In this second year of my PGCert, I have to do a practice-based research project into some aspect of my teaching – and it all begins with the research project proposal. There have been just two problems. As well as my day-job in the library and my one-day a week music research secondment, I found myself with five musicological papers to write and deliver between September and mid-October. I can be partially held to blame for that – after all, I cheerfully accepted them! – but the dates just coincided in an unfortunate way!
But I’ve also been struggling with another challenging situation which is totally not of my making. I freely admit that I have been more stressed by this than by almost anything that life has thrown at me in recent years.
For these reasons, I have fallen behind with the writing of my research project proposal. My tutors are aware. To my peers, I apologise. For someone that takes a pride in achieving a lot, all the time, believe me that I do not like being behind with commitments that I’ve taken on. “I’m stressed” sounds like a lame excuse. But it’s very real.
I have been thinking about the project. I’ve even done some reading, which I’ve blogged about. But what you see below, is the beginning of the research proposal. It’s nowhere near finished. However, I thought that some words “on paper” would at least be an indication that my intentions are well-meant! I have written what needs to be said under the first heading – the Overview. The other headings are, sadly, still blank. I’ll get there. I won’t transfer this piece of writing to my Portfolio until it is complete.
“There is an associated word count of 1000 words for this element of the submission.” Well, it will be at least that long when I finish it!
“This module begins with the development of a proposal for a practice-based research project that will allow you to address a challenge you face as a professional responsible for the development of learners.”
I currently spend 80% of my working week in the role of Music and Academic Services Librarian in the Information Services Department at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. As such, I provide library induction and user education to higher education students at all levels, from new undergraduates to doctoral students, including distance learners on the PGCert and MEd courses.
In today’s conservatoire environment, we welcome students from across the globe, and also strive to ensure equality of opportunity for students with visible or hidden disabilities, and for distance learners and others who may have been away from formal education for a while.
In addition to these challenges, tutor-librarians have extra challenges not generally experienced by teachers responsible for regular courses:-
- Initial orientation cannot be too detailed, because new students are prone to information overload, with much information to take in from a variety of different sources.
- Subsequent instruction is arranged by liaising with course leaders, and the time and venue are determined by timetabling and room-booking arrangements. Often the tutor-librarian has only 15-20 minutes in which to impart meaningful and memorable instruction.
- The format of the session is often in a lecture room, and the hands-on experience of online resources which might be desirable, is often not feasible.
- Parachuted into classes for one-off sessions, the tutor-librarian neither knows the students, nor what they have already learned, and it is incumbent upon them to try to establish the context in which their instruction is being given, and to achieve maximum engagement with minimal opportunity in which to do so.
- Good pedagogical practice, eg active learning or a constructive alignment approach, is often precluded because of the class location and duration.
The present project will endeavour to establish the most effective ways in which user education can be delivered, given the constraints outlined above.