- Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning:Instructional Literacy for Library Educators
Librarians of all stripes are regularly thrust into the position of teaching and training their users, colleagues, and peers, regardless of whether "instruction" appears in their job title or description. For many, this is a challenging aspect of day-to-day work since librarians are often not grounded in educational theories or instructional design principles during their LIS education. In her book, Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning: Instructional Literacy for Library Educators, Char Booth, Instruction Services Manager & E-Learning Librarian at the Claremont Colleges Library, as well as ACRL Immersion faculty member, aims to bolster the instructional confidence of novice librarians and others involved in library instruction and staff training by offering clear-cut strategies for designing engaging and learner-centered instructional messages and experiences.
Exercising self-reflection - in both learning and teaching - is at the heart of Booth's argument and, as a learning object, the book is deftly organized to both demonstrate and encourage this practice. Part 1 examines Booth's concept of instructional literacy, while Part 2 outlines her instructional design model, the USER Method. Each chapter begins with set goals, incorporates activities and checklists, and ends with summaries, complete with reflective questions.
To develop and grow as an authentic instructor calls for an instructional literacy, which for Booth is "the combination of skills and knowledge that facilitates effective, [End Page 106] self-aware, and learner-focused educational practice" and comprises four elements: reflective practice, educational theory, teaching technology, and instructional design. (p. xvi-xvii) Reflective practice involves developing a teaching philosophy and finding one's instructional soapbox. It also involves stepping back to understand the learner, context, content, and educator not only in the instruction planning process, but also during and immediately following the instructional moment. Educational theory provides the framework for teaching practices. Booth concisely lays out the three dominant schools of learning theory - behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism - followed by their respective instructional approaches, reminding us that "it is not necessarily desirable to choose one theoretical model over another." (p. 50)
Teaching technology requires not only maintaining current awareness of instructional technologies, but, more important, evaluating their practical affordances for integration, regardless of whether they are proprietary or open source; a technology toolkit evaluation checklist is also included. Booth nicely delineates librarians' reality of teaching with technology, teaching about technology, and teaching around technology in light of emerging connectivist theory, emphasizing our role as informed critics. Instructional design (ID) offers a method for delivering effective learning experiences, fostering increased ownership and investment in both educator and learner.
Akin to ID's ADDIE Model, which she briefly discusses, Booth's aptly named USER Method is an approach to effective instructional planning, involving four stages: understand, structure, engage, and reflect. From investigating the learning scenario and defining achievable targets for delivering compelling instructional messages and assessing their impact, each stage moves sequentially and includes two steps, focusing on the learner throughout. USER's ease permits librarians to "embed, extend, and scaffold" any learning interaction. (p. 100) Strategies for conducting needs assessment, establishing outcomes, considerations for visual literacy, and assessment types are all discussed. A glossary, recommended readings, sample templates and documents, plus advice from nearly 300 instruction librarians round out the book.
Simply put, learning to teach, like learning to learn, is a reflective practice, and in her valuable book, Char Booth empowers librarians to not only reflect upon their craft, making stronger connections between pedagogy and praxis, but also to advocate for instructional literacy in their learning communities. [End Page 107]