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The Art of Teaching for Librarians

The Harvard Library community was provided an opportunity for expanding skill sets in research, teaching and learning.


On January 12, 2016, librarians joined colleagues in a practice-based workshop entitled The Art of Teaching for Librarians. Sponsored by the Research, Teaching and Learning Standing Committee, this workshop explored what it means to be a learner-centered instructor. Presenters included Kris Markman, online learning librarian for Harvard Library, Maura Ferrarini, learning and assessment designer for Harvard Library, and Deborah Garson, head of Research and Instruction Services at Gutman Library.

Beginning with a hands-on activity, attendees brainstormed and developed a list of more than 50 types of teachable moments librarians encounter every day, from conducting workshops and one-off sessions to writing a LibGuide to a five-minute reference desk interaction. Keeping these examples in mind, small groups discussed the importance of teaching for understanding and how this is different from routine learning.

The class continued with an introduction to important learning and instructional design elements as shown in a model created by the presenters. Topics included the benefits of crafting specific, measureable, and observable learning objectives and conducting formal and informal audience analyses; different types of learning assessments; the relationship between learning objectives and learning outcomes; and instructional strategies to aid in student learning. Another highlight included the presentation of findings from recent studies conducted by the User Research Center of Harvard students’ research practices.

“One of the goals of this workshop was to provide an opportunity for focused reflection on research, teaching, and learning practice in the 21st-century research library,” said Markman. A video of the workshop and additional resources are available on the Research, Teaching, and Learning Standing Committee wiki. It also served as a foundational learning session for a planned summer 2016 professional development program initiative at Harvard Library. This pilot program will be a three-week intensive course that dives deeper into the learning process. Due to the intensive nature of the class, participation will be capped at 12-15 people. Applications for the summer program are due on Friday, February 19.

In other news, the standing committee will be conducting a staff outreach project starting this semester called “Meet, Greet, and Listen.” This will be a series of discussions held across campus. The committee hopes to gain a holistic overview of today’s activities in this field by regularly engaging colleagues across libraries, ensuring that librarians know where expertise in this area exists, and establishing strong working relationships with one another.  

Article written by Kris Markman.