Monday, June 04, 2007

A little teaching on the fly

I just finished teaching an introductory psych class. For a brief summary of what I covered, readers can go here. This was an example of teaching on the fly. I did not get the assignment before hand. In fact, I found out about the assignment when I got there by talking to the teacher as well as asking the students. In the case of asking the students, I was talking to them as I was teaching the lesson to fine tune it as I went along. I could have formalized the structure a bit more if I had known about the assignment beforehand, but it was certainly not the end of the world. Once I realized that they needed to find academic articles, and that they needed to write abstracts on those articles following a certain format, I was able to plug that knowledge into the lesson. I think what worked best was the moment when I opened one of the academic articles, and I pretty much dissected it for them. You see, the students have to identify the following elements from the article for their abstracts:

  • The problem the article addresses or considers. As I told the students, this is the part of the article where they say "this article will analyze. . . . "
  • The instrument: What the researchers used to conduct the research. The sample I pulled up actually had a couple of survey instruments identified. While it was not typical, I did reassure them researchers do reveal any instruments they use.
  • The population. I told them this is who they did the experiment on. For instance, if the article says, "we did a survey of 100 pregnant women to determine. . . ."
  • Procedure: I told them this is what they did and how they did it. "We tracked those 1oo pregnant women over their pregnancy, and we used a self-assessment to . . . ."
  • Analysis and conclusion. This is what they found and the conclusions they reached.
Notice that above I made up the language a little, but the idea was to convey that the elements can be identified in the articles. No matter what article you pick, they will be there in some form.

By the way, as I was typing this little note at the reference desk (I have the night shift tonight), a young lady from the class came asking for some help. We reviewed how to search, and she gave me the topic of "dreams." As we looked through the list of citations, she chose this one:

Bulkeley, Kelly. "Sleep and Dream Patterns of Political Liberals and Conservatives." Dreaming 16.3 (September 2006): 223-235.

If that does not sound interesting enough, here is the abstract as provided by the database:

In this study the author examined the dreams of American liberals and conservatives to highlight patterns that might correlate with their opposing political views. A total of 234 participants (134 self-described liberals and 100 self-described conservatives) completed a lengthy sleep and dream survey, and their answers revealed several notable patterns. People of both political persuasions shared a common substrate of basic human sleep and dream experience. Conservatives slept somewhat more soundly, with fewer remembered dreams. Liberals were more restless in their sleep and had a more active and varied dream life. In contrast to a previous study, liberals reported a somewhat greater proportion of bad dreams and nightmares. Consistent with earlier research, the dreams of conservatives were more mundane, whereas the dreams of liberals were more bizarre. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)(from the journal abstract)

Heck, I am thinking I may have to read that. And no, I am not interpreting the results here, though if I read the article, I may make a note of it over at The Itinerant Librarian. Anyways, there is always something interesting going on.

The point for me of writing this now is that I am thinking a bit about what I did tonight in my teaching. I am very comfortable with switching gears and acting on the fly as need be. However, as I reflect, I know that not every librarian is comfortable doing that. Yet I have the faith that, in a pinch, any librarian can quickly think on their feet and change things a little along the way. Some of it may be an issue of developing the confidence to do so. Some of it may be need for practice. Some of it may be doing some team teaching. At any rate, the session overall went well. I got some positive feedback from the instructor after the session. We'll see how it goes.

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