Instant Ideas and Collaboration

#uklibchat summary – Teaching in libraries – August 2014

August’s chat was on teaching in libraries and was an interesting insight into what kind of teaching people do, how they do it, and where it’s going in our sector. We had a feature article on teaching in libraries and getting a higher education teaching qualification from Samantha Halford. In the summary below I have grouped together similar answers, but the original, un-edited tweets can be found in the chat archive.

1. What kind of teaching have you done in libraries and information services?

The chat attracted many people working in higher and further education libraries, but also from a wide range of other sectors, including law, public, school, corporate, government and health.

The most common types of teaching chat participants had done were:

  • Library ‘inductions’ and other sessions on how to make the most of information resources/services. These were common across a range of sectors but especially prevalent in further and higher education and often happened in large groups
  • Large group teaching on research skills were quite common for those who worked in higher education. Some had also led seminars or smaller classes on this, and done one to one training
  • In special libraries, many people did one to one tutorials on research skills and searching
  • Training other library/information staff

Less common types of teaching were:

  • Recording webinars on how to use specific resources/databases
  • Co-designing and teaching whole courses with lecturers
  • Team teaching with further education lecturers in certain classes
  • Early literacy ‘Rhymetime’ and ‘Toddler Read and Rhyme’ sessions in public libraries

This question sparked off a discussion about the definition of teaching that continued throughout the chat. What is the difference between teaching and training, and teaching and presenting? Some thought that training or presenting meant ‘surface’ learning and involved less engagement from the people being taught, whereas ‘teaching’ meant deep learning and facilitating independent learning. One person said ‘presenting is providing new information and teaching is changing behaviours’. Many people thought that maybe what they did was just ‘presenting’ or ‘training’ rather than teaching because that was all that was achievable in the one-off group sessions they did. Participants agreed that this was a difficult topic to discuss via the medium of Twitter as it’s quite complex.

2. What kind of training have you had if you’ve done any teaching – formal or informal?

  • Some had done a module on teaching and learning in their library qualification – although the majority of qualified participants had not done this and felt that their library qualification had not prepared them for this important aspect of their role
  • Some people in higher education libraries had done a PGCert in teaching as mentioned in our feature article, and felt that it was a valuable contribution to their practice
  • PTTLS qualification (mainly aimed at those teaching in further education)
  • A number of participants had done a PGCE before going into libraries, and felt that they used their PGCE in their work
  • Several people had received in house training, eg day long or several day courses. These were usually ‘train the trainer’ type courses for people delivering LMS training or early literacy activity training
  • @NatashaChoolhun’s workplace would not fund a PGCert so she has used MOOCs from Coursera, FutureLearn and ALISON to build her teaching skills. She recommended Study Skills from FutureLearn and 21st Skills from Coursera
  • Many people had no formal training, but had observed and worked alongside colleagues. Some people felt this had worked well for them, but some felt that they would benefit from more formal training

3. Do you think teaching is a core part of what libraries/information services do?

Almost everyone answered ‘yes’, and felt that teaching is a key way in which library and information services add value. Many people emphasised that libraries are about enabling people to do their own learning and research autonomously – but they need help and guidance to have the skills to be independent learners. Some other points made were:

  • The scope of what library staff teach in HE is expanding
  • In another academic library, @AVWoman thought that actually delivering teaching went in and out of fashion in her sector, and at the moment it is tailing off after a peak
  • Many contributors thought that teaching was only becoming more important in libraries, across many sectors

4. If you don’t teach as part of your job, what are good ways to get experience?

  • Volunteer to teach even if it’s outside your remit
  • Make sure managers know this is something you’d like to get experience with and that you are happy to assist with sessions and/or cover
  • Present or deliver workshops at conferences
  • Volunteer to help out with teaching sessions or workshops happening in your workplace
  • Try teaching your friends or children something – this gives insight into learning styles and finding a hook to get them interested
  • Arrange work shadowing
  • Try different types of learning yourself (eg. webinars, MOOCs, conferences) and think about what makes teaching effective for you
  • Any type of public speaking experience will help
  • If you work in a university, you could offer to help in the study skills department
  • Read around the topic – try the Journal of Information Literacy
  • Volunteer in schools or youth groups to get experience of small group teaching

5. What’s the biggest challenge you face in your teaching?

I’ve ordered these responses with the most common at the top.

  • Pitching content at the right level for where your audience is
  • Different skill levels in the group
  • Timetabling. Getting the right content at the right time is crucial but so difficult to do
  • Deciding what to cover when time is short
  • Getting people to come to sessions; convincing them that they need these skills
  • Keeping things fresh if you do similar sessions every year
  • My fear and their indifference. Timing helps the latter (do they feel the need?), and sorting the latter soothes the former
  • Language barriers

Some suggestions for addressing challenges:

  • Have a plan B ready in case plan A isn’t working
  • Redraft sessions for freshness
  • Ask people what they want to learn
  • Try to find common ground with your audience – eg. ‘hands up who overuses google for their essays’, emphasising that you’ve done it too
  • What sessions are called can make a big difference, eg. ‘how to be an independent learner’ instead of ‘information skills’
  • If possible, embedding teaching in courses increases engagement
  • Relationships with other staff or key people your audience listen to are key. Eg. getting a health visitor to spread the word about your early literacy sessions is invaluable

6. Has anyone else experimented with creating context for one-off sessions by emailing student groups before session?

Not many people had tried this but some had examples of trying to engage with students before one off sessions:

  • Some people found out upcoming essay titles or dissertation topics before meeting a group of students
  • Released materials before a session before (in VLE) – lot of students seem to respond well, though I like element of surprise
  • Have asked tutor to distribute forms for students to fill out to gauge knowledge. Didn’t work,they didn’t write anything
  • I always contact the clinicians I’m going to be training to find out their current hot topics and base training around that

Many people found email wasn’t an effective way of communicating with students/other service users, because they ignored it. Emailing resources following a session was common, though.

7. Has anyone experimented with ‘flipping’/flipped classroom technique for  their teaching session?

If you haven’t heard of this, here’s an infographic explaining the concept. Thanks to @thetimbeing for telling us about it. @jwebbery defined the flipped classroom model as using teaching for problem solving and discovery; information transfer happens outside the classroom.

Many people hadn’t heard of flipped classroom techniques. Most who had felt it wouldn’t work for the type of teaching they did, because they did mainly one off sessions and it was only suited to many sessions happening in a series with the same group. Some people knew of lecturers using the model.

One suggestion for using it in a library/information skills setting was to create a web quest and send it via an academic to a group of students before the class. However, as people found it hard to engage with students via email, they were worried that students wouldn’t do the work/look at the resources beforehand and lecturers would not chase them up about it.


Links discussed during the chat:

Karen McAulay’s Teaching Artist blog: http://karenmcaulay.wordpress.com/

Christine Lagarde (IMF) lecture shared as example of excellent public speaking: http://t.co/KGo3umj2SE

Flipped classroom model explained: http://www.knewton.com/flipped-classroom/

7 things to know about flipped classrooms: https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7081.pdf

Webquest made by @ElizabethECharl for use with flipped classroom technique: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1nW_kYLn4OM3gCQO8Hm7SBW2wkZYHGDusRczNlvVF0aI/viewform



About spoontragedy

Former public library Children's Librarian, now working as a Careers Information Officer in a London university. Nearly finished being an #aberils student.

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This entry was posted on December 30, 2014 by in Discussion Summaries and tagged , , , , .


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