Competency K – Teaching

…design instructional programs based on learning principles and theories

Introduction

Librarians are knowledgeable individuals and veritable information resource paragons who offer instructional assistance in various capacities. Whether they are school library media specialists, children’s librarians, archivists, academic librarians, or myriad other information professional types, instructional assistance plays a major role in reaching our users.

School library media specialists may offer instructional sessions for the K-8 set based on differentiating between subject search and keyword search whereas children’s librarians instruct during story-time and while providing reader’s advisory assistance. Academic librarians devise pedagogical strategies to reach students, faculty, and other learners in the academic community by offering either one-shot or course-integrated instructional sessions based on remote database access or other types of research help. Archivists often educate patrons about useful traditional and digital preservation methods and techniques to help them preserve their photographs or documents, while numerous other information professionals provide instructional training in a variety of fields of expertise.

Learning Theories

Meeting learners where they are is a fundamental pedagogical building block that educators understand to be necessary for introducing new concepts. While the process is gradual and may appear to move too slowly for some learners, educators must devise effective balancing strategies to engage both slow and fast learners, and essentially teach to the fringe. It is important to consider various and individual learning theories and learning styles of our users to best meet their instructional needs.

Behaviorist learning theory asserts that learners demonstrate learning by modeling basic stimulus responses. A well-known preeminent behaviorist thinker is Ivan Pavlov who “classically conditioned” his dog to salivate at the ring of his bell. This passive theory maintains that students are blank slates waiting to be marked by direct instruction instead of actively participating in their learning process.  (Booth, 2011, p. 38)

Cognitivism purports that learners build upon prior learning, and that these blocks must connect in order to increase memory retention and cognitive transfer of instructional content. Metacognition plays an important role in cognitivism because it intrinsically motivates learners to retain the new information, which stimulates a new learning cycle.

Constructivism also advocates for the need to employ “higher-order thinking” during learning because it improves cognitive transfer and aids recall. However, “unlike cognitivists, constructivists believe that learning is always influenced by culture and context.” (Michelle Simmons, LIBR 287 lecture, June 13, 2012). Constructivist thinkers believe that learners learn best among peers and community members, and that “learning is enhanced by social interaction.” (Michelle Simmons, LIBR 287 lecture, June 13, 2012).

Learning Styles

There are numerous learning styles to consider when designing an instructional session. In his book Frames of Mind, Howard Gardner proposed his “multiple intelligences” model, a well-known theory that states the individual tendency to have a preferred learning style among the seven known learning styles. Those users who learn best visually tend to prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding, while aural learners prefer using sound and music. Verbal learners prefer using words, both in speech and writing, and kinesthetic learners prefer using body, hands and sense of touch. Logical (mathematical) learners prefer using logic, reasoning and systems. Social (interpersonal) learners prefer to learn in groups or with other people, while solitary (intrapersonal) learners tend to prefer to work alone and use self-study. (Michelle Simmons, LIBR 287 lecture, June 13, 2012) (Advanogy, 2012). Critics note that many individuals have the predilection to learn in various intelligences simultaneously, and as such may be comprised of varying degrees of aptitude for a given intelligence.

Collaborative learning is an important learning method capable of appealing to a variety of learning styles. As a peer-learning environment, it can provide scaffolding necessary to develop a learner’s “zone of proximal development” (ZPD) (Vygotsky, as quoted in Li, 2007, p. 152). Implementing a collaborative learning model engages “higher order” thinking skills because memory “is activated and influenced by meaningful learner experiences.” (Booth, 2011, p. 51) In this model, learners are intrinsically motivated to understand new concepts because they are discovering them individually and as part of a larger group. Li (2007) writes about the benefits of a “community of learners” in which “students take on the role of collaborative community members.” They work toward their common goal and often engage in brainstorming activities that promote transfer, recall, and understanding while teachers guide students by asking questions. (Li, 2007, p. 152)

Evidence

LIBR 287_Screencast and Reflection

My first piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency K is a screencast tutorial I created for my LIBR 287: Information Literacy class which guides users through the process of finding a book recommendation from NoveList K-8 based on interest by genre, as well as how to check for availability in the library catalog. My goal was to familiarize patrons with NoveList K-8 as a way to aid their search as well as provide them with a starting point for accessing children’s library resources remotely.

Creating web-based course guides like online tutorials and screencasts allows the creator quality control over the learning tool’s design, but only allows for limited control over its interpretation and use. In my screencast, I employed simple techniques to ensure “equitable use” like sans-serif or cleanly designed fonts, while employing the flexibility of “active learning methods that engage multiple senses.” (Chodock, 2007, p. 27) I also incorporated the “modality effect” as discussed in Tempelman-Kluit, where “meaningful learning occurs when connections are made between information in the visual- and the verbal-processing channels of working memory.” (Tempelman-Kluit, 2006, p. 366) This theory is an aid to alleviating “cognitive load” and helps facilitate cognitive transfer. Booth (2011) discusses “hands-on practice” as a constructivist teaching strategy to facilitate learning. (Booth, 2011, p. 51) Engaging users interactively promotes retention and also greatly facilitates cognitive transfer. This screencast demonstrates my competency in navigating new software to produce a useful research tool to best serve library users by facilitating learning through “universal design principles” as well as by engaging them interactively.

Libr 287_Instructional Session

My second piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency K is a lesson plan I created for LIBR 287: Information Literacy where I devised pedagogical strategies for an instructional session I taught at the end of the term. The lesson plan was created for entering 5th grade students on a class trip to the public library at the start of the school year for assistance with a class research project. Using the Information Literacy Standards for Student Learning (AASL) as a rubric, I directly related them to a variety of student outcomes. These included the need to distinguish between keyword and subject searching, to create search terms based on key topic ideas, and to directly relate their search results to their information needs.

Using a constructivist approach, I designed the session to engage 5th grade learners by incorporating a variety of interactive, hands-on and peer-to-peer learning activities. I also employed several collaborative and active learning techniques to promote learner engagement with both the learning materials and one another.

This paper demonstrates my competency in incorporating several learning theories and design principles including constructivism, collaborative learning, and active learning. Another critical component was consideration of the “What’s in it for Me (WIIFM) principle.” To answer the WIIFM question, I presented the learning session as a quest and incorporated imagery from the popular Hunger Games series to appeal to my 5th grade (tween) students. By aligning the students with Katniss, I hoped to facilitate intrinsic motivation to actively engage the students.

Libr 281_Bookmarking and Research Learner Module

My third piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency K is a learning module I created for LIBR 281: Transformative Learning and Technology Literacies based on the 23 Things/Library 2.0 learning model. My module’s foci included using Zotero, Instapaper, and Delicious as discovery tools. Utilizing direct links and visual tools like embedded videos and screencasts, I hoped to streamline the learning process and create an extension bridge to allow the learners to visit other learning sites and return via the open browser tab. Striking a friendly and direct tone was also important to me in terms of relating my “teacher identity.”

Transformative learning theory provided a critical infrastructure to my module in collaboration with opportunities for peer engagement and collaborative learning. Each module encourages our participants to take one further step into the unknown, which increases their capacity for continuous learning and increased knowledge acquisition.

I devised learning objectives in consideration of Booth’s (2011) USER model. As such, I was able to explore possibilities for a variety of potential participant instructional needs by investigating the “learning scenario.” (p. 103). As the “scenario” was unknown, I chose to “identify problems” typical of new tech learners and hoped to help them streamline the process. The WIIFM principle was also a critical aspect of the learning objectives in my module. Moreover, by classifying the objectives as discovery tasks, users are more apt to perceive of the course as an adventure, and venture out of their frames of reference.

This paper demonstrates my competency in designing and implementing a learning module based on both created and adapted content to engage learners with a variety of learning theories and design principles to serve their information needs and foster positive attitudes about the learning experience.

Conclusion

Flexibility is key to engaging learners and their myriad learning styles. As a poetry instructor team-teaching a workshop designed for underserved youth, I learned firsthand how rigidly adhering to a lesson plan impeded student learning. The element of surprise, while often appreciated in the line of a poem, is especially useful when teaching a room of bored teens looking for a way out.

“Differentiating instruction” can help keep learners engaged by incorporating that element of surprise. (Booth, 2011, p. 50) By choosing to incorporate both procedural and conceptual (direct and discovery) instructional techniques, teachers can engage multiple senses and intelligences and promote transfer and retention. By remaining open to the highly diversified needs of a classroom environment, teachers are privileged and challenged to listen intently for new ways to best serve learners.

References

Advanogy. (2012). Overview of Learning Styles. Retrieved from http://www.learning-styles-online.com/overview/

Booth, C. (2011). Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning: Instructional Literacy for Library Educators. American Library Association Editions. Available as an ebook through SJSU King Library.

Chodock, T., Dolinger, E., & O’Connor, L. (2009). Applying Universal Design to Information Literacy: Teaching Students Who Learn Differently at Landmark College. Reference and user services quarterly, 49(1), 24-32.

Li, Wang. Socio-cultural learning theories and information literacy teaching activities in higher education. Reference User Services Quarterly, 2007, 47(2), 149-158.

Tempelman-Kluit, N. (2006, July). Multimedia Learning Theories and Online Instruction. College & Research Libraries, 67(4), 364-369.

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