The Ongoing Learning Experience of Instruction

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been part of an ongoing database instruction project at work for two semesters. And what has struck me the most about the process is that I’ve come to view it as a process instead of a project. As we dive into the second semester I wanted to jot down a few things that I’ve learned from the process:

  • It is hard to get people to come to drop-in sessions. Last fall we scheduled two weeks of sessions on popular databases and promoted the heck out of them. And we only had a handful of people show up to each one (at most). 😦
  • But(!) the patrons who did come were amazingly engaged and excited about the sessions! Patrons want this information!
  • We had to broaden our mindset in terms of audience: initially we were just targeting undergrads (mostly freshmen and sophomores) but we found that grad students and even faculty attended some sessions and wanted the database instruction information.
  • We decided to include a short survey at the end of each session, at the suggestion of our mentor librarian, for assessment purposes. It has been great for getting feedback about what worked, what didn’t, and what patrons want from such sessions in the future.
  • Our marketing/promotion approach has changed and intensified so much even with the short time period that we’ve been doing instruction. Last fall our promotion was largely poster, social media, and email-based. It has expanded this semester to include: website mentions, social media mentions, emails to departments, professors, and students, electronic signage and billboards, some posters (more targeted), small handouts, and announcements on the PA system in the library (shortly before the sessions start).
  • We also started to rethink the entire way we set up the sessions. While we’re still offering the drop-in sessions, we also crafted an email template to contact professors in our subject departments early in the semester with a solicitation for class-specific instruction sessions. This proved very successful, as we had multiple classes come for sessions on databases related to their material/assignments. It was great to be able to schedule a session and know that 30 people were going to be there.
  • Also, at the class sessions we passed around an email list for info about upcoming drop-in sessions. That way we can email interested folks directly!
  • As the person in charge of marketing/promotion, I decided it would be beneficial to write up a working list/document for each semester, complete with contact info, email templates/scripts, and chronological action items. It should help me keep things straight and will help with continuity when all of the current graduate assistants have graduated.
  • Lastly, actually preparing a half-hour instruction session on a database really helps you as a librarian. I’ve been able to delve more deeply into the search features of a few of the key databases that I recommend to people every day. Thus, my reference skills are improving as I teach!
This is what I look like while teaching (always with the moving hands, of course). One of the things we've tried to practice is moving around and engaging more of the room. (Photo credit: Terry Weech)
This is what I look like while teaching (always with the moving hands, of course). One of the things we’ve tried to practice is moving around and engaging more of the room. (Photo credit: Terry Weech)

We’re starting the spring drop-in sessions next Monday. Thus, the process continues. Hopefully by May we’ll have learned even more about successful strategies and methods.

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