It’s been about 5 months since my last post and at that point I was super motivated to explore the following skills gaps: 3.2 Understanding information seeking behaviour and 7.2 Collection development policy, BEFORE the start of term. As always I got blown slightly off course with other work projects popping up and lots going on in my home life. I did spend sometime brainstorming about this so I do have some ideas about how to tackle them but I will share those when they are more concrete.
Having just come up for air after 2 months of being eyes-deep in teaching I have had the chance to consider my Chartership, and reflecting upon all the work I have done I have realised I have lots of evidence to support one of my skills gaps: 8.6 Teaching and training skills. Although I have been teaching now for 7 years I chose this gap to push myself to explore different pedagogical approaches. So what have I done this term?
I have signed up for the ‘Inspire module’ at work – this PG module is largely self-directed (there’s only 4 workshops) and gives me the freedom to try out new/different teaching methods/content via an ‘experimental teach’. It is assessed via a 3500 word paper about my ‘experiment’ which I will deliver in January 2019 at the Inspire Conference. A teaching session is also observed which counts towards my final grade. This is such an exciting prospect for me as it builds on my FHEA which I achieved in June 2016 but it provides a practical focus. When (note the positive thinking) I pass the module I can apply for it to be combined with my FHEA to become a PGCHE. I believe the work I do on this module will help me to develop my teaching skills for my Chartership too.
I have tried to be more creative in my teaching for first year law students this year; I have 3 workshops with each group (over three weeks) and it can get very tiresome for students (and me) as the content can be dry. I already use the flipped classroom method with them which takes a lot of the “click here” and “how to” stuff out of the sessions so we can focus on more advanced and interesting stuff. But I still felt it was a bit too “researchy” which sounds odd because it is a legal research skills module. This year I wanted to focus a lot more on context and source quality so I build some activities in around that too rather than just research activities for different assignments and resources.
In the first of the workshops the starter activity I got the students to do was to DRAW their answer to the following question “What do lawyers/legal professionals do?” I gave the students A3 paper, some Sharpies and 5 minutes to come up with their answers and then asked them to feed back to the group. A colleague had read about the method (Learning information literacy through drawing by Brier & Lebbin) and has been using it with first years to get them to draw what a library is but as I was focusing on research skills in a professional context I altered the question.
I was hoping this would help them to think about their potential future careers and the skills they will need. After initial anxieties of “being crap at art” the students seemed to enjoy doing something other than listening/reading/typing and it did create a good atmosphere in the room as it got the students talking to each other about what they want to do when they graduate.
Here is a very small selection of the drawings the students did are you can see money, court rooms and people (judges and/or grumpy people) feature quite heavily. I asked for volunteers from each group to explain their picture and asked them questions about it; for example, if they had drawn a court scene I asked them what legal professionals would need to help them do their job and usually they would say ‘papers’ or ‘documents’. Then I’d ask them further questions e.g. what type of papers? Where do you think they would get them from? This helped the students to see for themselves how legal research skills are required at work as well as at university; rather than me dictating it from the front of the room. Following on from this activity we did some more practical legal research exercises.
In order to help students consider the quality of sources they want to use in assignments I borrowed an idea from Anna Theis and Dave Hirst from The University of Manchester (I’d seen them speak at Northern Collaboration Conference in September – you can see all the presentations here: https://www.slideshare.net/northerncollaboration/presentations). They had been using Mentimeter to get students to grade resources in terms of reliability and objectivity. I use Mentimeter a lot but I hadn’t used it for this purpose so I decided to give it a go.
This particular group were unsure about journal articles so I decided to investigate that further and asked them a series of questions to generate discussion about what makes a source reliable or objective.
Overall, I think these new teaching activities really worked although I did not do any formal evaluation. I was peer observed by a colleague (we do this annually) for one of the sessions and I received some good feedback so I will definitely try the activities again. I am unsure how I could develop the drawing one but I want to try it with my other subjects (Accountancy, Finance & Economics, Marketing and Strategy) but as they do not have as clear career progression route as Law it may be more difficult. I may use the ‘what is a library?’ question in inductions instead.
I could probably improve the reliability and objectivity activity. It would be good if I could do a whole session on this topic so I can assess understanding, but the timetable does not allow for it so I may add it into the pre-workshop work they have to do for the module. I will try to get the students to do the Mentimeter BEFORE they come to class then do a brief exercise on different types of sources and then get them to do the Mentimeter again and track the difference to help me check understanding.
In terms of Chartership it is really important to reflect on your everyday work as well as the specific CPD/Chartership things you organise because you may be covering one of your skills gaps without even realising! One of the things I love about working in libraries is that there are always new projects/initiative/groups/innovations to get involved with that can stealthily boost your skill set. Following on from my last post about setting myself goals and deadlines:
- Schedule time to reflect
- Finalise how I am going to work on 3.2 Understanding information seeking behaviour and 7.2 Collection development policy by 21st December 2017 (deadlines are good for me)
- Continue addressing the organisational evaluation and wider professional knowledge assessment criteria section of Chartership
Huzzah! I am back on course!