Do fish ride bicycles? Reflections on the recent CILN workshops

Library staff from across the network met on 15th May for an update on current work, as well as a sneak preview of the brand new Undergraduate version of CamGuides, to be launched this summer. Workshops then looked at measuring the impact of UG CamGuides, developing a Critical Reading workshop, trialing a draft ‘lesson plan’ template for teaching, and developing the CILN Framework within local contexts. Librarians who attended the workshops offer their reflections …

Workshop on Critical Reading lesson, Laura Moss, Faculty Librarian (Architecture and History of Art)

The attendees at this workshop were asked to be guinea pigs to test how the workshop would run for students. We were given a journal article to read and asked to note down things we found interesting, or things we were unsure about. We then worked in pairs to identify the authors key findings/main idea(s) and finally we worked in groups of four to discuss the article and any questions we had and then produced a poster listing three key points from the article and two possible titles, one being for an academic paper and one being for social media purposes. We enjoyed the group activities and there were some excellent, and amusing title suggestions including Do fish ride bicycles?

The group activities were interspersed with explanations from the instructor team on why critical reading is important and included suggestions of further useful resources e.g. Cornell note taking and the outline method of note taking.

I think the session would have benefitted from more time and also a stronger introduction/ conclusion to the session. This would help students to connect how the activities part of the session (where we were actively involved in critical reading without realising it) links with their wider understanding of critical reading. I’m sure the group has lots of feedback from the attendees to shape the workshop into a really fantastic teaching example.

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Workshop on trialling draft ‘lesson plan’ templates, Georgina Cronin (Research Support Librarian, Betty & Gordon Moore Library)

As part of the latest CILN general meeting, I took part in a workshop looking at a newly created lesson plan template. Facilitated by Claire Trowell and assisted by Lizz-Edwards Waller and Jenni Skinner, the session began with a look at the lesson plan template. We had been asked to come prepared with a lesson in mind that we could input onto the form and so we all got going. I found myself discussing certain aspects with my neighbours as we went along, drawing on their different experiences of teaching and initial reactions to the form. While we interpreted certain aspects of the template differently due to the variety in teaching that we do, we did conclude that having a standard template to document sessions could only be a good thing.

We were then asked to think about good things, problem things, and general suggestions which we then wrote down on sticky notes and put on themed flipcharts. Many of the suggestions were around the usability of the template with simple things like whether we circle certain things or cross them out to more complex things such as terminology usage. While the session was aimed at trialing the physical template, we ended up having extensive discussions around longer-term use of the template and how we could maximise its potential for knowledge and resource sharing among colleagues.

We finished by discussing what was captured on the template and how usable this data could be for different requirements such as building taxonomies around subject areas covered and what sorts of resources might be required for delivering certain types of sessions. With a move from one cloud storage system to another for the wider CILN project, how this usability manifests will be reliant on what tools we have at our disposal as a community but I think there is a lot of potential for the template to lead to new and exciting teaching initiatives within Cambridge University Libraries.

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Workshop on the CILN Framework in context, Dr Veronica Phillips, Assistant Librarian (Research Support, Teaching and Learning) Medical Library

I was a member of the workshop focusing on the CILN Framework in context, which took the form of a free-flowing discussion of successes, difficulties, and suggestions for how to best make use of the Framework within departmental, faculty, or college libraries. The main points of the discussion were as follows:

The decentralised nature of Cambridge means that each library is likely to be operating within a slightly different context, so it’s essential to understand that context before diving in with the Framework. Spend some time identifying opportunities for information literacy advocacy in your local context.

These opportunities might be committees on which you sit (or which it is possible for you to join), pre-existing academic skills programmes delivered by your college or faculty in which there are gaps where libraries could step in, events such as away days at which librarians could have the opportunity to speak, or good relationships with key colleagues outside the library who might act as advocates. Whatever opportunities exist, make good use of them.

A good next step for faculty/departmental libraries would be to translate the information literacy competencies to your local context, following the example of Helen Murphy in the English Faculty Library, who has done significant work translating each competency into specific skills English students would be expected to demonstrate at different stages of their degrees. This can then be used as a tool to advocate for library support and work together with students and academics to identify how and when libraries can step in to deliver support during students’ studies. It was noted that this exercise of translation can be a good way to get other staff in your library comfortable with the Framework, even if they’re not otherwise involved in CILN. The recommendation is that the work of translating the competencies to your local context is completed before using it for advocacy.

Possible difficulties may arise when there is a mismatch between academics’ perceptions of appropriate library support (and which, if any, of the competencies libraries should be supporting) and where students feel they are not being adequately supported/taught by academics. This is an instance where student representatives on committees can be very helpful, so if at all possible try to speak to students in advance of such committee meetings to ensure you’re both on the same page.

Given that college libraries are responsible for supporting students of a vast range of subjects, it was not felt that translating the competencies for a college context would be appropriate.

All participants mentioned that a significant part of their advocacy centred on getting library training courses better integrated into students’ overall coursework and timetables, and that pushing for library training to be delivered at the appropriate time is very important. Translating the Framework, and making use of the output from last year’s completed CILN strand in which key academic deadlines/events were mapped, will be really helpful in this regard.

Finally, participants stressed that persistence was important – if you are rebuffed when asking about speaking at a particular departmental/college event or joining a specific committee, keep trying, or seek out other opportunities for advocacy.

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