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  Rebecca Fitzsimmons 2015 | | 352.224.5885  
Final Reflections on Goals & Objectives

At the beginning of this course in teaching information literacy I outlined several goals and objectives to help guide my learning throughout the semester. While this was initially an assigned activity, I have gained a heightened sense of the importance of such processes. Instead of passively absorbing information to meet outside objectives, outlining my own goals made me more actively aware of the learning process. This dovetails nicely with what I have learned about information literacy, which is that critical thinking and individual research are often student-centered, individually directed activities. Librarians have copious amounts of information to share on the topic, and must effectively showcase resources and research methods in the course of instruction. However, an even larger part of teaching information literacy is helping students to acquire the skills to become independent. They must identify their own information needs and in the end, only they can fully understand when those needs have been met. This requires the ability to identify relevant sources; articulate, refine, and reassess research questions; and evaluate information sources. Much like being asked to define my own goals for learning throughout the class, it has become clear that asking students to define their own objectives and outcomes in relation to research encourages them to take responsibility for the process and, ultimately, for their own learning.

One of the challenges of teaching any subject is knowing what to exclude from instruction in order to avoid overwhelming the material that is included in an instructional session. With information literacy this challenge is compounded by a lurking desire to cram every bit of possible information, addressing every ACRL competency, into a single session. This "more is more" mentality can hinder learning, however, as students or patrons can experience information overload and learn nothing instead. Realizing my own tendency to over-inform, several of my goals for the course were centered on learning how to clearly identify the needs of the group I would be instructing and set clear goals and expectations for learning. Just as having individual goals is a significant part of learning, setting clear objectives for a class is essential for focusing material. In reading about lesson planning it was obvious that setting goals and objectives first does provide a solid base upon which to build instruction. Rather than mapping the objectives to the material after the lesson is devised (which we all do sometimes), I found that setting them first did help to make the session planning smoother. I had a core set of ideas to which I could compare the instructional materials and decide whether each activity was tied directly to an objective; this made trimming material easier.

Other goals that I set for this course revolved around learning how to incorporate instruction that addresses diverse learning styles and preferences into a variety of instructional settings. The readings were helpful in describing how different instructional methods—questioning, discussion, reflection, and so forth—would appeal to different types of learners. Including a variety of approaches is good technique since it makes it likely that each student will spend some time during a course session learning in their preferred manner. Of course, the readings also pointed out that it is important to avoid outright redundancy in instruction. It can be truly challenging to identify which materials and activities are actually building and extending knowledge, and which are simply repeating without adding anything new; the latter is problematic because it can lead to boredom and contempt from students. This is where determining the right mixture of instructional styles gets complicated—it is important to include a variety of activities, but it is also tempting to overuse many of the strategies while trying to make a session interactive. This was something I had to consider carefully in crafting my teaching session, since at first it was tempting to include a discussion with each section of the material. However, in considering the depth of discussion and reflection that could be achieved by spreading out these opportunities, I was able to create a stronger session. I also took away a better awareness of matching the material to the teaching method. In short, there are opportunities for including a variety of teaching methods within a single session and the challenge is devising the appropriate mixture and matching the technique to the material.

Teaching in diverse instructional environments was also a focus of my goals and objectives; I have only, to this point, taught in face-to-face settings. Devising an online teaching session was a challenge, especially since it was geared toward an asynchronous environment. The readings contained some suggestions for creating an interactive atmosphere, but here it was mostly my own research and experience with taking online classes that guided me. I have a pretty good understanding of what works and what doesn't in an online course, mostly from witnessing it firsthand. This gave me the opportunity to harness the good points about online instruction, such as permanence of materials and the ability to replay content, and to try and find ways to work around the shortfalls.

One experience that tends to get lost in asynchronous sessions is informal dialogue. I tried to recreate this through the inclusion of short discussions using Twitter. I also included several mandatory discussion activities in order to encourage sharing. It is not quite the same as face-to-face dialogue, but it is still important to have students share and learn from one another. In making the discussions tie in to hands-on activities I believe that the quality of the responses is enhanced. This is based on understanding the audience and the particular instructional setting. In this case, the course material is being delivered in a single session and is likely to be new to many of the students. Having them ground their discussion in practical activities may weed out some of the opinion-based fluff that tends to clutter online discussions. Instead, students are asked to evaluate tangible materials and showcase their critical thinking skills by tying their discussion to something tangible. Given a clear objective, the responses should be better articulated than simply asking them to discuss whether they think YouTube is a good source. In short, I had to work to think of ways to make a single-session undergraduate course interactive, but to have that interactivity feel natural and useful.

The last point I will mention is that I learned something about relating to an audience. In reading the course materials I gained a better appreciation for how important it is to tailor the lesson to the students. This includes incorporating humor or personality into the session when possible in order to connect, but without this seeming forced. In attempting to create a meaningful teaching experience, I used a humorous but informative video to underscore a certain point. I also used my own experiences with social networks to create videos that showed how they could be used in a sophisticated manner; this removed the material from being just a theoretical concept and showcased how someone is actually using it for research in the real world. The point here is that I learned that connecting to an audience, even in an asynchronous setting, is about more than just showcasing resources related to their particular field of interest or study.

To close, I have come full circle in my understanding of teaching, learning, and information literacy. I began by setting goals and objectives and am ending this discussion with the same, which seems fitting given the life-long learning focus that information literacy inherently promotes. I have acquired a new understanding of some of the nuances that make instruction successful and I will continue to hone these skills in the future. I will more fully embrace the notion that information literacy instruction can occur in quick snippets, and strive to enhance the value of every reference interaction. It is also clear that teaching and learning are both individual and collaborative endeavors, and I will incorporate this balance into my instructional methods as I go forward. I will work diligently to create the best possible instructional materials and will strive to assess and improve upon my own research and teaching. I look forward to the eventual opportunity to work with faculty and students to enhance learning and plan to incorporate the ideas and methods I have learned in this class into these future interactions.

More of my reflections on my personal journey through this course are located in the texts that accompany the teaching session, paper trail project, and 23 Things blog. Please view those resources to see how several of my learning objectives were met through the completion of those projects.