All posts tagged “teaching

row of standing crayons
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Blushing, Sweating, Stammering

I’ve been so tired lately. I’m tired of casual misogyny, tired of implicit bias that is never acknowledged, tired of intentional shit-stirring online, tired of social media threads and comments I can see coming a mile away. I find joy and energy in conversations with family and friends I love, scribbling and doodling in my notebook, breathing through a yoga pose, walking along the bayou, and remembering.

I want to start a new series that I’ll write whenever I start to feel too tired, bitter, resentful, burned out, or over it. I want to remember firsts in librarianship, in teaching and learning, in being me. I’ll start small:

Do you remember the first class you ever taught?

I do.

2007. University of Houston.
It was my first library job after working in public relations for Rice University for four years. I thought that if I could push past my introversion and general shyness (not the same thing) to lead student groups and tours, shake hands with international visitors, and chat with civic clubs then I could certainly center myself enough to teach my first class. I was a psychology and social work subject librarian and I’d spent the first few months on the job observing my amazingly skilled colleagues teach and learning from their experience and knowledge. I was all set to teach my first library class for a section of Psychology Research Methods (a course that still has a special place in my heart). My colleague Michelle was observing, and I was teaching in the same lecture hall where I gave my job talk during my interview. She’d helped my plan and listened to me practice. I’d practiced again at home, in my office, and in the classroom when no one was around. I was ready.

I was terrified.

I was a few years older that the students in the classroom (ah, to be young!). I was sweating. I know I was blushing. I took deep breaths and smiled. I introduced myself and our learning outcomes for the class. I encouraged participation. I started to do a sample search in our library catalog (because that’s how I did things then) using a volunteer topic from a student. It was a disaster. My keywords were bad. I didn’t get any results. I should have been using an article database. My brain froze and I couldn’t think of keyword alternatives, which is something we should be able to teach others, right? I can’t exactly remember how I eventually recovered. It was a long time ago and I’m pretty sure I just nervously asked for another topic and stumbled my way through that search. I doubt I inspired confidence.

After class I sat with Michelle to debrief. She was encouraging, pointing out room for improvement and growth, acknowledging my mistakes but assuring me they were no big deal. Things go wrong. Mistakes happen. It’s all about how we roll with them. Listening to feedback, letting it sit with you, and growing from it is hard, especially when you’re 26 and your self-esteem is that weird 20-something mix of external confidence and internal self-doubt.

I remember sitting in my office afterward, feeling embarrassed. But I didn’t die. I didn’t get hurt (although my ego was a bit bruised). I taught that class again, and again, and again. My approach to teaching changed, as did my style and comfort in the classroom. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to remember what it’s like to be brand new to librarianship and teaching, so hopefully this post will help me remember.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash
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Rambling On About Representation, Public Scholarship, Digital Pedagogy, and Self-Protection

Before I even begin I’m going to ask you to hang in there with me. I’m a ball of messy thoughts this morning made even mushier by the old school Houston weather we’ve been having these past few days (so. much. rain.). I want to draw some connections between Joyce Gabiola’s scholarship on Internalized Symbolic Annihilation (ISA), April Hathcock’s latest article on who we leave behind, and conversations that happened at Digital Pedagogy Lab this summer, all of which have been swimming around in my brain and inspiring all kinds of reflection. So I’ll start with this no-brainer:

Conversations about representation and inclusion are complicated.

At the Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies Colloquium, Joyce introduced and explained ISA as the means by which people from marginalized communities protect themselves, but in doing so, erase themselves from archives and public records. These individuals are less likely to contribute to oral histories or donate documents to archives, in large part because they have had a lifetime of negotiating their identity and sense of self in order to mitigate the harm that heteronormativity and white supremacy inflicts on this world. Oppression has a direct impact on preservation and the ability to preserve and share the stories of marginalized communities. But at the same time, doesn’t everyone have the right to be forgotten? Or rather, don’t people have the right to determine what they share and when/where they share it?

It’s a tough question in the face of so much scholarship that has privileged white, western, male knowledge and experience.  April asks who we leave behind in our race to make scholarship open and publicly accessible, an important question that intersects with issues of diversity and representation. I bring this up not to hold April’s article in contrast to Joyce’s work, but to highlight the different sides to the issue of representation that they are both trying to address. April encourages us to consider “Whose voices are being heard?” in scholarship and “Who is privileged with access?” The first question, is I think, where ISA comes into play. On the one hand we want to highlight voices from those on the margins, but we need to recognize that the epistemological framework of academia embraces the same oppressive forces as our society at large. This of course can trigger a self-protection response. An impulse to say this space (academia, scholarship, etc.) is not for me, or this space can actively cause me harm. (This is largely true for scholars from marginalized communities/identities,  whose experiences in public scholarship often include extreme harassment and threats.). We want to encourage diverse voices and representation of those on the margins but are our spaces safe for them/us? Have we created scholarship systems and practices that include the values of and protections for those on the margins?

This is where the conversations at Digital Pedagogy Lab (DPL)come into play. There is a strong push in critical digital pedagogical circles towards students engaging in open scholarship and open learning online. It’s a way to fully embrace students’ lived experiences and show that their learning and their production of knowledge matters. But when we take into account the work of Joyce and April, this open learning is also a risky situation for students on the margins. Jade Davis’ keynote at DPL acknowledges this risk and encourages instructors to mitigate harm in their assignments and learning environments. What can learners keep for themselves? Does it all really need to be public learning to be digital or critical learning? The emphasis on public learning wants to highlight the work of the learner, but we also need to acknowledge their agency and help them create their own boundaries. It’s essential for their safety (both creative and personal), and for the development of an inclusive space where learners feel welcome.

This is where everything sort of squishes together. We want representation and inclusion in open scholarship and education, but it can’t be on the dominant group’s terms. If it is then openness just equals oppression. Nicky Andrew’s excellent work on cultural humility and Roopika Risam’s scholarship on epistemic violence both highlight epistemic models built on the knowledge practices, values, and considerations of folks on the margins. In applying this thinking and, let’s call it what it is, work, to reimagining open education and scholarship, we can reduce the need for groups to self-protect, because we have taken their safety and protection seriously. We need to create a system of learning that encourages people to set their own limits and share what they feel comfortable sharing. In doing so we will help facilitate the kind of diversity and inclusion we want to see in our classrooms and scholarship.


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My Campaign to Get Political Science Students to Use Something Other Than JSTOR and GoogleScholar for their Research (like books or other stuff too)

The Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can't Read Good and Who Wanna Learn to do Other Stuff Good too

My inspiration in life for all things (but particularly for this title): Mr. Derek Zoolander

In the past two weeks I’ve taught iinformal research sessions for two different upper-level political science courses (same professor for both courses): African Politics and Comparative Politics. Given the nature of these courses and the kinds of research topics the students selected for themselves, the professor and I decided to use these research sessions to introduce students to sources of information that they might not ordinarily use or even know about. Although I am not usually a fan of info-dump style classes, in this case, I think a discussion of types of sources (and why/how students can use them) as well as different research resources is totally appropriate. More often than not I’m finding upper-level students in this discipline who are only searching for scholarly journal articles and only searching for them in one of two places: Google (Scholar if I’m lucky) or JSTOR. They’re turning to journal articles for

  • background information & overviews of countries and issues
  • comparisons of issues across countries
  • statistics
  • historical information & data
  • explanations of different countries’ governing structures.

In short, students are looking for all kinds of information that doesn’t appear in journal articles, IN JOURNAL ARTICLES.

My informal poll of students in each of the classes I taught recently told me that of the 20 or so students in each class only 2-3of them were using anything other than Google, Google Scholar or JSTOR for their research assignments. I’ve had senior thesis writers tell me they don’t consult books for their research at all, which is a total shame in a discipline where books are still a huge avenue for scholarly output (as my thick stack of Political Science CHOICE cards can demonstrate). I’ve had students admit to only using one or two databases for their literature review (which is common across disciplines). I’ve met with other students who didn’t know that independent research organizations and policy institutes could be really great sources of interesting research. So I saw my opportunity to teach these two classes as the beginning of a campaign:

My Campaign to Get Political Science Students to Use Something Other Than JSTOR or Google Scholar for their Research
(Like Books and Other Stuff Too)

There is a world of survey data, working papers, policy briefs, open publications, statistics and backgrounders available online. Fascinating statistics, data and summary information about current political issues, governing structures and countries lives in our reference collection. Our books upstairs contain a wealth of research on every political science topic imaginable. But if there’s not a point in each political science major’s academic career when they learn about variations in information type–and when they might want to use some of these different sources of information–how can I expect senior thesis writers to know and use these information sources? So my campaign has begun in earnest and I’m plotting out ways to further its spread this fall. Initial feedback from students and the professor in the courses I taught recently has been positive. Some students are even (GASP) using some of the new info sources I showed them in class. In each class I brought an example of a book that a student might find useful for their research paper and in both classes I had at least one student ask to see that book after class because they were writing about that topic. These are small victories, but they are victories all the same.

I’m curious as to how other librarians are faring introducing different information sources to students in their respective fields of study:

Are your students as stuck on the scholarly research articles as my students are? When in their instructional sequence do you start to introduce different source types that are unique to their area of study? How can you do so without classes turning into an information dump?