High Threshold Teaching, Intensive Teaching

Welcome to Part III of my summer series about outreach and embedded librarianship. Feel free to check out Part I and Part II! 

Teaching is a core part of my job portfolio. I believe strongly that teaching students how to effectively locate, evaluate, and use information/data/other research in their own work is one of the most important aspects of my job. I tend to shy away from calling my classroom presence ‘bibliographic instruction.’ Honestly, what does even that mean? Does it resonate with my students or my faculty? But when I refer to my teaching practice as ‘research education’ or ‘project support,’ the brain gears of my students and their faculty turn towards enthusiasm.

Students sitting in the Library Center, circa 1975, courtesy of the Hampshire College Archives

Increasingly, I see this role as research educator and consoler in the context of project management. Increasingly, as some student learning experiences move from the traditional 10-20 page research paper into collaborative, online projects, the nature of our support for projects changes. Rather than simply supporting the research component in the beginning or handling citation questions at the end, librarians have an opportunity to support student learning outcomes throughout the entire process.

For example, last semester a colleague and I worked with an art history class whose final project was to curate an online exhibition. In this case, we were present from the beginning of the semester (when we introduced the tool they would use, Omeka) to meeting with the faculty member to divide students into groups (to do certain tasks like metadata, curation, and design), to meeting with those groups of students to troubleshoot technical problems and support them as a sounding board for their ideas, frustrations, and enthusiasm.

The librarian as project manager is not a role that can be played in the traditional context of one shot instruction; librarians need to be embedded in the curriculum, trusted collaborators with faculty, and open to meeting with students regularly. The librarian in this role is a sherpa on the long journey from brainstormed ideas to actualized projects that are ready to present at the end of the semester. And speaking from experience, it is gratifying to watch students present their work at the end of a long project you had the opportunity to support from start to finish. As we push our students towards learning experiences beyond the traditional research paper, librarians, technologists, and faculty must collaborate to manage these projects and support our students as they delve into new intellectual territories.