Tag Archives: workshop

Wondering About Workshops

Like many academic librarians, my colleagues and I teach several drop-in workshops each semester for faculty and staff at the college on topics like citation managers, Google Scholar and other specialized research tools, and instructional web design, among others. I’ve written a couple of times here about these workshops: we consider them to be opportunities for outreach as much as for instruction, though our attendance levels have waxed and waned over the years, leading us to add a workshops by request option for departments or other groups of interested faculty and staff. The latter has been intermittently successful — some semesters we’ve gotten several requests for workshops while others have seen none — though since these workshops can typically be prepped fairly quickly we’ve decided to keep offering them for now.

The past year or so has brought a new twist to our faculty/staff workshops: students! For several of the workshops we’ve offered — most recently one focusing on using ILL and other libraries in New York City to make the most of research beyond our college library — we’ve had one or two students attending as well as faculty and staff. We advertise the workshops on a faculty and staff email list that doesn’t include students, but we also hang posters around campus, which is probably the way students have learned about the workshops (or via our blog or Twitter). We’ve always had plenty of room in the workshops for the students who’ve dropped in and, as far as I know, there haven’t been any problems with the occasional student sitting in on a workshop with faculty and staff.

If there aren’t any problems, what’s to say about it? I keep coming back to thinking about students in the faculty/staff workshops for a couple of reasons. We used to offer drop-in workshops for students, too, but stopped doing so a few years ago because we very rarely had anyone show up. Perhaps it’s time to bring drop-in student workshops (not course-related) back into our instructional mix? One thing to note is that in the past the drop-in student workshops typically covered one resource like Academic Search Complete or LexisNexis, or were much more general workshops on research strategies for students. Maybe the more specific and advanced topics covered in the faculty/staff workshops are more appealing to our students, especially those who’ve already taken English Comp I, which requires a library instruction session?

On the other hand, every workshop requires at least a little bit of prep time, not to mention the time to promote it via email, posters, blogging, and Twitter. Our workshop committee is fairly busy already, so to add workshops that may not be well-attended could be tough.

All of which makes me wonder: if our faculty/staff workshops are not currently overcrowded, and our student workshops were not historically overcrowded, might we consider offering workshops that are open to any member of the college community, faculty, staff, and students alike?

To my knowledge we’ve never done that before. What are the possible ramifications of workshops open to all? Research has shown that interaction between students and faculty outside of the classroom has a positive impact on student engagement (Kuh et al., 2007, Piecing Together the Student Success Puzzle). Could open workshops provide those opportunities? Would faculty be uncomfortable learning something new alongside students, or vice versa? We would probably want to avoid workshop topics focused on developing plagiarism-resistant research assignments or the like, right? Or would there be a benefit to opening up an information literacy workshop pitched at faculty to students, as well?

If you’re offering workshops or other instructional opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to attend together, I’d love to hear about it!

Participatory Learning, Active Application: Reflections on the ACRL Conference

With the month winding down folks are getting back into the swing of things following this year’s ACRL Conference in Indianapolis a couple of weeks ago. Several of us ACRLoggers were in attendance — we took the opportunity to meet face to face and chat, and in those conversations the idea of a collaborative post-conference blog post was born. Several of us focused on participatory learning at the conference, while some attended more traditional sessions and brought back ideas for active application in their libraries. All of us had a great time.

Kim Miller: Seeking Application

ACRL 2013 has been highlighted on my calendar since I missed my chance to attend in Philadelphia two years ago (the conference fell during the second-to-last week of graduate classes, not great timing). This year, I was determined to make it happen since my classmates who were crazy enough to go in 2011 had nothing but positive reports, and I heard from my current colleagues it was a conference where academic librarians can get a lot of bang for their buck. I was looking forward to visiting a new city, learning new things, meeting new people, catching up with old friends. The cherry on top turned out to be my opportunity to also lead a roundtable discussion about mobile games in libraries.

Throughout the conference, I found myself naturally drawn to talks which explore issues I’m currently facing at work. For instance, our library recently started planning to redesign one of our classroom spaces which will incorporate modular furniture, group workstations, and iPads to facilitate a more creative and active learning space. So I was interested to attend “The Flipped Classroom: Integrating Formal and Informal Learning Spaces” session in which I learned about the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s College Library’s Wisconsin Collaboratory for Enhanced Learning (WisCEL) classroom. With collaborative computing areas, break out small group workspaces, and technology-enabled teaching stations, WisCEL seems like a marriage between a library learning commons and an active learning classroom; it’s definitely a space I would love to explore as an instructor (though it sounds like the UWM librarians do not currently teach library sessions in the space). They presented some interesting footage of professors explaining how they approach instruction in this space, as well how students have responded to the environment. I left the session inspired to start brainstorming ways our new space will used to promote more active library instruction sessions and how I might facilitate my colleagues’ experiences transitioning to the new space as well.

As a self-described “research nerd,” I usually love reading through stacks of literature from diverse areas of scholarship. However, at conferences I particularly look forward to poster sessions because, in addition to learning about a multitude of projects in a short amount of time, I have the opportunity to talk one-on-one with the people behind these projects. I appreciate the instant gratification of having my lingering questions or comments addressed first-hand by the librarian project experts. Again drawn to projects which speak to my daily work, a small sample of the areas I learned about over the 4 poster sessions include: re-thinking online subject guides with “Mapping Standards to Content: Creating Comprehensive Research Guides using ACRL’s Psychology information Literacy Standards”, connecting with first year students through workshops with “Making Connections, Providing Support”, iPads in instruction with “iPedagogy for Adults,” using concept maps in instruction with “Sketching Success”, and responsive web design with “Once is Enough.”

Ian McCullough: Mission to Learn

I may be the only blogger who didn’t have an official reason for going to ACRL 2013; I didn’t present, have a poster, or lead a roundtable. I was the only one with the time and interest to attend from Akron; so I balanced my schedule between personal interests and broadly applicable knowledge I could bring back. Two workshops, three sessions geared to science librarians, two poster sessions, and some library marketing.

The workshops are what really stuck with me. I attended “Flip It, … Flip It Good!: Adapting the Flipped Classroom Model to One-Shot Library Instruction Sessions with Understanding by Design” and “Higher Learning: Effective and Engaging Information Literacy Instruction for Upper-Level Students,” both were heavily pedagogical – and both were awesome. Steven Hoover taught the flipped classroom workshop and as noted in the title cribbed heavily from Understanding by Design by Wiggins and McTighe. He presented the clarifying content priorities model as a way to decide what to present in person and what to flip in an IL one-shot. “Enduring understanding”? Try to present it in person with active learning. “Important to Know and Do” or “Worth Being Familiar With”? These are your candidates for external tutorials. Each table tried to work through a scenario and pare down our (hilariously long) list of learning outcomes, triage them, and come up with instruction strategies. We didn’t make it, but the strategy made sense and I’ll be trying this for a chemical engineering class in the Fall.

“Higher Learning” addressed the problem of upper division students stultified by repetitive IL sessions. Lynda Kellam and Jenny Dale used a variety of fun activities, which we could deploy back home, but also emphasized the connection of outreach to and collaboration with the faculty as critical to effectively reaching upper division students. If the communication isn’t there, the instructional design will suck and you’re likely to bore the students. Like my earlier workshop, we took a scenario (of our own devising this time), broke it down to learning outcomes, and reverse engineered a lesson, this time with using the ADDIE model. Once again, we didn’t finish; but the structure is there and my advanced chemistry lab students should benefit.

These workshops addressed a problem, mainly that my pedagogical background is weak – I can hold attention but am historically poor at using active learning techniques in class. But also Akron is modernizing our information literacy program, so I may have some colleagues who might benefit as well. The conference got me fired up about improving both my teaching and our IL program. I’m hosting a brown bag session for some of the other faculty to share what I’ve learned and I hope my enthusiasm rubs off.

I wanted to quickly praise two posters – “Mapping Standards to Content” which Kim has already noted and Can Bibliometric Indicators Predict Institutional Citation Patterns?” which was the closest thing I saw to my own research at ACRL, but way better.

Maura Smale: Thinking, Camping, and Sharing

I arrived in Indianapolis later than expected due to weather-related travel snafus; the conference was well underway by the time I set foot in the Convention Center, and I felt a bit like I’d fallen behind before even beginning. Perhaps that’s the reason that, once I finally got to Indy, I found myself preferentially seeking out the kinds of conference experiences that offered the opportunity for conversation and participation rather than the more traditional paper sessions. There were lots of papers and panels that looked interesting, as usual. Actually, that’s always my one complaint about ACRL: there’s just way too much to do. Instead, I decided that I’ll spend a day at some point over the summer going back to the conference website to take a look at the papers, presentations, handouts, posters, and video of the sessions I missed (a colleague suggested calling it #ACRLrewatch — who’s with me?).

On Friday morning I attended the first half of THATCamp. I’m a big fan of THATCamps and had a great time at the sessions I participated in: Diversify the Digital Humanities and Libraries and Publishing (links are to the public, collaborative notes in Google Docs). I think what I most appreciated at THATCamp was the chance to talk with librarians from all over the country and lots of different kinds of academic libraries: from research universities to community colleges, from rural to urban, from small to large. Not to devalue the interaction we all have online — of course the library community is very digitally connected — but I so rarely have the opportunity to have a face to face discussion with a variety of folks about big chewy topics like diversity and inclusion, community activism and engagement, and scholarly communications. It was delightful.

Another participatory highlight of the conference for me was the Saturday morning panel How Feminist Pedagogy Can Transform the Way You Teach and How Students Learn. One of the panelists started with a story, which is always a great way to begin a session, about her own experience with feminism. Then the panelists asked those of us in the audience to do some work, to turn to a fellow attendee and consider our own feminist perspectives and lessons we’ve learned. I’m sure I’m not the only one who initially blanched at the prospect of engaging in a think-pair-share activity at 8:30am on the final day of the conference, but it was easy to get into conversation with my partner and we found lots to discuss. The panel continued with definitions and themes of feminist pedagogy, and each of the panelists shared examples of the ways in which they’ve brought this perspective into their library classrooms. To round out the session we were asked to participate in a follow-up think-pair-share and consider the ways in which our responses and understanding of feminist pedagogy in library instruction had changed. It was reassuring to learn that feminist pedagogy incorporates active learning strategies that many of us already use in our instruction sessions: group work, asking for student input, and encouraging discussion, to name just a few. I left the session eager to bring new focus to feminist pedagogy in my own teaching, and luckily I still have a couple of classes remaining this semester to try it.

Marc Meola: Entering Conference Space

This was my 5th ACRL National Conference and each one always seems better than the last! Three sessions that stuck out for me were a writing workshop, a THATCamp, and a Roundtable discussion.

The workshop was called, “Get Writing! Overcome Procrastination, Remove Roadblocks and Create a Map for Success.” This was perfect timing for me since I am working on a paper right now and feel a little stuck. Unlike Contributed Papers or Panel Sessions where attendees can simply sit back and take in information, the Workshop format asks that participants actually do some work. Instead of just hearing someone talk about how to create a work plan for writing a journal article while saying to yourself, “hmm those are some mighty fine ideas and I sure am going to do that someday,” you actually have to sit down right there and go ahead and create a work plan for writing a journal article. Trained facilitators are on hand to whip you if you can’t hack the workload.

Creating a work plan for writing a journal article involved:

  • breaking the project down into steps
  • writing the steps on post-it notes (green or yellow)
  • identifying roadblocks (red)
  • creating milestones (blue)
  • organizing the post-its into a time line on a piece of 11 x 17 paper.

Simple enough, but very useful tools for anyone, novice or experienced, working on a journal article. Some ideas for getting over roadblocks included getting a mentor/coach and using an accountability buddy who checks in with you at milestones. (Don’t forget the ACRL Research Coach program!) I took my work plan home and taped it above my monitor, where it now mercilessly taunts me. Facilitators Jerilyn Veldof and Jon Jeffryes of University of Minnesota Libraries did a masterful job of organizing the content and managing participant interaction.

Handout: How to Get a Paper Written and Published: Designing a Work Plan to Avoid Procrastination

I arrived at THATCamp at 8:30am on Friday morning with a pounding headache thanks to a libation called “Remember the Maine,” which I and some librarian friends felt compelled to investigate fully (because of our pure love for American history) the night before. In the session I attended we created an e-book using a web bibliography, our laptops, and a tool called Calibre. The whole spirit of how we went about doing it was great fun: people were willing to admit when they had no idea what to do; those who knew taught; and those who just learned then taught someone else. It would be wonderful if we could duplicate aspects of this model in our workplaces. Although our finished product was not perfect, working through the complete process together was very valuable. Micah Vandegrift skillfully coordinated the whole thing.

One Hour: One Project – DH and Libraries Ebook

Finally, although I’m not quite there yet but like to look ahead, I attended a roundtable discussion called, “55 Years Old with a 33 Year Library Career: What Now?” The discussion was wide ranging but included important issues such as ageism in librarianship, career and retirement planning, and the need for intergenerational dialogue. These issues deserve more attention; look for a blog post that continues the discussion soon!

ACRL Conferences are perfect for getting yanked out of your day-to-day routine and entering Conference Space — that unique zone where you explore new ideas, meet new people, and return to work reinvigorated and re-energized. Thank you ACRL, see you in Portland!

Lengthening Our (Out)reach

I’ve written before about the faculty workshops we offer at my library. When we started to expand our offerings a few years ago we thought it would be a good opportunity both to promote our resources for faculty as well as engage in some general library outreach. While we’re a small college library we do have resources for faculty research and scholarship, often more than our faculty realize (especially if they’ve come from graduate work at a large research university). And it worked for a while — our workshops met with a reasonable amount of of success and were well attended.

Lately attendance has dropped off, and there could be any number of reasons for this. One is that there are simply more events on campus these days, more possible ways to spend those periods of free time. I’m at a commuter college and we have a club hour once a week, and it’s incredible how much goes on during that 90 minute block (for both faculty and students). We’ve tried a few different days and times for scheduling but inevitably I get a handful of emails after the fact from faculty who wanted to come to the workshop but just couldn’t fit it into their busy schedules.

Another possibility is content exhaustion: while we’ve refreshed the topics we cover in our faculty workshops, it’s possible that we may be beginning to exhaust the number of faculty who are interested in the workshop content we’re offering. There are a few workshops that remain popular and a few that stubbornly, disappointingly don’t. It’s probably time for us to reevaluate our workshop content and either refocus or consider how to better market the underperformers.

Recently we’ve started to consider a faculty workshop menu: a choose your own topic combo from our range of subjects. I know many libraries have tried this method for promoting information literacy instruction for students. We plan to create a menu and then communicate directly with individual departments, offering to schedule a workshop with the components they choose at a time that’s convenient for them (perhaps a department meeting?). We might even target multiple related disciplines, for example, the allied health departments.

A quick web search didn’t return examples of other libraries marketing their workshops to faculty menu-style. Has anyone tried this method for faculty outreach? What other successful strategies have you used to market library workshops to faculty?

Teaching Students, Teaching Faculty

Over the past few semesters we’ve ramped up the number of faculty workshops we offer at the library where I work. We’re a small library in a fairly large college, and it can be tricky to balance our faculty initiatives with student instruction. Faculty sessions usually take longer to prepare, and since we only offer one workshop on a topic each semester, we can’t economize on prep time the way we can with some of our library instruction for students.

While library instruction to students is an important mission for our library (and a huge part of my job), we only have the students for a relatively short time before they graduate. Faculty, on the other hand, tend to stick around for awhile. So I think there are several good reasons for continuing to offer as many faculty workshops as we do:

  • In my experience many faculty members are actively interested in learning more about the resources the library has to offer. Some of my faculty colleagues have mentioned to me how fast the research landscape is changing, and how difficult it can be to keep up. Offering workshops on advanced search strategies for the catalog and databases encourages faculty use of our books, databases, and other materials, which makes good sense for the library.
  • Faculty workshops are opportunities for outreach and to raise the library’s profile in the college. We’ve met lots of new faculty members recently, as well as faculty from departments that aren’t traditionally heavy library users. The library has partnered with the college’s new center for teaching and learning to offer our workshops through their faculty development program. This partnership has given us additional visibility on campus, and their talented intern has created beautiful posters for us to use to advertise our workshops.
  • Anecdotal evidence over the past few semesters suggests that many faculty who come to our workshops request library instruction for their classes, too. Thus, faculty workshops also provide opportunities for us to promote student library and information literacy instruction. Our workshops are open to all faculty at the college, and it’s especially nice to have a chance to connect with adjunct faculty, who can be harder to reach than the full-timers.

Does your library offer workshops or classes for faculty? What strategies for faculty workshops have you found successful? How do you balance the instructional desires/needs of faculty and students?