Reflecting on my Teaching Practice as an Academic Librarian

Much of my ‘teaching’ is not what you’d call teaching – but I author many library guides on different aspects of our service provision,  to provide information and instruction, ie, not only what we offer, but also how to use and get the most benefit out of those resources.  And upon reflection, I decided that this was indeed part of my teaching ‘practice’.  Reflection’s a good way of owning and identifying what you do as part of your professional practice, and in a sense, validating your decisions for what you do.  I don’t just “happen” to write these guides – they’re written intentionally and for specific purposes.

If you’re a student or teacher at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, you’ll be able to log into Moodle and Mahara, and see all the guides we offer – I authored all the music and most of the general ones.  Here.

If you’re an external reader, you won’t be able to see my guides, but you’ll be able to access the lists of all our electronic resources via the Library and IT webpages. Here.

We’re very keen to get our e-resources exploited as much as possible, so that our readers get maximum benefit out of them, and that way we’ll get good value for our subscriptions. This is why I’m producing little bite-sized chunks of training that I shall share first with my colleagues, and then ultimately with our readers.  If I can find podcasts – eg YouTube clips – that can be repurposed, then I’ll share them.  Otherwise, I’ll be devising my own using an app like Jing. (It’s a screen-capture technology with the option of recording your own voice narrative to describe what you’re doing. TechSmith describes Jing as, “a free and simple way to start sharing images and short videos of your computer screen. Whether for work, home, or play, Jing gives you the ability to add basic visual elements to your captures and share them fast.”)

I’ve done two of these “Essential Training” e-resource guides so far – if I upload too many at a time, my colleagues might be less keen to look at them!  I have about ten resources on my list, and I began with British Library Sounds, then Classical Music Online.  If you’re part of the Conservatoire community, here’s the Mahara link.  If you’re not a registered Conservatoire IT user, that link won’t work, but I can show you some screen-shots, below.  First, the Library homepage on Mahara, and then a shot of my first two guides:-

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The ‘Essential Training’ page won’t necessarily stay in that format once I’ve done all ten guides, but for now, it keeps them together so my library colleagues can dip in and explore resources that they’ve maybe not looked at for a while.

Concurrently with this project, I’m also preparing for my “Research Skills and Bibliiographic Software” seminar with our research students.  That’s “real” teaching, of course – I’ve posted my lesson plan, contextual study and theoretical paper on the homepage of this blog.  Yesterday morning, I conferred with one of our research lecturers to ensure she was happy with what I was proposing to offer in my seminar.  And yesterday afternoon, after a session getting updated on the Scran database by one of their educational officers, I decided to try composing an invitation to our research students, using one of Scran’s “Create” formats.  I’m not sure about the image I’ve chosen, though.  Scran has a lot of historical images, and I found a couple of pictures of early computer technology, including an early computer at the University of Glasgow.  It took me as long as my subway ride home last night, to decide that I didn’t like one of the images, and I didn’t want TWO separate pages of invitation.  This afternoon, I fiddled some more, and came up with a single page that is closer to my intentions:-

  • Date, time, place, and purpose must be clear
  • Students must be asked to look at some e-resources beforehand
  • Students must be asked to bring laptops, ipads, or whatever handheld devices they normally use
  • I was tasked with producing a single-sided pdf, so all this info must fit onto an economically-worded poster!

My second draft, then, looks like this:-

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I had another attempt at making a pdf invitation, subsequent to this.  You can view the PDF here:- Research Skills Invite

 

Too Tired to Type?

Today, I’ve admitted to myself I’m overtired, something I very seldom admit to.  I should explain that in the past fortnight I’ve given a paper and two quickfire sessions at the IAML (UK and Ireland) music librarians’ annual study weekend in Cambridge; attended my first IAML Exec meeting at the British Library in London (also fitting in a trip to the Tate, for the RuinLust exhibition); and given a scholarly paper at Musica Scotica in Aberdeen, finishing up with playing at a church dedication service this morning.  Oh, and I’ve spent a few days at work in both my library and research capacities too.  So finally, on Sunday evening, I find I can’t think straight – not a good time to tackle the Teaching Artist backlog of reading.

Karen has met the new Tate Britain

However, I have been reflecting about giving research papers.  In March I gave a talk, with absolutely minimal notes, at an RMA (Royal Musical Society) Colloquium. I was pleased with it, and peer comments were very favourable.  And yet yesterday’s talk, written a full three months earlier and revised this week, was so densely packed with facts and figures that there was no way I’d be able to stand and just “speak” the paper. I was talking about a number of 18th century music books, precise dates (down to the day and the month), and commentary from the late 19th and early 20th centuries – it was very detailed!  I looked up at different areas of the audience, a lot. But I freely admit I “read” much of it.  I’d marked it with highlighter pen, gone over it several times – but I didn’t have time to reduce it to skeletal form, which is the only way I’d have stood a chance of a freer, less constrained delivery.

This Teaching Artist course has made me much more aware of good pedagogical practice.  I suppose it’s fair to point out that giving a research paper at a conference is NOT teaching in the conventionally accepted way.  Sharing research findings is a different activity from preparing to teach a class, involving them, getting feedback and monitoring whether they’ve learned what you set out to teach them.  But I’m now rather perturbed.  Because my delivery of yesterday’s paper, which my research Principal Investigator says was good, and which received favourable comments from several delegates, leaves me feeling flat and disappointed.  There was nothing wrong with the content, or the structure of what I said.  But I was deeply envious of a colleague who just stood, and delivered, seemingly without notes at all.  What is WRONG with me?!

I wondered if perhaps the answer was that the paper would have been better as a publication – something that might yet happen – and maybe I need to produce something more discursive for research presentations.  At the same time, what do scientists do?  They quite possibly have even more detailed, fact-and-figure-heavy findings than my own.  And what about mathematicians, or statisticians?

Context Setting Study (Academic Librarian)

Karen McAulay Teaching Artist: Context Setting Study

The purpose of this study is to examine the educational policies, strategies and initiatives influencing how, where, and what I teach, both within my own work setting, and in the wider higher education environment.

My own teaching practice

My teaching practice differs slightly from that of most teaching artists, in various ways. Whilst I am a practising musician in my own right, and currently seconded for 40% of my working week as a postdoctoral researcher to a music research project, the greater proportion of my working week (60%) is spent as Music and Academic Services Librarian at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. My workplace teaching generally takes the form of providing library and information support and training to staff and students at all levels from undergraduates to researchers. Occasionally my teaching is more closely aligned to my own subject specialism, when I am invited to provide a Scottish music-related lecture or information skills training to students on the BA in Scottish Music course. In either circumstance, my teaching is primarily of information skills or musicological context to performing artists, rather than teaching performance skills myself. Continue reading Context Setting Study (Academic Librarian)

On the subject of my subject

A great example of a librarian becoming more engaged with the subject, the staff and students that they’re supporting.

The Lovely Librarian

My name is Sarah, I’m the subject librarian for architecture at Cardiff University and since 2010 I’ve attended, of my own volition and in my own time, lectures at the Welsh School of Architecture. Here’s how and why…

The lectures

In 2008, after much extolling of the virtues of information literacy to academics, I succeeded in introducing into a module entitled Architecture since 1940 an assessed annotated and critical bibliography exercise, preceding first year students’ first essay

My appalling sketch of an iconic building from notes made during the Architecture since 1940 lectures My appalling sketch of an iconic building from notes made during the Architecture since 1940 lectures

submission. It quickly became apparent that some underpinning knowledge would help my marking of students’ work. Students’ claims that source material analysed “an iconic building” would be easier to assess if I knew something about the architect.

Though I believed from the outset that lecture attendance would go beyond mere knowledge acquisition, allowing me to better integrate within the School and understand…

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Falling over my feet to keep up!

Mary reminds us that we need to upload our context setting studies by Friday.  Because I’ve been to a conference, done a Palm Sunday choral extravaganza, had an awful migraine, been to visit a librarianship mentee, and done a couple of days’ work, I now have just 49.5 hours left in which to write my context setting study.  Gulp.  I really take my hat off to people doing part-time or distance learning courses with a cohort of other students.  Keeping up can be quite a challenge.  Compare this with doing a PhD, when the pressure of doctoral studies might be intense, but there’s no worry about keeping pace with your peers.

I had a great Skype chat with Andrew this evening, and we did touch upon some aspects of my work that I can include in the study.  However, I can’t do that until Friday – it’s too late tonight, and tomorrow it’s choir practice…

Telling the World about Teaching Artistry

Breakfast at Fitzwilliam College!

I went to the IAML UK and Ireland Annual Study Weekend in Cambridge last weekend. (That’s the International Association of Music Libraries, UK and Ireland branch).  We began with an academic music librarians’ seminar, and I was the first speaker.  I talked about our course!   (I had spent much of my annual leave doing my teaching plan and theoretical study, so that I would be able to talk about it at this seminar.)  Unbeknown to me, another librarian there made a Storify page about the session, so here we are for all the world to see!   I think you’ll agree I must have said the right things, to judge by the way Edith reported it.

My own PowerPoint is here.

LESSON PLAN: RESEARCH AND BIBLIOGRAPHIC SKILLS

I’ve embedded my Word document, but I am not very confident that it will look presentable in blog form.  Here goes … (You can follow comments from our shared space by clicking HERE.)

SAMPLE LESSON PLAN TEMPLATE

 CLASS DETAILS (adapt headings in this section to suit your learning / teaching context)

Programme / Course Title : Research Degrees at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Project / Topic  Lesson is linked to (if relevant):
Learning Outcome Lesson is linked to: Research Skills

 STUDENT DETAILS

Student Group: Doctoral and MPhil Students
Level (eg: P5 / S1) or context (Intergenerational..) SCQF Levels 11-12, Masters and Doctoral Degrees.
No. of students in Session 8-10

LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

Venue / Room: Research Lab, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Learning Materials / Resources Online databases (RCS subscriptions and others that are freely available)
Equipment 2 x PCs, and students’ own laptops
Learning Technologies Various interactions with online databases

 

LESSON DETAILS/ PLANNED ACTIVITIES:

 

Lesson Title: Research and Bibliographic Skills
Context: Annual seminar providing instruction on research and bibliographic skills to the research students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Monday 19th May, 6-7 pm.  Although one of a series of evening events run for our research community, this particular session is not publicly advertised, but is offered to students engaged in research. It is stand-alone, insofar as it does not fit into a formal curriculum or structured series of classes.
Lesson Learning Outcomes* The verbs used to describe the learning outcome should be appropriate to the level and stage of development of the learners the lesson is for (Use CfE Outcomes / SCQF level descriptors or other Indicators as appropriate). SCQF Characteristic 2 (PRACTICE: APPLIED KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS AND UNDERSTANDING) requiresstudents at Levels 11 and 12 to demonstrate competence ‘in applying a range of standard and specialised research and/or equivalent instruments and techniques of enquiry.’The research students will explore some key databases and bibliographic tools, and learn to exploit them as techniques of enquiry and documentation.
By the end of this session students should be able to:  
Recognise key research resources and freely available bibliographic citation software
Devise search strategies to retrieve relevant research literature
Compile a bibliography suitable for scholarly writing.
  1. .
Recognise these research capabilities as essential for a future academic career, but also as employability skills in the wider sense.
Time Available: 60’
Notes   

 

Tutor will email research students in advance of the seminar, advising them of the topics to be covered, and inviting them to come prepared to discuss web applications and methodologies that they have already encountered.

 

Lesson Structure*

 

Estimated Time for Completion Teacher Activity Learner Activity Resources/Notes
17.00-17.05 Introduction to the learning outcomes and structure of the seminar
17.05-17.10 Overview of some key sources
17.10-17.20 Tutor moves between pairs, inviting students to use computers as appropriate to demonstrate resources they already know Students discuss in pairs: share with each other one research database you find useful; the steps you have taken to begin your bibliography; any concerns about using e-resources PCs and laptops
17.20-17.30 Tutor calls group back, inviting each pair to introduce each other’s favourite web resource and bibliographic methodology, and any concerns about e-resources Students describe each other’s favourite web resource and bibliographic methodology, and any concerns about e-resources PCs and laptops
17.30-17.40 Tutor picks up and addresses issues arising from the discussion. Students’ earlier observations direct the nature of the discussion. Students are invited to suggest topics for demo searches PCs and laptops
17.40-17.55 Tutor demonstrates her own use of Mendeley as a bibliographic tool, and introduces Zotero. Also Diigo; and a low-tech alternative to online technologies for bibliography. Any student using Zotero invited to demo how they use it. PC
17.55-18.00 Summary: recap on topics covered in this session.To conclude, explain that tutor will email all students to follow-up this session; further training can be arranged if requested directly or via Research Lecturer. Students invited to identify which of these resources they might find worthy of further exploration.Any questions?

 

* Your Lesson structure should include:

 

Time to introduce tasks/activities to the group

Time for students to engage in the activities (either independently, or in groups).

Time for formative assessment/feedback (to check learning and understanding).

Time to link lesson to other activities and time to set out any independent learning tasks learners are expected to engage in before your next session with them.

 

I'm a musicologist disguised as a librarian. I've been writing this blog as part of my PG Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Arts Education, at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.