selecting valuable sources.  This was not the students’ fault.  There were many opportunities for additional instruction to help them successfully complete the requirements of the project.  Eric and I identified these opportunities and took advantage of increased librarian and instructor intervention to communicate information literacy principles based on the Framework.  We even included learning outcomes and assessment measures at each step.

You can check out the slides below.

The content is not revolutionary, but participation in this event confirmed my practice and made me feel like a valued part of the community.   Audience members were excited that our presentation helped them determine if their instruction was on the right track.  And, some participants mentioned that they hadn’t realized that their university librarian might be a partner in teaching the information literacy lessons that are important to conceptualizing and completing a research paper.  This feedback really changed my perspective on sharing my work and leading the conversations in larger scholarly environments.  Initially, I wasn’t very excited about participating in a conference that focused more on marketing and advising adult students than instructing adult students.  But because there was a small audience who did appreciate our participation, I may be overcoming my own impostor syndrome and finding that I can contribute to my scholarly community!

Our Work to Form a Lehigh Valley Learning Community Around Information Literacy

This year I joined an amazing team that is working to form a learning community around information literacy (IL) in the Lehigh Valley.  We are grant-funded through the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges (LVAIC), which includes six institutions of higher education.  Participation in this team has been a highlight of my year.  I love working with these individuals and we have made significant progress in creating an LVAIC IL learning community.

A learning community, or community of practice, is an opportunity for individuals (mostly faculty and librarians in this case) to come together and learn in a social context.  It is a constructivist endeavor, where people engage in a shared interest (Wenger & Snyder, 2000, p. 139).  Our team put together two events this year – a reading group for librarians and a symposium where individuals across each campus were invited to participate around the theme Inquiry in the Information Age:  Information Literacy as Critical Thinking.  Both of these events were engaging, fun, and informative.

The February 2017 reading group was focused on problem-based learning and application of this instructional theory to practice.  We had a difficult time finding a recent article on problem or inquiry-based learning that gives a clear definition of the theory and discusses implementation in a higher education environment during our literature review.  So, we gave participants a choice between two articles when preparing for the group:  Smith Macklin’s (2001) “Integrating information literacy using problem-based learning” or Golding’s (2013) “The teacher as guide: A conception of the inquiry teacher.”  These articles are very different.  Smith Macklin (2001) is to-the-point, but the text is old.  Golding’s article (2013) is theoretical and includes some hypothetical classroom dialogue, which is a bit strange.  However, together I believe that these articles complement each other very well.  The planning team prepared questions to direct participants in discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of problem-based learning and pedagogical actions that could be used to help students improve their inquiry.  My own participation resulted in new connections with colleagues and changes in my own practice based on techniques that were shared.

The Information Literacy Symposium in May was also a great success.  It is challenging to put together an event schedule and so I am sharing it here. schedule The goal after each panel presentation was to engage the audience with brainstorming questions and help them to identify related applications specific to their own practice.  Though time limited us and some of these plans did not play out, we still managed to create community. Participants were excited about the local efforts in IL across campuses that engage students in the critical thinking process and the student panelists blew us away with their articulate expression of ideas about the way they engage in the world of information and in their college experience.

The planning team received continued support from LVAIC and will continue to work to increase interest and participation in an IL learning community in the Lehigh Valley area.  We want to have an online presence so that individuals can communicate and share materials without meeting in person.  We also are considering having a fall reading group and a spring reading group for librarians.  The symposium will be an annual event as well.  Do you have any experience developing a learning community?  What activities or events really brought people together?  Do you have any advice for the planning team?  I’m sure that each time I help to plan an event like this I will learn something else about scheduling, higher education, and teamwork.  It’s a formative and amazing experience!  I’m lucky to be involved in such a great group in an area that commits so much time, energy, and resources to IL.


Golding, C. (2013).  The teacher as guide: A conception of the inquiry teacher.  Educational Philosophy & Theory, 45(1), 91-110.

Smith Macklin, A. (2001).  Integrating information literacy using problem-based learning. Reference Services Review, 29(4), 306-314.

Wenger, E. C., & Snyder, W.M. (2000). Communities of practice: The organizational frontier. Harvard Business Review78(1), 139-145.

Professor Denke? Who’s that?

This spring 2017 semester I computer labwas the instructor for my university’s Web Page Design course – a class of 14 upperclassman students.  This was my first time teaching a for-credit course and now, since the class just ended, I feel compelled to share my reflections.  I have learned a great deal, but was able to refine the craziness in my brain to five take-aways:

  1. Web Design offers a lot of opportunities to discuss Information Literacy – it is a natural partnership for the library that should be exposed everywhere!

Here are some information literacies I discussed with my class over the course of the semester:

  • We need to consider copyright when identifying media that can be included in our site.
  • Use Creative Commons when posting your own material online to encourage collaboration!
  • Fake or incorrect information can be published online without difficulty.  (I made my students create fake news on a page of their final project website.  Great fun! Hopefully they will think twice next time they browse the web.)
  • The Internet should be available to all, the digital divide is holding us back.
  • Linking data (or utilizing the structure of the web) can increase the value of our websites (search engine optimization) and searches.
  1. Designing a course from scratch requires a great deal of research.

I did not want my web design course to be basic, or boring, though it was introductory.  So I did a great deal of research in order to prepare for my class.  I updated my RSS feed reader to include web design and development blogs and trade news, I read scholarly journals, and poured over updates to web documentation.  As a librarian:  I do not have a lot of professors taking me up on the opportunity to help design or update their coursework, but this research process was time consuming and, for me, one of the most enjoyable parts of the process.  I am interested to know if others routinely help instructors update their coursework and, if so, how this relationship came about.

  1. Students benefit when professors make their reading and research process transparent.

I made sure that my students knew how I identified their class readings and was staying well-informed on current trends in web design and development by revealing the process described above.  I wish I was able to dedicate more class time to this, but a brief discussion of RSS feeds and authority resulted in a basic understanding.  I think this is particularly important for classes in subject matter that is quickly changing and growing.  I believe all professors have the distinct opportunity to make their scholarship process transparent so that students can observe the process of scholarship (as a conversation, if you will) and participate!  My students also appreciated this transparency.

  1. Frequent assessment results in good conversations and better grades.

I used Remind to text my students questions about the week’s class content.  Remind allowed me to send group messages and respond to my students individually without having to request each of their phone numbers.  They just needed to subscribe to the chat.  These texts usually hinted at the content of their upcoming quizzes and resulted in students considering class content outside the class.  Retrieval practice suggests that students will be more adept at remembering information if they practicing remembering it frequently.  I found that they came into class wanting to know the answer to the question I had posed if they were not able to answer it with certainty.  And so, conversations about class topics were started by students and we were able to establish common understanding and move on to the next topic without leaving people behind.

  1.  The feels of a semester extend to professors.

Because my librarian responsibilities do not include teaching a for-credit class I have not experienced the intense emotional roller coaster of the semester brought on by the ebb and flow of work.  I have been doing my normal one-shot instruction, which includes a deluge of classes during the first few weeks of the semester and a continual trickle as the semester progresses.  Though one-shot instruction definitely has a cycle, it does not compare to the semester long grind an instructor experiences.  As an instructor, I can empathize with student stress because our experiences are directly related.  I experienced an intense feeling of relief after the midterm and have a fair amount of anxiety leading up to my students’ submission of their semester projects.  I will be excited and proud when my final grades are submitted and I can truly celebrate this accomplishment!

I’m guessing that professors who teach more than one course have a compounded experience of this phenomena.  I will definitely be more considerate of each professor’s feelings when engaging them in conversations around how the library can support their work.

I’m proud of some of my work and have identified areas where I would change in the future.  Web design is a fairly structured study, but my favorite part was getting to know my students and engaging them in conversations about accessibility and the future of the web.  I know a lot of my students valued these conversations because it brought in a lot of conceptual material and changed the pace of the class.  If I teach the class in the future I will definitely make some changes to the course design.  I will likely frame the final project in a real-life development setting where I act as Project Manager and Quality Assurance (and so they will have more due dates and grades– procrastination is real).  I’ll also begin the class with more discussion of variables, values, and logic as some students didn’t have the computer science background to easily orient their thinking.  And finally, I think I would reevaluate the overall difficulty of the course.  There are no prerequisites for our web design course, but many computer science students seemed to think the material was too easy and so they didn’t participate in the process (aka read the book) until they were behind and had deadlines.  However, other students struggled the whole way through, so I need to consider the best way to do this.

Whew – is it summer yet?

PS – A lot of my knowledge of teaching comes from the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast.  Bonnie Stachowiak and her guests provide some inspiring and practical ideas! I may or may not listen to it at the gym.