Teaching Methods Used in Library School

27/01/2012 § 19 Comments

Since I was a high school teacher before I started library school, I’m finding it really hard to switch off my “teacher brain” even well into my second semester. This makes sense, considering that I want to become a teacher-librarian. However, it has also had an unintended side effect: I spend all of my time in class imagining how I would teach the course.

Hopefully this is the universe’s way of telling me that yes, school librarianship is my ultimate purpose here on earth. But it’s also led me to give a lot of thought to the teaching methods used in library school, not to mention experience a lot of frustration when those methods are antiquated. Librarianship is a field that lends itself naturally to self-directed inquiry, collaboration, innovation, and interactive, Web 2.0 styles of thinking. So I was dismayed to discover that while these terms are used a lot in library school, the format of my courses is based on a much older model of education where students acquire knowledge through rote learning and memorization.

To me, learning does not mean remembering stuff that you can regurgitate later. As award-winning educator Sir Ken Robinson points out, this model may have been useful in the Industrial Age where workers on assembly lines specialized in specific, repetitious tasks, but it does not serve 21st century purposes. The day-to-day realities of librarianship require “transferable skills”, such as the ability to collaborate with others, solve complex problems, deal effectively with patrons, and manage resources – the very skills that make an MLIS so flexible and useful.

Now, to a point, it’s our own responsibility to make sure that we acquire these skills. An MLIS is a packaged educational commodity that by virtue of its flexibility cannot be “one size fits all.” If our programs don’t suit our needs exactly then it should be our responsibility to hack them until they do. That’s why Hack Library School exists, after all! But at the same time, the library schools that provide this commodity also have a responsibility to ensure that their curricula strive to reflect the current demands of the profession.

I’d like to open up a dialogue with all of Hack’s loyal readers about teaching methods used in library school. My experience is limited only to my own program, and I am certainly not a professor. But nonetheless, I have strong feelings about this topic, as well as some ideas that might be effective. I’d also like to hear from you about aspects of your programs’ pedagogies that have worked especially well for you – or haven’t. So, without further ado‚Ķ « Read the rest of this entry »

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