Project Planning

I have to do a research project for my PGCert. I’m not in a position to write at length at theBowskill moment, but I can say that it will concern finding effective ways to engage students in library induction and instruction.

Nicholas Bowskill, Student-Generated Induction: a Social Identity Approach: a Staff Development guide (s.l.: Nicholas Bowskill, 2013) ISBN: 9781480113299

I wrote about this approach a couple of weeks ago, when I put together a Storify about a conference I’d read about.  In order to be able to quote it later, I’ll give details here:- my Storify is entitled,

Shared Thinking: Student Induction Event (mainly as reported by Sue House)

This is my introduction:- ‘I am myself thinking about student engagement in library-led seminars and tutorials – it’s the focus of my PGCert project. So when I read librarian Sue House’s tweets from a Shared Thinking event at York on Tuesday 5th July, I sat up and looked, because she cites lots of useful info & references.’

and the link is this:-

I got the book for the library, and have only read the first chapter or so, to date.  Two caveats: it is about student induction to university, not just to the library. Secondly, it relies on electronic voting software to a quite significant extent. That is not going to happen in a library situation, where 20 students are standing crowding round one librarian!  Neither will it happen when the librarian is given ten minutes to introduce a concept at the beginning or end of a lecture.  Still, the idea of constructing a “group view” – based on something the author calls SharedThinking – is something that interests me. I’ll reflect on it at greater length another day.

My internet connection is so slow that this posting has taken 28 minutes, including uploading one wee picture! Another reason for calling it a day.

More observations as I continue reading (11.1.2017):- the book is based on social identity theory, and can be used to run a workshop for staff involved in conducting induction sessions.  Thus, the course itself models future induction sessions.   A course organiser should aspire to ‘curate the social identity of the group’ and encourage the formation of peer relationships.  The intention is that induction should be participative and social, rather than just ‘telling students what they need to know’.  The theory is based on ‘the discipline of social psychology’, but this practice is supported by – yes, ‘classroom technology’ – clickers and interactive whiteboards.

My initial reaction, as before, is that this won’t work in a library tour setting. Students aren’t seated, and they can’t write down their personal view, move into small groups, share views, feedback to the whiteboard, create questions, vote on significant aspects and have a plenary discussion on issues arising.  I don’t doubt that it is a good approach, but not for an initial library induction.

In terms of induction design, Bowskill lists the disadvantages with ‘an individual view of induction’ (the Piagetian principles of working out what it takes for an individual to make sense of what they are being taught), or ‘a structural view of induction’. My favourite constructivist theories are being demolished! Bowskill thinks students will be overwhelmed with a series of presentations on different aspects of induction by different staff. Too much information.  So, we come to Bowskill’s ‘identity based view of induction’, based on social identity rather than personal identity, ie forming a shared sense of social identity in the group – an ’emotional sense of togetherness’ which will support student retention. (Bowskill, p.15).  It’s based on student-generated induction, and classroom technologies.   He also cites two articles by V. Tinto, on learning communities and collaborative learning.  (My reading list gets longer all the time!

  1. Tinto, V, ‘Learning communities, collaborative learning and the pedagogy of educational citizenship’, AAHE Buylletin 47 (1995), 11-13
  2. Tinto, V, ‘Learning better together: the impact of learning communities on student access in higher education’, Journal of Institutional Research 9(1) (2000), 48-53)

Tinto apparently talks about developing the students into learning communities.

Bowskill adds that students are most influenced by their peers, so without taking this into account, we could be wasting a lot of time trying to influence them ourselves.  He does emphasize that after students have together come up with their own information needs for induction, the tutor has a responsibility to add anything that the students need to know but have not asked about.  ‘Our relationship with the group becomes one of supporting and supplementing their conversations with the things they couldn’t know about. It’s the idea of induction and support coming from within the group.  This is a long way from the idea of us telling them what we think they need to know.’ (Bowskill, p.38)

As Sue House was tweeting from the conference, she observed that a good idea was to start an induction session by asking students what they hoped to get out of it, and ask at the end if it had been helpful.  Yes, we could do that.  Sue commented (5th July 2016, 4:33 pm), ‘Different identities can be switched on and off depending on cues in the environment.’  The aim is to encourage the students to form a social identity of ‘we, all new students here’, rather than a feeling of being a lone individual.

I think I’ve read enough, here.  I can’t read a whole workshop script from beginning to end.  (There are slides for reproduction onto PowerPoint, at the end of the book, and there’s a bibliography including the Tinto articles I cited.)  I do see the basic principles, and the purpose for doing induction this way.  The book can go back to the library.  And this blogpost hyperlink can go into the blogpost dated 2017.01.11.

Claimed from Stationers’ Hall (I blogged)

I contributed a blogpost about my research, to Echoes from the Vault, which is the highly-esteemed blog of the University of St Andrews Library Rare Books department.

Do take a look – I also flag up a couple of talks that I’m giving soon.


Gearing up: Trimester 1

Girl on beach digging
Remember digging for information?

It’s that time of year again.  In order for our library teaching to take place, we need to get ourselves booked into our teaching colleagues’ timetables.  Every year our communications get a bit more finely-honed, and today’s is undoubtedly the best so far.  I’m emphasising the scope of what we can cover, and also clarifying the limitations of the traditional lecture format.  (We’re happy to work within it, but can do more in other teaching situations!)

“We’re trying to get organised bright and early this year. Colleagues will already have had an email asking for updated reading lists.  (Didn’t get it? Check your Clutter folder!)

“And now we’re offering our services to help inform and train our students in getting the most out of our library and electronic resources.

“We can talk about the catalogue; give an overview of particular electronic resources; explain how to access e-books and e-journals; give advice on referencing; or tell students about RefMe, a quick and easy way of saving bibliographic details for an assignment. We can give an overview suited to your students’ level, whether new undergraduates or more advanced students wanting to research information for their reflective journal. Or we can introduce some of our historical resources, if colleagues are teaching something that would be enhanced by them .

“We’re happy to appear at the beginning or near the end of a lecture or seminar – small chunks of information can be more palatable than a long spiel.  Obviously, we can’t arrange any collaborative learning activities in the context of a lecture theatre, but we’re very amenable to discussion as to how best to engage our students in other settings, if this would help.

“”Relevant and Timely” is our motto, so colleagues are urged to get in touch so we can organise our calendars accordingly.  Let’s start the conversation!”


So, What Do You Teach?

By the end of last week, I was getting quite good at explaining that teaching is only part of my role!  It was a fairly natural thing to be asked, considering I was at the International Society for Music Education biennial conference.  I was beginning to think maybe I could do with a new job title, something like “Teaching Researching Librarian”.  It’s important to ‘own’ your practice, and to be able to rationalise why you do what you do.  I’m beginning to feel that teaching is genuinely part of my practice, which is an interesting development, considering I had no intention of teaching when I chose instead to become a librarian several decades ago!

Monday was mostly spent at the conference. Tuesday in the Library. Wednesday a research day in St Andrews.  Thursday was split between the Library and the conference, and Friday, mainly at the conference.

Scottish Music Educati0n in Recent Years

I attended Charles Byrne’s symposium, Transformations and cultural change in Scottish musical education: historical perspectives and contemporary solutions. He reminded us of the emergence of traditional music as a strong component in music education, with people like Hamish Henderson and filmmaker Alan Lomax igniting a new interest in grassroots culture, ceilidhs and other iterations of traditional music.  This was mirrored by a blurring of the boundaries between formal and informal learning, and the growth of the Feis movement.

Simultaneously, there was a swing towards student-centred learning, and new thinking took centre stage: creativity, inclusion, diversity and equality. In schools, the new Standard Grade showed different emphases to earlier exams, based on all-round musicianship, multi-genre and more focus on the integrated curriculum.

There was now a move towards the professional development of traditional music tutors, and the principles of learning and teaching were summarised in a memorable acronym: PREPARE.  (Participation, Resources, Ecological (music within the community), Performance, Activist, Reflective and Ethical.

Charles’ paper was subsequently responded to by Marie McCarthy, Martin [check surname], Jane Southcott and Josh Dickson. Charles’ themes were recalled and elaborated upon, particularly with regard to more emphasis on ‘meaningful engagement’ as opposed to an over-emphasis on assessment; on community and traditional music. Martin is contributing to a forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Community Music, due to be published in 2017 (edited by Lee Higgins and Brydie-Leigh Bartlett – I haven’t found reference to it on the OUP website yet).  Josh spoke about a new approach to assessment in pre-honours years at RCS, and also alluded to Lori Watson’s comments about elitism, defending elite artistry in both innovation and continuation of tradition.  Our traditional music students develop their own identity as a musician, as well as authenticity and integrity, in their journey as aspirational performers.

Being ‘Real’

How does all this fit into my own practice? As someone who generally delivers one lecture or seminar at a time, it can be difficult to relate the bigger philosophical arguments to my own context, but it is still important to understand how what I teach sits alongside what the students are learning in other parts of their course.  I’d like to know how the concept of ‘authenticity’ for today’s traditional musicians sits alongside the issues of authenticity that I research and talk about in an 18th-19th century context. Do we actually mean the same thing? Authenticity in an individual’s own performance practice, isn’t quite the same as the insistence on authenticity for individual tunes and accompaniments, but being ‘authentic’ is clearly a thread that has been interwoven through traditional music for a very long time indeed.

Symposium on Assessment

Five presentations were given.  Even though the speakers often worked in the context of school rather than university, the practical suggestions meant that there would have been much food for thought for everyone.  Since we have been encouraged in our own PGCert studies to consider how we assess learning to have been acquired by our students, I took copious notes.  I’ll reflect on these in my next posting.