Hello!!! It’s finally fall and I couldn’t be happier.
Today I’m going to talk about teaching observations. The library here does a lot of instruction so I try to observe when I can. Obviously I cannot share what I see so instead I’m going to explain why I find teaching observations to be so valuable.
I have instruction/teaching experience beyond the libraries realm. I used to work in a rock climbing gym where I taught both children and adults “how to tie knots and not drop your friends from significant heights”. I did a lot of observation before I started teaching independently because the information had to be presented clearly and perfectly the first time to prevent accident and injury. I had coworkers who were very practiced and well-spoken so I would use their language or tweak it to fit my style better. I came in with my natural spunk and charm but I learned through observation 100%. I would not have been able to teach without observations.
Observing at the library is a little different. Because I work reference (get pumped for a blog post to come), I have a decent handle on the language to use when explaining citations, databases, or search strategies. And teaching at the climbing gym has given me ample teaching experience so I know how to stand in front of a group of strangers with mixed motivations. When I observe library instruction, I learn other ways to say things that I already say daily. Observing other instructors also expands my activities repertoire. No student wants to sit there and watch me demo databases all day so I always like seeing other ways instructors make it interactive. It’s important to see other ways to do things is important for 3 reasons.
- It helps be adaptable – variations in class size, technological failures, a really sleepy class – I’ll have other ideas to teach despite the curve ball
- When a student is struggling, I’ll have more tricks, words, and ideas beyond my go-to. I’m good at what I do, but my go-to methods aren’t foolproof and might not work for every student I encounter
- I get sick of doing the same thing over and over. Finding other ways to do it keeps me from burning out or getting jaded
Another, less often talked about, benefit is seeing what not to do. As an observer, you can take the time to glance around at the students to see how effective the instructor is or what is and isn’t clicking with them. If the instructor you’re observing is open to feedback, you can mention these things too.