ACRL IS Current Issue Discussion Digest ALA Annual 2009

 

ACRL Instruction Section Current Issue Discussion Digest

Teacher Proficiencies: Applying Proficiency Standards for Instruction Librarians in Your Library

Date: Saturday, July 11, 2009, 3:30 – 5:00 p.m.

Location: Sheraton Chicago, Sheraton Ballroom 1

Convened by: Instruction Section Management and Leadership Committee

Susan Avery, Chair, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Jennifer Church-Duran, University of Kansas
Suzanne Julian, Brigham Young University
Scott Mandernack, Marquette University
Rebecca Metzger, Lafayette College
Meghan Sitar, University of Texas
Terry Taylor, DePaul University
Steven Hoover, Intern, Trinity University

Introduction

The role of instruction in academic libraries is one that continues to grow. While there are many librarians who entered librarianship with the intent of taking an active role in library instruction, there are, in all likelihood, an equal number who did not anticipate this responsibility when they entered the profession. A clear benefit of the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education has been an increased interest on the part of academic institutions in producing graduates who are information literate.

Now, academic instruction librarians have their own standards: the Standards for Proficiencies for Instruction Librarians and Coordinators, approved by ACRL in June 2007. The proficiencies allow librarians to plan their professional growth in a systematic and meaningful way, whether they are one of many instruction librarians in a large library or a solo librarian providing instruction in a small library. Additionally, they allow libraries to recruit and evaluate expert library teachers and provide a great way to begin further discussions about teaching and information literacy in the campus community. The document also identifies the responsibilities of instruction librarians and provides guidance for improving and expanding instruction skills and engaging in professional development activities. This discussion provides an ideal setting for not simply promoting the proficiencies but, more importantly, bringing about a greater understanding of the proficiencies by listening to and talking with others who are engaged in and answering the same questions.

Questions:

1. Where does a teacher or library start in determining which proficiencies to use and how to prioritize them?

2. How can teacher librarians get training in the proficiencies they want to develop? What library, campus, or online sources can help develop a specific proficiency?

3. How can an instruction coordinator use the proficiencies to guide and evaluate an instruction program?

4. How can teacher librarians evaluate their teaching using the proficiencies? How can the proficiencies be used to guide professional development and goal-setting?

Suggested reading to prepare for the discussion

Standards for Proficiencies for Instruction Librarians and Coordinators

Summary of discussion:

Megan Oakleaf, Assistant Professor in the iSchool at Syracuse University, and Jennifer Church-Duran, Assistant Dean for User Services at the University of Kansas Libraries, were featured in a  mini-presentation of the use of the proficiencies.  Megan provided the perspective from library and information science education programs and Jennifer the application of the proficiencies within a university library.

The following discussion themes and concerns emerged during the course of the table discussions.

Question 1: Where does a teacher or librarian start in determining which proficiencies to use and how to prioritize them?

  • Self Assessment.  This is personalized and will vary from individual to individual.  If the person can accurately assess their weaknesses and work on those it will create a well-rounded teacher.  One important component of this type of assessment is helping the person assess himself/herself accurately.  How do they recognize their strengths and weaknesses?  Sometimes we don't know our weaknesses until we watch ourselves teach -record a teaching session and watch it. 
  • Assess based on predetermined areas for growth.  Assessment determines what we want in instruction.
  • From others.  Peer review can help a teacher recognize their strengths and weaknesses and prioritize from the feedback.  A coordinator can use the information from peer evaluations to find areas of need among all teachers.  This would prevent one person from being singled out as having a particular weakness.  Everyone can work on the same proficiency.
  • Coordinator or director.  The person who has supervisory responsibility for the teacher can provide the proficiency priorities.
  • Survey teaching librarians to find out which proficiencies they feel they have and which need support.  Find out what kinds of activities they already do.
  • Observations linked to learning outcomes, in turn linked to library mission and goals.
  • Gain an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses:  look at individual and group needs, start with what is feasible.
  • Conduct a Myers-Briggs of instruction to determine where you are.
  • Prioritize:
    • What is your audience?
    • What is your purpose?
    • What is your timeframe?
    • What is your local/curricular focus?

Question 2:  How can teacher librarians get training in the proficiencies they want to develop? What library, campus, or online sources can help develop a specific proficiency?

  • Partner with teaching and learning centers on your campus, the college/department/school of education, and local libraries.
  • Mentorship and observation (with feedback) from other librarians.  Include discussion groups.
  • Ride the accreditation train, recognize the experts on your campus.
  • Survey faculty on their information literacy awareness.
  • Look for online learning opportunities such as TLT, ACRL, iTunesU.
  • Create an instruction wiki.
  • Attend training events as a team if possible, either online or on-site.
  • Share information learned at professional developments activities such as Immersion and conference workshops.
  • Draw on the strength of your own staff.
  • Step out of the library and observe other campus instructors.
  • Take advantage of RSS feeds.
  • Look for possibilities through local and state organizations.

Question 3:  How can an instruction coordinator use the proficiencies to guide and evaluate an instruction program?

  • Librarian's retreat
  • Self-improvement plan
  • Concrete plan to develop skills in a certain proficiency.
  • Have the teachers describe what a best practice in the proficiency would look like.
  • Create a shared standard of performance using the proficiencies.  Let the teachers provide input on the performance standards.
  • The coordinator can look at the strengths of the teachers and provide that feedback to the teachers.
  • Professional development can be built around a proficiency.
  • The teaching proficiencies should also be linked to learning outcomes.
  • Provide linkage between program assessment and student learning assessment.
  • Managers/Coordinator can mentor and support instruction librarians.
  • Facilitate promotion and communication.
  • Map proficiencies to your program, identify both gaps and expertise.
  • Match librarians on your campus based on their strong/weak proficiencies.

Question 4:  How can teacher librarians evaluate their teaching using the proficiencies? How can the proficiencies be used to guide professional development and goal-setting?

  • Organize a teaching portfolio
  • Create peer and self evaluations mapped to the proficiencies
  • Survey faculty who have had library instruction to provide evaluation
  • Create a framework for individual goal setting
  • Create advocacy for programmatic development or individual professional development
  • Rate yourself, explain how you can improve low ratings
  • Include in annual review/goal-setting process
  • Find time for self reflections
  • Encourage workplace environment where it's okay to need assistance
  • Regional "one-day" immersion experience - or create it on your campus
  • Put evaluation in hands of people who do it
  • How do we teach students other tech skills to thrive in information society?
  • How do we get past emotional barriers?

Further suggested readings:

Botts, Carroll, and Mark Emmons. 2002. Developing teaching competencies for instructors in the academic library: A case study. Public Services Quarterly 1 (3):65-81.

Fowler, Clara S., and Scott Walter. 2003. Instructional leadership: New responsibilities for a new reality. College &Research Libraries News 64(7):465-68.

Hook, Sheril J., Marianne Stowell Bracke, Louise Greenfield, and Victoria A. Mills. 2003. In-house training for instruction librarians. Research Strategies 19 (2):99-127.

Walter, Scott, Lori Arp, and Beth S. Woodard. 2006. Instructional improvement: Building capacity for the professional development of librarians as teachers. Reference & User Services Quarterly 45 (3):213-18.

 


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