My first week of practicum observations

This semester I’m doing a practicum with the first year instruction librarian at Jackson Library.  I’ll start off observing classes, then team teach, and finally do a few on my own.  I’m really excited about this opportunity and it’s great to get some training in teaching.  As part of the practicum I’ll be writing a weekly blog entry about what I did and how it went.  I started my observations this week, so here goes!

Earlier this week I observed our business librarian team-teach an upper-level marketing class with a business professor.  He will be with the class all semester long, so this is an interesting example of embedded librarianship.  The students are doing a project where they have to find a business in the local community and help them export a product to an international company.  Steve was teaching them how to use sources like Reference USA to find appropriate companies and Biz Miner to look up financial profiles.  It was great to see a librarian and faculty member really cooperating to teach a class–I didn’t feel like either one of them was “in charge” and their interactions seemed very natural.  And I could just feel the gratitude radiating off the students!  They were doing some really advanced searching and I’m sure it was comforting to know that they would have access to Steve in class everyday and in the library on a regular basis.  And what’s more, they seemed both comfortable with Steve and like they respected what he was doing.  Sometimes I get the feeling that students assume that librarians are irrelevant, but that certainly wasn’t the case here.

I’m especially interested in the idea of embedded librarianship because I think that one of the best ways to get people into the library and figure out what they really want and need is by establishing ongoing relationships with them.  Many of the students in the marketing class probably already knew Steve from library sessions in their previous business classes, which would account for the level of comfort they had with him on the third day of the semester.  I don’t usually think of business students as heavy users of the library, but these students were certainly getting a positive picture of it through Steve.

Today I observed our political science librarian do the first in a two-session series of classes for an upper-level poli sci class.  Again, many of the students knew her from previous instruction sessions and the professor attended the class and was clearly pleased with the way it went.  Lynda found ways to constantly engage the students, from having them all come to the board to write one thing they liked about research and one thing they didn’t to giving them time to start their own research with her there to help.  She kept them active the whole time, asking questions of the entire group, getting them to look at print reference sources in small groups, and giving them individual time to test out search terms.

A couple of aspects of her class made me think of Char Booth’s Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning that I read for class over the summer.  For one, she kept the entire session focused on the two research projects the students have to accomplish this semester, which adheres to Booth’s WIIFM principle (What’s in it for me?).  I also think this session was effective because Lynda has an extensive academic background in political science, teaches her own poli sci class, and generally loves it.  I think that’s what Char would call a “soapbox,” “a place of informed sincerity that helps you speak convincingly, a necessary aspect of cultivating a voice or persona you can call upon to engage an audience” (10).  It’s nice to see those concepts I read about in action!

Next week I’ll be doing several more observations.  I’m looking forward to learning more about different methods of instruction!