teaching in practice – thinking points: what’s my role, what are my learning needs?

  • What is my role as a teacher?
  • How can I identify my learning needs as a teacher?

these are the thinking points in the first section of the Clinical School Teaching in Practice module.

What is my role as a teacher?

my first observation is that I do teach and train on a regular basis, but rarely seeing the same cohort of students more than once.

The nature of library training sessions (and I’ll come to my thoughts about the difference between training teaching later I’m sure, though not in this post) is that people turn up when they need some help, I help them (hopefully), and they go away again. There’s little change to develop a relationship over time, see understanding develop and improve, assess learning. So it feels a little bit that as a teacher I’m fire fighting – not nurturing skills which will grow over time. My contribution to the improvement in skills is hard to measure, and whether in fact the skills have become embedded and learned in a fundamental way, rather than just a surface skimming way is difficult/imposible to judge.

I work and collaborate with a group of NHS librarians, and we’ve developed a pre- and post-training questionnaire which we try to use in order to get a base-line measure of skills/knowledge/competence, and then send out 6 weeks later to try to test whether the learning was skin deep, or a little more ingrained. We take this pragmatic approach because the healthcare professionals we see are time poor, and previous experience suggests that requiring a commitment to attend more than one session is unlikely. So, these evaluations are a start, but still not a substitute for seeing the same cohort of students come back time and again.

It would be good to see the clinical students repeatedly, and to have an assessment of their information seeking skills tested in a formal way – like the Leicester University Librarians have a medline searching stage built into the OSCEs.  I wonder if information skills will ever be valued in Cambridge in the same way?

What are my learning needs as a teacher?

Now this is tricky – I don’t know what I don’t know, and even if I did, would I be able to change the way I deliver my teaching?  hmm – that’s a tough one. Being a very activist learner myself, I find it hard to adapt when I’m with with people with other learning styles (description of Honey & Mumford Learning Styles here and here) So learning how to adapt my teaching would be one need.

Also, I think getting some ideas about how to test understanding in the session itself would help me – since I mostly seeing people in a one-off situation, if I don’t get it right then, there are no second chances. Yes, delayed testing demonstrates that a deeper learning has taken place, but I’ll take what I can get!

Perhaps I don’t know what I need? so getting some peer observations of my sessions would be great – nerve wracking, but great.

In terms of the style of teaching – I’m probably didactic (pass on knowledge) or socratic (facilitating learning through awareness and raising questions) at best, and very unlikely to be reaching the dizzy teaching heights of heuristic or counselling… ah well, know your limits, eh? Could I change/develop?  Given the nature of the skills that I teach could/should/need I change? Maybe the peer observation would help?


One Response to teaching in practice – thinking points: what’s my role, what are my learning needs?

  1. Niamh says:

    This is a really interesting post and I’m looking forward to future ones as you go through this course. I’ll want to talk to you some more about Cambridge’s emphasis on information skills in future – it’s looking more and more likely that my dissertation will be looking at that!

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