Monday, April 26, 2010

The Consequences of Changing University Pedagogy and Teaching Habits

The future of library pedagogy is an uncertain yet exciting one during these transitional times. At the UCs and nation-wide, we live in an era of shrinking budgets, increasing student populations, and hiring freezes in library staff. What strategies can UC librarians implement to deal with the changing university pedagogy?

What has changed in teaching?
Some classes are even larger than before. Fewer papers are being assigned and those that are assigned may be shorter or less reliant on secondary literature. Faculty expectations of student works trend toward the use of multimedia, and creative works. Resources for student work are increasingly derived from material not owned or easily curated by librarians, such as websites and proprietary or massaged data. In line with the work that faculty are themselves conducting as researchers, work is increasingly cross- and inter-disciplinary. This is particularly true at University of California where the influence of research on teaching has long been a value of the institution. Though it does not represent a dramatic change in philosophy for some subject areas, expensive library resources in professional schools are cordoned off from the rest of the university. Parallel, and in some ways contrary to these trends, course management systems have created a closed system appearance to courses in which all content needed to pass or succeed appears to be contained within a single interface.

Some of changes in student behavior have both led to a decreased reliance on library resources and an increased emphasis on the pedagogy.
Regardless of the reason, students are familiar with searching and with multimedia creation. They are less likely to feel they need assistance. They use texting and instant messaging for most casual communication and more frequently than face-to-face or telephone. They use information that is created for them reasonably effectively, but are less likely to pursue difficult-to-find material. They don’t need to use a library catalog or database when Google Scholar and Google Books are good enough. In other words, in spite of the added value that traditional reference transactions and instruction bring to the table, fewer students avail themselves of those services without active promotion from librarians or faculty. In addition, those students who choose substitute mediums for reference transactions and instruction are pre-disposed to a communication style in which an expected answer is both shorter and presumed pre-contextualized to their need.

Using one of the nine topics covered in the fall assembly here are some of the implications that result from pedagogy changes.

Some of these ideas were compiled from the conversations that have gone on before with some commentary. We could pilot the effectiveness of any approach on every campus, then compare results. Another might be to share how each approach has been evaluated and what factors were known to have made it succeed. Choose one of these ideas and run with it. Here’s an example that could be further articulated. What would you vote and commit to do?

Integrate information literacy into the academic curriculum.
Drivers in this direction include:
Our familiarity with the standards.
How faculty understand those standards as a part of a traditional pedagogical rubric.
Correspondence with existing pedagogies.
Drivers in the opposite direction include:
Perception by faculty that information standards are their purview.
Insufficient content to establish separate, large-scale courses.
Overly large classes.
Inability to provide more time to the task of teaching over time given competing responsibilities.

Campus roles
In our role as librarians, we have countered pedagogical and student trends by framing ourselves as campus consultants. We’ve created “your personal librarian” programs. We’ve become part of curriculum planning. We’ve attempted programmatic collaboration in instruction by partnering with lower division writing programs. In some cases, we have embedded ourselves in course management systems and created information commons. We’ve even worked out how to meet students where they live by using texting, chat, Facebook, “how to’s” and tutorials ( , and anything else we can think of – all without dropping other services.

*What are the rewards for this to the library?
*What kinds of technology, education and personnel will be needed to facilitate this approach?
*What is the life-cycle for teaching and how can we update it if it’s taught by faculty?
*How and how often will we evaluate the effectiveness of this strategy?
*What would/will you do personally to support or analyze this approach?

Other suggestions we might discuss include:

*Focus on the information commons to create the library as central to the life of the university. Embed the tools of production, such as video, and include less common units such as career centers within the library.
*Publish outside the library literature to illustrate our collaborative and integral roles.
*Create talking points for librarians so that they can actively promote libraries and librarians.
*Act as campus consultants by taking on projects of interest to faculty and researchers that we might normally avoid (e.g. the digitization project that resulted in the Rorty program/conference (
*Get involved in the academic senate by changing the role of the librarian or the status of librarians in all of our institutions.

Ultimately, however, what we might consider is, how much of this should we be taking on? What should we outsource and share with consortiums and vendors?