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Reflections on Teaching Philosophy
  Rebecca Fitzsimmons 2015 | fitzsimmons.rebecca@gmail.com | 352.224.5885  
Statement of Teaching Philosophy

The current climate of the art world is such that every artist must be well versed in an extensive array of topics ranging from areas of technical expertise to a broader knowledge of historical and contemporary art, current events, philosophy, criticism, and beyond. It is therefore imperative that a current studio art education encompasses not only material aimed at acquiring skills, but also the tools to more fully understand, articulate, and write about one's work. Studies in art history, criticism, visual culture, architecture, and design demand similar skills, as students are expected to demonstrate an awareness and ability to synthesize information from a staggering array of sources, time periods, fields, and trends. They are further expected to comprehend the sophisticated networks of information within the field and its intersections and contexts within other disciplines. Ultimately, students are expected to judge, evaluate, and extend the dialogue with innovative ideas. All of this demands the highest levels of research and critical thinking skills, making information literacy instruction an essential part of education within the arts.

As a former art student, photography instructor, and museum educator, I understand the value of a multifaceted approach to developing skills within the classroom. Students learn best when they approach topics from multiple vantage points, engaging in a mixture of lecture, demonstration, hands-on projects, discussion, writing, and group interaction. As an aspiring art librarian at a university-based museum, I would follow this approach to teaching information literacy classes. Beyond merely a set of search skills, information literacy is, at its core, the ability to identify an information need and evaluate the steps necessary to attain the required materials; it is the ability to think critically about the nature of information sources as well as their contents, and to use those sources to build new knowledge and extend existing ideas. Furthermore, it requires that students can articulate their ideas and support them with sources they have discovered. As such, information literacy instruction is a building process. It involves teaching basic skills and then helping students understand how this practical knowledge relates to their broader information needs. It involves showing them the importance of critical evaluation with regards to information, a skill that art students in particular must possess; helping them to understand how critical evaluation of information relates to assessments of artistic merit, concept, and ideology (a.k.a critique) within the art world is essential to build a global picture of how information literacy relates to areas outside the library field.

I advocate a style of teaching that oscillates between global and sequential concepts, resulting in an in-depth understanding of information needs and applications, as well as critical inquiry and articulation. Students often need to understand where a concept is going in order to understand the stops along the way. As such, I would begin by asking focused questions to get the students thinking about information literacy and how it relates to their lives and areas of study. After this, instruction would move into guided practice, showcasing sequential steps in constructing an effective search; part of this instruction would focus on the diversity of approaches in information seeking and the highly personalized nature of research—in other words, there are many tools and approaches to effective information seeking. Finally, students would discuss their criteria for evaluation of sources and demonstrate their skills through developing an individualized search strategy on a topic of interest. Through reflection on the process, students would articulate and examine their successes and failures, assumptions and discoveries, creating a learning environment where every component leads to an increased understanding of the research process.

In short, my approach to information literacy instruction is aimed at helping students develop a set of skills and abilities that have wide applications. Critical thinking is a concept that is sometimes foreign to students, many of whom enter college accustomed to repetition and fact memorization. Yet art students in particular cannot succeed without excelling in this area—their work and studies demand constant evaluation, judgment and analysis, as well as the ability to articulate sophisticated concepts in written and verbal form. My instructional techniques are aimed at helping these students to develop a set of core skills to fulfill their information needs, as well as to enhance their critical thinking and ability to confidently articulate unique ideas. Armed with such competencies, these students are bound to succeed in their academic endeavors and broader information seeking needs.