By Michelle Marshall
Delaware Technical Community College
As a librarian, it is my hope to apply what I learn about teaching and instruction to the informal learning environment in which I work every day, namely, the library. The challenge has become how to apply concepts such as “student-centered” and “active learning” to a reference interview or to a one-shot information literacy session.
In my search for examples of how to do this, I recently read an article titled Authenticity and Learning: Implications for Reference Librarianship and Information Literacy Instruction by Kevin Michael Klipfel.
As implied by the title, for real learning to take place there needs to be an element of authenticity on part of both the instructor and the student. As stated in the article, librarians need to make “a shift in perspective…from viewing oneself as an expert transmitting information to others, to a student-centered focus where educator inhabits a more facilitative role.” Furthermore, authenticity requires “students sharing with the librarian who they really are.”
This is atypical to how a reference interview or a one-shot information session historically have been conducted, requiring a level of interpersonal communication not usually associated with students and librarians, whose interactions are often restricted by time constraints.
Making the shift from librarian-centered to student-centered learning during a reference interview can be as simple as asking the student “what interests you about that topic?” thus opening up an opportunity for further dialogue. In a more formal instructional setting, Klipfel suggests that librarians can model an “authentic narrative” for the information seeking behavior they wish students to emulate. When conducting an instructional session on databases, for example, the librarian can “walk students through the process, verbally and visually, of how they, the librarian, would have chosen a topic that interested them, relative to the constraints of their particular class assignment.” In doing so, the librarian reveals something personal about him or herself and is challenging students to do the same.
In addition to the “need for the facilitator of learning to find out students’ interests in the classroom and allow them to pursue those interests”, instructors also need to have available for students “resources and materials necessary for them to learn about their interests.” These two components of an authentic education provide the perfect opportunity for collaboration between classroom instructors and librarians.
Classroom instructors are in a position to learn what peaks students’ interest in their programs of study and to communicate those interests to the librarians. Librarians, in turn, are able to support those interests by not only ensuring that the library collection is developed with those interests in mind but also by making those interests the focus of information literacy sessions.