The Art of Questioning …
Well, I can now add â€œconference attendanceâ€ to my professional resume: I just got back from attending the LOEX Conference in Oak Brook, IL. Not that this is my first conference; I did attend the 2006 ALA Annual in New Orleans and the Louisiana Library Association Conference while in grad school. But as some of you might agree, I found it to be a quite difference experience now that Iâ€™m a librarian. As a student, I had trouble focusing in on which sessions would be the most beneficial. Now that I have a job, itâ€™s a little easier; I can go to the sessions that correspond with my position and/or professional interests (which are, admittedly, somewhat varied). This was easy at LOEX, as everything had to do with library instruction and information literacy!
This conference came at a perfect time for me. Since there arenâ€™t many summer classes offered at my university, I will get a break from teaching and have time to focus my energies on various projects that Iâ€™ve been adding to a list throughout the year. Among other things, I would like to find ways of improving our instruction program, and more specifically, how we can better engage students.
The theme of this yearâ€™s LOEX was â€œLibrarian as Architect: Planning, Building, & Renewing,â€ which fits in quite nicely with my goals for the upcoming academic year. While I was very pleased with all of the sessions I attended (and believe me, it was hard to narrow it down!), I think my favorite was one entitled â€œThe Art of Questioning in Instruction.â€ The presenter, Michelle Dubaj, from SUNY Fredonia, had attendees complete various activities designed to have us examine our current instructional styles. We brainstormed ways of passively/actively engaging with students prior to classes, took a quiz to see how often we recognize which students fall under different different categories (i.e. â€œare conversation hogs,â€ â€œare lost on their assignment,â€ or â€œwill kill the mojo of group workâ€), and drew diagrams of our instructional spaces to see where our â€œactive zonesâ€ and â€œblind spotsâ€ are. She also had the entire group come up with a list of possible questions to ask during instruction sessions, which she graciously offered to compile and send to us.
I will definitely be using Michelleâ€™s suggestions and techniques when my next instruction sessions roll around. However, I donâ€™t think the â€œart of questioningâ€ has to be limited to instruction. Many of us engage students all day long, whether itâ€™s in a reference transaction, at the circulation desk, or just walking around the library. And, going back to the title of the session, I do believe that questioning is an art, not a science. It can be hard and cumbersome to engage students, but this doesn’t mean it should be neglected. It may take a few questions and some gentle probing to get an answer, but in the end, I think the act of questioning makes our interactions with students much more worthwhile (on both sides).