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Teaching Philosophies of Library Staff

Personal Teaching Philosophy Statement

For me learning occurs best when I am curious, enthused, when it includes philosophical and practical explorations. I value it when it is hard won and I sense the change in my thinking and being.  I value the possibility of learning with peers and especially in a community, which supports my development by having a healthy dynamic between support and encouragement and challenge.  As a Librarian I have always been motivated by the role of Libraries as agents of personal and social change.  I see our role as Librarians in facilitating learning and empowerment through knowledge creation as intrinsic to this.  To be honest I love learning. I love to be in the state of being where I feel myself learning all the time. It makes me feel alive and open to life.  I feel like I have had lots of ‘learning experiences’ that have asked me to stretch and where in doing so I have felt nervous and uncomfortable.  While these contexts are hard at the time I also recognize that they are the occasions when I have had deep paradigm shifting learning and so I treasure them

My approach to teaching has been inspired by the motivating and inspiring teachers I have been lucky enough to meet. Thinking back on these encounters a common quality is that they all believed in my potential and all helped me to find what I really wanted and to be effective at it.  This meant that the teachers I valued had a huge respect for human potential, were respectful and demanding.  In having this respect for potential I believe that they stood for, and embodied values about people and learning that are precious.  They made me think and act, and be.  In many instances these teachers expected me to co-create and co-learn with them and none of them handed me ‘knowledge’ on a plate.  With them learning felt like a partnership.  These teachers have lead me to believe that as a teacher my role is to facilitate, to see our potential and to prompt rather than to spoon-feed.

In choosing to be a Librarian I felt that Libraries are agents of personal and social change because they facilitate knowledge creation and learning.   As a Librarian I am hugely aware of the different ways we all learn. Perhaps for the same reason I am suspicious of  ‘truth’ and of any view that limits the possibility that learning can happen.  I always question assumptions and opinion and the notion that someone is necessarily ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.  This makes the world more complex but I feel that the world really needs us to move beyond simplistic dichotomies and to instead embrace the complicated.   As a Librarian I recognize that all learning is participatory and benefits from conversation and engagement.

Learning from my teachers and experiences I aim to inspire curiosity and exploration, to invite people to question assumptions and what they know.  I also learned from my diverse teachers that learning is holistic and not just rational and ‘head’ based.  Reflecting back generosity is another huge impactor – I learn best when I feel appreciated and so I try to start with an appreciation in my teaching for what the learner may already know, for the qualities and gifts they have and for the complicated nature of the lives they may have. 

I feel that as a teacher one can intervene to help learning occur by enabling learners become aware of their frames, assumptions and the lens that they use. This is one of the reasons I enjoy using Threshold Concepts in my Information Literacy teaching.    If I have the time I prefer to let people discover learning for themselves, to facilitate them to do something and then ask so what happened? Why? How?. 

In teaching Information Literacy I try to connect not just to the scholarly academic world but also to day-to-day life and examples.  I do this so that students can contextualize their learning and have useful tools in assessing the information they come across in the news and social media.  This feels especially important given the way technologies can support our worldview and given the need for evidence-based decision-making.  Threshold Concepts help a lot with this.  I try to switch examples around so that students see themselves not just as users of information but also as creators of knowledge who have important things to say. 

My goals in teaching include a wish that students are confident in engaging with (rather than consuming) information and confident of the value of their contribution to, and co-creation of information that matters.  My wishes for them include:

That they become scholars and masters of their discipline

That they become informed citizens

That they become informed decision makers

That they learn throughout their life and remain open to new ideas and skills

I prefer therefore to be with students who are willing to engage, collaborate, and have opinions and partner in making sense of the complicated and complex information environment we operate in.

I value getting feedback.  Because I respond better starting with what works I like to frame feedback in this way.  This is not to deny that I might not be happy with my practice or that I could not have done it better – it’s to help me hear what worked and did not in a context of good will and good intention.  The methods I use to get feedback include padlet, responses to quizzes/questions and in instances written work. 

In order to support my practice I engage in Professional Development activities and trainings. I also use reflection as a way of seeing into my practice. I find that peer support is really helpful, that others can be mirrors for my practice and that this third party intervention helps me to keep my practice relevant.


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