Open Access Tenure: Lady in the Classroom

Greetings from Computers in Libraries in Washington DC.  I’m speaking on Friday about data (shocking content type, I know).  But I didn’t want to leave you behind….

Because at my institution, we are judged not only by our colleges but by the university as a whole, one of the major components of our librarianship portion (remember from a few weeks ago it’s research, librarianship, and service) is teaching.  I’m obviously not traditional teaching faculty that most of the other colleges have, where a primary responsibility is to meet with a class 1-5 times a week to lecture, engage, small group learn etc.  I’m also not a traditional academic reference librarian.  The majority of my peers and colleagues are teaching what we usually call one shot instruction–a single session with a class that is hopefully just before they start writing the paper that is required. The librarians at the main library teach many many many of those sessions, mostly in affiliation with the English department though certainly spread  out among other topics as well.

I certainly do teach some of those, in the fall the medical reference librarians all step to the fore and teach PubMed to the second year medical students.  It’s difficult. They don’t have an assignment that immediately ties into it and I’m not the liaison they may have met before or will most likely meet with in the future. So you’re working in an abstract context to try and convince students that they need to use these tools, that perhaps Google won’t have the answer for the patient in front of them, that I’m trying to save them time and migraines later on….

Fortunately, I have the opportunity with Dentistry to move beyond the one-off.  Starting last fall, I was embedded into the first year Dentistry curriculum (D1 students) as part of their “Professional Skills” area.  Dentistry overhauled their teaching and curriculum and launched something entirely new last fall, which is moving very much away from lecture and towards small group learning, so having them learn early and often about how to find resources to answer questions was really important.  I became a part of their Friday classes, where we covered information seeking skills for medicine, evidence based dentistry, community analysis, and health disparities.  Over the course of the semester, I saw each half of the class five times–repeating each lecture twice.  Throw in fall break and tests and it was December…

But this was where I was really teaching–of the five classes, I led two of the three hour sessions, I co-taught two more, and I attended the other (mostly so I knew what that professor had covered).  The first session was more information seeking skills, drilling into different databases, trying out some of the cool medical information things we have, figuring out Boolean operators.  We spent some quality time with PubMed.  The second and fourth sessions were led by two other professors that I work very closely with. There was lecture and group work.  The three of us really work well together as a team, with both of them asking me to step in and give an opinion, remind of something we’ve been over before, point out something in the group work that matters from an information seeking perspective rather than the actual dentistry perspective.  And then the fifth session was finding community information, which was  group work assignment that I based around the clinics where the students will spin out to do work in future years.

This particular class was a huge time commitment.  I was in class 3 hours every Friday–four once you figured in the half hour before and after that I needed to block on my calendar and that didn’t begin to include the prep time. But it was incredibly rewarding because I got to learn my students, they saw me as someone working with their professors and being one of their professors, and I had many opportunities to reinforce the material.  They ALL know what a MeSH term is and how to use it and where the limits in PubMed are.

My supervisor observed one of those classes and she commented on the rapport that I had with my students.  That’s hard to get (not impossible–I have colleagues who are amazing at it) when you see the students for 45 minutes once.  That rapport will support them through their time with me, I hope.  Certainly, I see far more of them and talk to them more deeply than I do the D2-D4 students who I don’t know as well.  I also have students fill out feedback forms that I need to rework–they’re not helpful to me or them.  Other future evaluations by coworkers and supervisors and those forms are how I’ll be judged by my tenure committee in the future.

This spring I’m not in the classroom every week.  I’m okay with that–right now I’m doing more upperclass consultations. From what I can tell of the cycles in the other medical colleges (nursing being the exception) that seems to be about right.  I did have one three-prof session with them earlier in the year and in about two weeks they are giving presentations that I’ll be on the grading panel for.  Part of the grade comes from their having to find appropriate articles in PubMed and telling us (a) how they found them and (b) why they are relevant.  I don’t really expect panicked emails when I get back to Chicago, though one or two wouldn’t surprise me.

It’s not clear how fall will shake down. I asked them to try and find ways to not make the classes three hours.  I’d rather teach the same class back to back for 90 minutes and see all of them every week.  They’d learn more and I’d be less tired by the end.  I also will be asking to include questions on their fall exams.  While I’m certainly seeing qualitative impact, I’d like to be able to point to things and say “this might be on the exam.”  It will give me just a smidge more credibility in the classroom.

So that’s some of the teaching I’ve done so far.  I’d like to expand into the upper class curricula, more on the point of need and with the international students, who I’m finding have a very wide range of  abilities and understanding of articles, citation, and research.  I’d also like to do some more lunch workshops with faculty. I did one for the Institute of Juvenile Research that was a really great way to meet some people there, I’d like to show my Dentistry faculty some of the things we have that can make their lives easier too.

I’d also like to send a nod to the Blonde and the Brunette who coached me through teaching at Gymboree. If you can get through 45 minutes with 20 hyper toddlers 3-5 times in a single day, you can make it through just about anything on the college level.

Any questions?