Last week I participated in a professional development program called the Librarians’ Active Learning Institute (LALI), organized by Laura Barrett (E&O), Cindy Tobery (DCAL), and Karen Gocsik (IWR). It’s a 2-day workshop around active learning principles. Participants included: Jill Baron, Pat Fisken, Ridie Ghezzi, Lucinda Hall, Anthony Helm, Mark Mounts, Karen Odato, Sarah Scully, Cindy Stewart, Morgan Swan, Amy Witzel, and myself.
We spent the first day discussing how our brains learn (from a semi-scientific point of view) and the different aspects of active learning (meeting the students where they are, authority, engagement, reflection and extension). Chris Jernstedt gave a fascinating talk that really made me think about what is reality? Is it just having different interpretations and understandings of the same thing or is our brains really making up a story that fits into what we think is our reality? He presented some interesting results from different studies that support breaks (especially 4-hour naps!) and information overload. I liked the term “rummaging” that he kept using to describe engaging our students’ minds.
The second day was a practicum: incorporate these ideas into an actual lesson by working with a faculty member who may use some of our ideas in Winter term. My group (Anthony, Karen, and Amy) worked with Prudence Merton on her Writing 5 course titled “The View from the Balcony: Learning How You Learn.” Her vision of the class sounds absolutely fascinating and if I were a first year, I would take it. However, it was really challenging to come up with a library session that would meet the needs of the students for them to be able to complete the research paper. We envisioned a need to teach advanced search techniques in full-text databases. In the end, we took a step back and designed a plan that tackled the paper that came before the final research paper and recommended a second library session to discuss the more advanced techniques.
It was an intense 2 days, but it really reinforced the need to design sessions that enabled learners to take control of their own learning. I am already intuitively doing this in my sessions so this is the first time I’ve had any formal emphasis/training on active learning. The one aspect I really need to work on is building in the reflection and extension to help students solidify and retain what they’ve learned in the session.