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. https://doi.org/10.1108/RSR-06-2015-0027.
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)):
- What risks did you encourage students to take in today’s instruction session?
- What risks did you embrace, yourself, in today’s instruction session?
- If you were asked to ‘take a risk” when teaching this class again, what might you do?
- 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.