Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fighting a Pedagogy of Convenience

One of my biggest pet peeves in education is what I think of as the Pedagogy of Convenience. One way we see this is the faculty member who has a conference or an off campus meeting and wants a librarian to do an information literacy session while s/he will be away (grrr and hiss, right?). Never mind if it's too early in the semester to teach students about our resources. Never mind that it's obvious the faculty member in question is only looking for a substitute teacher and doesn't seem to understand that his/her students will forget all the skills by the time the paper/essay/whatever is due.

I'm sure most if not all of the academic librarians out there can relate to that particular frustration, but remember the old saying about how when you point a finger there are four fingers pointing back at you? Well it's true here as well. I've seen librarians - heck, I've been guilty of it myself - committing acts of convenience. Teaching something the way "we've always done it," even when we've seen better ways of doing teaching/demonstrating whatever. Even though I am far from the stereotypical "sage on the stage," I still talk more than the students in my sessions. It's a problem, for sure.

That problem is never far from my thoughts, so it's no wonder that it was my first thought after I finished reading "A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days – a sobering lesson learned" (posted on Grant Wiggins' blog but written by someone else). It's a good read if you have the time, even though it's not exactly on the same topic. However, two points from the blog post resonated strongly as libr* related:
  • Students "feel a little bit like a nuisance all day long." The author's examples and suggestions for dealing with this are more appropriate to a semester long class, it's true. But it isn't hard to extrapolate to a library perspective. It makes me think about how, for each student who asks a question - like where the stapler is or how to long onto our resources from off campus - this is an important question. Rather than making our patrons feel like they are bothering us, we should be empathetic and helpful. Sure, it's more convenient to point to the instructions for logging onto the computers, but could we instead walk a patron over to the computer and help them?
  • "Students are sitting passively and listening during 90% of their classes." The author makes a brilliant suggestion we in libraries can adopt: "offer brief, blitzkrieg-like mini-lessons with engaging, assessment-for-learning-type activities following directly on their heals." (I've done this and should probably write it up. At the very least, I need to start using this approach again.)
I know I'll never completely overturn the Pedagogy of Convenience, but maybe I can start to chip away at it?

How about you? Did you read the piece? Do you think you'll change your practice at all? Did anything else stand out from the article as applicable to your library?

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