Monday, February 25, 2013

Overcoming Teaching Stage Fright

I recently read a blog post from Hack Library School about overcoming teaching stage fright.  Many of us have been in teaching situations that we may not have necessarily been entirely comfortable with. Perhaps it is because you’re not as comfortable with the subject area as you would like to be; maybe it is because you’re using someone else’s lesson plan; maybe  it is because you haven’t had adequate time to prepare the lesson; or maybe it is simply because you haven’t had a lot of library instruction experience.  Whatever the reason, there are ways to become more comfortable teaching.  In the Hack Library School post, they mention the following:

  • Observe other instructors. 
  • Keep it simple. 
  • Make sure you have plenty of water.  
  • Find a mentor. 
  • Focus on successes. 

While I agree with their tips, I have a few others to add to the list.

Before you teach: 

  • Meet with the professor beforehand (in person if possible, otherwise email can work too) to clarify what you are expected to teach, what the students need, and how it connects to an upcoming assignment. Having this perspective will help you as you prepare your lesson. Get your lesson plan done early and share it with the class professor--they might be able to point out important things to cover or notice things that you’re including that the students might not need. This sharing also helps me review the lesson and get to know it and the session objectives even better
  • Create an outline that works for you. Everyone’s style is different. Write a lesson plan outline that works for your style.  It’s important to remember that you’re not writing a script, however. Work to include enough detail that you feel confident with the content, but not so much that you just wind up reading it word for word to the class. Also, having too much on the page can make it more difficult to find your place after you've gotten off track.  
  • Plan more than you think you’ll need. Have a few extra examples up your sleeve to help reinforce the concepts if the students seem like they need the extra practice or if you somehow wind up with extra time at the end of your lesson.
  • But also know you won’t be able to cover everything under the sun (and the students won’t be able to absorb much of anything if you throw too much at them in one sitting). It’s okay (and important) to limit your session content to teaching just what students need for the project/assignment. 
  • Practice. This is one of the most important things you can do to become more comfortable leading a class. Don’t just practice by walking through a lesson in your head. Find yourself a willing audience (friends, colleagues, strangers you met on the street, whomever) and ask them for their honest feedback after they've observed you run through your lesson. You might have to promise them chocolate, but it’ll be worth it.  If at all possible, practice in the space you’ll be using so you can get used to the technology in the room, the acoustics, having to project your voice, moving around the space, etc. 
  • Work on timing. Timing is one of the hardest things for me when lesson planning. Estimate how long you think each task will take, walk through the tasks yourself (realizing it will take students more time than it takes you because they aren't as familiar with the resources and the process as you are), and ask friends to do a little trial run of an activity to get a better idea of the timing (again, promises of chocolate come in really handy). 
  • Do teaching warm-ups.  This wasn't something I had even thought of until I got to grad school and the head of Teaching and Learning talked about it during my Education of Information Users class. You warm up to sing; you warm up to get your body ready to play an instrument; you warm up to exercise; why wouldn't you warm up to teach? Teaching is very physical. Doing vocal warm-ups will help prevent voice fatigue; stretching will get the blood flowing and get your body ready to stand for an extended period of time (depending on the structure of your class); and taking the time to warm up and stretch will help you find your focus and mentally prepare to be leading a class. 
  • Write a basic lesson plan outline up on the board. It will help keep you on track and help the students know what to expect as you go along.

As you teach:

  • Find a teaching style that works for you. No two people teach exactly alike. It is great to have a mentor, it is wonderful to observe others teaching, but in the end you have to teach in a way that connects the students to what they need--Trying to be someone else gets in the way. You wind up thinking more about yourself rather than the students and their needs. It’s helpful to observe others teaching and borrow ideas, but you also need to modify them and make them your own. 
  • Record yourself as you practice your lesson and when you’re actually teaching. Along with practice, this is another one of the most important things you can do. Recording yourself will help you see how you teach, notice any verbal or physical nervous ticks, see how you work under pressure, and observe how you think on your feet when students ask questions or when the unexpected happens.
  • Be flexible. It’s okay to change things up as you go. Being flexible means you’re doing a good job being responsive to the needs of the class. Maybe you got off track in one area because a student asked a great question or because you could see the students weren't able to follow along. That’s perfectly fine! It’s authentic learning, trial and error, but don’t let that completely throw you off your game. You can jump back into your lesson plan to cover the rest of the content they need to be successful. 

These tips aren't all-inclusive, but hopefully you've found at least one thing that will help you feel more confident and comfortable in the classroom.

Is there something I missed? Comment below to share what you do to feel more comfortable in the classroom.

This post originally appeared on the iLOVE blog, found here:

Monday, February 4, 2013

From Ho-Hum to Hands-On: Increasing Engagement in a Nursing One-Shot

Where I work there has been a nice series of library orientation sessions in place for nursing students as they progress through their college career.  What is great about this is the strong relationship that has developed between the library and the nursing professors, and the emphasis the nursing professors place on information literacy.  The nursing students are some of our heaviest library users on campus, and since we see them throughout their college career, we really get to know the students & their research needs (and we can usually spot when they’re in a stressed-out-just-need-chocolate-because-this-intense-paper-is-due-soon part of the semester).

Because the sequencing is so well established, it can be easy for us as librarians to just keep doing the same thing (which can get a bit stale—and if I'm bored, the students are definitely bored).  Such is the case with a traditional one-shot we’ve been teaching to reintroduce CINAHL basics, and add on a few more bells & whistles (limiters, subject headings, CINAHL headings, citation tool, ILLing, etc.).  In addition to CINAHL basics, we also show them where to search and find nursing policy information. In the past we’ve done a pretty traditional lecture-demo/work time session with the students. I’ve noticed students not being as engaged as I would like—and I put myself in their shoes and asked “how would I want to learn this?” The word that came to mind: active.  

With that in mind, my colleague and I decided to make a few changes. Nothing drastic, as we don’t want to throw the nursing faculty off too much; we just wanted the students to be more actively engaged with the resources and the database navigation process (rather than just following along as we say “click here, then click here”).

As I mentioned earlier, we were stuck in a “sage on the stage” rut & wanted to move to more of a “guide on the side” approach.  To do this we revamped the lesson to reintroduce the students to CINAHL, remind them of the types of materials within (and how that’s different from a basic web search), and then (instead of having us walk everyone through the features) we wrote prompts for seven groups to practice using the features found in their prompts.  Then each group will teach the rest of the class how to use those features, and we will wander from group to group (to support them and help with questions) as they work through the prompt to prepare to teach their classmates. This approach is nothing earth-shattering, but it will be good for the students to 1) work in groups to learn their assigned prompt skills, and 2) teach those skills to their colleagues, and 3) just get up and move and talk with their classmates after having risen at the break of dawn and been focusing on clinicals all day. This will help get their blood circulating instead of just hiding behind a computer screen. 

Here are a couple of examples of the prompts we plan to use:

Your group will be teaching the class how to do the following tasks: 
  • Using the Electronic Journal List (under the Journals tab on the library website) locate the full-text for this article within CINAHL.

Lavoie-Tremblay, M., Richer, M., Marchionni, C., Cyr, G., Biron, A. D., Aubry, M., & ... V├ęzina, M. (2012). Implementation of evidence-based Practices in the context of a redevelopment project in a Canadian healthcare organization. Journal Of Nursing Scholarship, 44(4), 418-427. doi:
Your group will be teaching the class how to do the following tasks:  
  • Using CINAHL, be able to login to MyEbscohost, create a folder, perform a search (using the limiters we discussed at the beginning of class: date, research article, English language, Nursing subset), select an article or articles and put them into that folder.
Your group will be teaching the class how to do the following tasks:  
  • Using the limiters we discussed at the beginning of class (date, research article, English language, Nursing subset) conduct a basic search using the following search terms health care delivery; show your classmates how to access a full-text article and show the steps involved in printing that article double sided. Then, show the citation button and where to find the APA citation, show an example of a citation with a DOI and explain when to use a permalink (when there is no DOI). Show your classmates where the permalink button is.

After the groups present/teach we’ll redirect the class to think about where/how to find nursing policy information on the web. We’ll start by reminding them of web evaluation criteria, then look at our list of recommended websites, and then go to nursing organization websites to find policy, advocacy, and resolution information.

We haven’t put the plan to action yet, but we’re hoping all goes smoothly! 

This post originally appeared on the iLOVE blog, found here:

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Lib & Learn February 2013

Here's the February edition of the Grand View University library newsletter. Enjoy! 

Student Newsletter - February 2013 by stonca01