Friday, June 09, 2006

Article Note: On Instructional Improvement for Librarians

Citation for the article:

Walter, Scott. "Instructional Improvement: Building Capacity for the Professional Development of Librarians as Teachers." Reference and User Services Quarterly 45.3 (Spring 2006): 213-218.

Read in print, via workplace routing.

Walters's column provides a discussion of instructional improvement programs in libraries. This is basically looking at how to help librarians become better teachers. The article opens with the observation that "instructional improvement" usually refers to development activities for faculty. Librarians are rarely included in these types of activities, which are often centered at campus teaching centers. Walters also writes,

"Although many academic librarians collaborate formally and informally with campus teaching centers to provide information literacy instruction, there is no evidence to suggest that any major studies of instructional improvement practice have included librarians in their role as college teachers. In short, many teaching centers recognize that librarians have something to offer to campuswide instructional improvement programs, but fewer appear to recognize how much librarians might benefit from participation, as teachers, in such programs" (214, emphasis in original).

He looks at the topic of instructional improvement as it relates to higher education. The article reveals that there is some support for librarians, but there could be more. What has happened for librarians, and I think this is out of necessity, is that they have gone to create their own networks and programs from things like ALA to in-house activities.

Some other things I noticed from the article:
  • "On-the-job teacher training is common among instruction librarians, as it is among members of the classroom faculty" (215).
  • "Another important feature of any instructional improvement program is the provision of regular opportunities for teachers to actually talk about their teaching with colleagues. Brookfield wrote that '[silence] surrounds us as teachers,' and providing a forum in which teachers can discuss their work is one of the best ways to foster a culture of teaching within an organization" (215).
Maybe the silence is part of the reason why I blog. Teaching at times can be a very lonely activity, at least the preparation and planning stages. Of course in the case of this blog, I think some of it is more like sending a message out in a bottle, one never knows who will read it, if anyone. Then again, if the blogging facilitates my learning about my teaching, it has done its job.

Finally, Walters points out why we should worry about instructional improvement,

"Why worry about instructional improvement? Quite simply because, even after thirty years of discussion and debate, teacher training is still a relatively minor part of the professional education for librarians even as it becomes an increasingly important part of their daily work. Making a commitment to instructional improvement is ultimately the responsibility of every teaching librarian, but helping to foster an environment conducive to making that commitment is one of the responsibilities of an instructional leader" (216).

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