Teaching New Librarians How to Teach: A Model for Building a Peer Learning Program

Teaching New Librarians How to Teach: A Model for Building a Peer Learning Program

Merinda Kaye Hensley
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-601-8.ch010
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Librarians enter the academy with little background in the pedagogical and theoretical intricacies of teaching and learning. With library instruction responsibilities on the rise, institutions are searching for ways to encourage librarians to engage in the process of learning how to teach. Instruction librarians and coordinators can build a peer learning program that incorporates a progressive teaching structure where librarians graduate from shadow teaching to team teaching to solo teaching. By combining support in the classroom with a dynamic mentoring environment, librarians work as a team in order to provide students with high quality instructional experiences that promote lifelong learning. Formative assessment is built into the mentoring process while simultaneously providing analysis of the program. Suggestions for professional development and a reading list are included.
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Each day in the classroom is as much a learning experience as a teaching experience. (Vidmar, 2006, pp. 140)

As access to information grows increasingly more complex and the scope of inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary studies change the landscape of research and information management, academic librarians are in the classroom more than ever. Unfortunately, most library science programs don’t formally prepare students for the inevitability that instruction will be a part of their job responsibilities (Julien, 2005; Westbrook, 1999). Lacking a foundational repertoire of teaching skills, new librarians are at a clear disadvantage in the classroom. A teaching portfolio includes, at minimum, a diverse array of pedagogical strategies, presentation skills and assessment techniques. Many new librarians are tossed into the fray of teaching instruction sessions with little or no guidance on the mechanics of how to teach. To complicate matters even further, there are many types of library instruction for which to be prepared including course-integrated, workshops, discipline specific, online instruction, reference interactions and library tours. This practical guide will be relevant for instruction librarians and coordinators in all types of academic libraries, whether a library includes two teaching librarians or twenty-five. The chapter will describe the process of building a supportive peer learning program where new librarians can gain on-the-job training while finding their own teaching voice. It will also promote the development of a reflective learning community by including the following elements:

  • Building a progressive teaching environment in and out of the classroom

  • How to develop mentoring relationships between new and experienced librarians

  • Professional development within and outside the organization

  • Assessment of a peer learning environment

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