Teaching

Teaching philosophy

“How does my teaching advance individuals and society? How can I most effectively help students learn and grow?”

My answers to these questions are grounded in this belief: Our purpose in education is to develop the whole person, one who is a productive, innovative professional and an ethical, informed and engaged citizen – a person who can think creatively and critically to solve problems for organizations, communities and society. To be a teacher is a holistic calling – to nourish a learning community that enables students to develop intellectually and personally, to mentor students, and to create space for them to discover their own talents and strengths. To do this well, it is important for me to continually reflect on the values that my teaching is embedded in, and that I demonstrate through my teaching. It is equally important that I engage in an ongoing, reflective practice and share this work in my community through scholarly dissemination.

Teaching, for me, is fundamentally a hopeful, empowering and joyful activity. My teaching is a craft and a calling – a combination of science, discipline, art and performance. I bring a breadth and depth of content knowledge, technical expertise and “soft” skills from my 20 years in industry, government and as an independent consultant. I use that knowledge, along with an outcomes-based process of curriculum design, to ensure students can gain and demonstrate authentic mastery of the course material. I create learning environments that blend face-to-face and online modes and invite students to co-create knowledge through active participation.

Our students are our colleagues, and I treat them as I would expect to be treated, with respect, compassion and mutual accountability. I set clear expectations, and invite dialog, suggestion and refinement. I recognize that in spite of its laudable ideals, our educational system often reinforces social and economic privilege instead of resisting it. I personally work to understand how my own privilege impacts my teaching. I use this understanding and my knowledge of the historical inequities in educational access and power to intentionally create space for voices and perspectives that are frequently excluded or ignored, including people of color, women and LGBTQI communities. This is an ongoing, developmental process in which I hold myself accountable to my colleagues and my students as I learn, make mistakes and grow.

My formal teaching work cannot be separated from the institutions in which it occurs. That presents dilemmas, challenges and opportunities. The tools of critical theory, and more specifically critical pedagogy, are helpful as I explore issues of praxis, agency and the problematic yet transformational role of the university. My courses, even the most technically focused, are grounded in the essential questions of the field, and I encourage students to critically reflect and engage in dialog about both social and ethical aspects throughout.

Approach

In face-to-face classes, I intersperse lecture with small group and full class discussion and hands-on activity. Online, I provide a variety of learning activities that actively engage students, with a combination of textual material, short videos, exercises and online discussions. Brief, weekly exit surveys engage students in reflection on their own learning and provide concrete feedback that I use to diagnose individual and class problems so that I can provide timely help or make adjustments to upcoming classes.

Technology is an essential element of my teaching. Indeed, technology design and evaluation is one of my areas of professional expertise, and I apply this to my courses. Having taught both online and face-to-face since 2009, I do not rigidly think of my classes and learning activities as purely one or the other. Instead, I blend elements of both into the learning environment to make the best use of each. I carefully configure learning management systems like Blackboard and Canvas to provide the best possible learning environment for my students, rather than accepting the standard configurations, which are rarely optimal and often recreate the worst aspects of traditional pedagogy. Where appropriate, I integrate external resources like wikis, which provide opportunities for richer and more active forms of learning.

I emphasize project-based learning, and in most of my courses students undertake a significant term project, often working with organizations like the Library of Congress to address real-world information needs. This is good pedagogy – students learn better through active inquiry that engages them in real-world projects – and it also helps students develop their own reflective practice that connects the academic material we discuss in class to the real world, where all aspects of their work, from technique to pragmatics and ethics, are nuanced and contextual. This point has been made clear at least as far back as Dewey and Whitehead, but it is still overlooked at all levels of our educational system.

Reflective practice and teaching-as-research

My teaching is a form of action research motivated by and grounded in the same essential questions that opened this essay. Each semester I aspire to learn about and improve my own practice, drawing on the design methods I have used throughout my career, in an iterative process informed by the literature, feedback from students and engagement with colleagues. I also investigate the co-curricular aspects of our programs, which have just as much impact on student learning as specific pedagogical practices.

The goals of my practice of teaching-as-research are to: improve our understanding of how we educate information professionals; advance our understanding of how technology can serve educational needs; and enable more effective and equitable access to information and education. At a practical level, my research is motivated by the imperative to support more flexible models of learning and course delivery, while simultaneously improving educational practices and student learning outcomes.

Courses taught (incomplete at the moment):

Information Systems in Libraries and Information Centers (LSC 555, core requirement)

Internet Searches and Web Design (LSC 610)

Programming for Web Applications (LSC 753)

Design and Production of Multimedia (LSC 752)

User Interface Design & Evaluation (LSC 877/525)

Independent Study

If you are interested in a topic not covered by one of our regular courses, I am happy to discuss supervising an independent study. You should contact me at least 4 weeks before the registration deadline. Examples of independent studies:

  • Critical Librarianship
  • JavaScript and Ajax programming
  • Designing search user interfaces with PHP
  • Learning the C# programming language
  • Information Architecture: An Investigation of the History & Evolution of Two Communities of Professional Practice
  • Investigation of Gaze Behavior based upon Cognitive Function in faceted Search Interfaces for Library Catalogs
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