After Immersion

To hear ACRL Immersion graduates talk about it, Immersion is like the religious experience the name alludes to. Instruction librarians return home “changed”, inspired by the readings, conversations, and reworked instruction scenarios. We want to talk about what it was like, but can’t quite describe the spirit of the 4.5 days of focused sessions except to other Immersion grads. Like any cult conversion or Bachelor-style relationship, though, the proof, the lasting effects, can only been seen in what happens after. After you go home, after the spotlight is turned off, after the paparazzi have left the building. To me, more important than what happened at Immersion is what I did and will do with that knowledge.

Before we go there, though: a little background on Immersion. As Meredith Farkas blogged shortly after Immersion this summer, it is more retreat than conference. The best way I know to tease out the difference between the two is to look at the focus of each. At a conference, the focus is on the presenter/s research or work, and what they think you may want to know. Even though conferences may be grouped around a particular theme, there is little opportunity or pathway to build ties from one session to the next, and many choices that make many different paths. Conferences are a solo flight navigated by the individual. Immersion focuses on the attendees rather than the (truly awesome) presenters. The Immersion retreat builds a shared experience even before opening by assigning readings ahead of time. Participants in the Teacher track bring one presentation, one-shot instruction session, one semester long course, or one online tutorial to workshop throughout the week. Working on separate projects but with similar stumbling blocks and shared goals and deadlines gave many opportunities for immediate peer review.

Instruction best practices, such as writing meaningful learning outcomes, were pieces of the puzzle. Although the final picture of the jigsaw that is Immersion will be different for each participant, one similar feature is a clearer understanding of ourselves as learners and instructors, and the ability to see our students as a mix of learners and teachers as well. Active learning is another part of Immersion. By participating in it, we learn how valuable a learning tool student engagement is.

So, now that 2 months have passed, and the first teaching hurdle of the semester has been jumped, what differences in my teaching, if any, have resulted from my Immersion?

First off, I have to acknowledge Tiffani Travis’s Program Track group. They led our Teacher Track group in a discussion on how to advocate for change: talk to a faculty member about changing the library instruction session format you’ve done in the past; talk to colleagues about approaching library instruction sessions with defined learning outcomes and active learning; talk to supervisors and administration about what you can do for them.

Returning all charged up from Immersion, I advocated my way into additional instruction departments. Some of these are areas I hadn’t considered working with before, but since reference fields questions from all departments, this will continue to round out my skills. The first 4 weeks of the semester were spent breathlessly leaping from new instruction prep to the next, sometimes continuing the instruction practices of the previous librarian, but when possible (limited by time or faculty preference) making adjustments to the session to keep the focus on the students. Now I am in the process of updating my LibGuides for the new areas where needed, continuing to build ties with my new departments and schools, and conversing with my colleagues. Fall instruction is in a lull right now, and I hope to have more chances to share active learning activities within my library.

What am I doing differently? I’m looking at students more. I am speaking up. I am slowing down my movements, and breathing or sipping water to let students absorb what I just said. I am asking students directly “What do you already know about the library?” Then I fill in the gaps or correct misconceptions. The students are learning from each other, more than they would learn if I just told them what I know they need to know–useless unless they need it at that moment.

I met with a Journalism 101-type course whose professor’s personal learning outcomes for the session included getting the students into the library, realizing the library staff is helpful, and has books and other materials that will be useful. Building from this generic foundation I created a paired electronic scavenger hunt of library resources and features of our new homepage, moving from general into Journalism-specific resources so students would work together to find and use these resources. Hopefully they found me helpful, but more importantly learned that the library is not just books, and now they have experience using resources for their major. I then used much of the same setup for a 200 level intro to research course in another discipline, and I am already thinking about how I would revise this activity for next semester. In the past I might have turned down working with this class because the session was not tied to an assignment.

I still need work on designing learning outcomes and would like to involve faculty members in that step more in order to make our library sessions more collaborative and therefore more meaningful to students.

So far, I have had several more students hang back after library sessions to thank me for the class. Our students are generally polite, but that is something extra. A graduate instructor said “This was the least boring library session I’ve attended” after I worked with his class, but I’ll take that as a constructive comment and build on it.

For the first time, I see social networking having positive and direct effects on my work. Facebook posts by Laura Westmoreland introduced articles from Inside Higher Ed I might have otherwise missed, and Maria Accardi posted a fantastic library session activity for a fast peer review. Sure, I’m on listservs that do the same things, but much like our students I find I like learning about new things from people I can picture and remember.

One thought on “After Immersion

  1.   Maria Accardi Says:

    Hi, Amy! Thanks for the mention. Using Facebook to get quick feedback on a teaching idea has always been very useful to me.

    I, too, came home Immersion as a changed person. I was in the program track, and much of what we covered there helped me rethink my leadership skills and strategies within my library and in the institution as a whole. I’m still processing a lot of what I learned there, and I think that the impact of Immersion will continue to unfold over time through the next year.