Do you have a “teaching philosophy”?

January 5, 2012

For a current job application, I was asked to submit a one-page, single spaced essay describing my teaching philosophy.  This took some considerable thought, but I realized that nearly all librarians are teachers in some way, and that we all have a unique way to how we approach teaching. Here are some excerpts:

“Teaching students how to most effectively utilize the proprietary and free databases available to them, and in the most efficient manner, is one of the most important functions of the academic library staff.  Many of today’s students are used to a strictly Google-type search interface, and many take the results at face value without a real understanding of how to evaluate a site for accuracy, appropriate content, or currency.  The ability to evaluate and thereby recognize appropriate resources for particular assignments is an important tool that has implications for the student’s life-long learning.   The library staff can be integral in teaching these skills by having an established information literacy program, including assessment, and by creating a library atmosphere of open-mindedness, vibrancy, and a place of knowledge expertise.

     My philosophy, therefore, revolves around a two-fold approach.  First, I believe that the students need hands-on opportunities to explore the various resources that the academic library has to offer. Second, the library (and librarian) should be an engaged presence in the students’ experience. 

       ….teaching centers on creating an atmosphere of comfort and intellectual stimulation with the library and its tools, concentrating on customer service and its relation, user experience.   As I worked with various constituencies, from lawyers, to college students, to scientists, I endeavored to provide a friendly and open presence to our patrons.  The ability to prioritize your work and to communicate often with your patrons, by whatever means is most comfortable to them, is essential in establishing this successful relationship.  Communication could occur via text messaging, email, in person, on a blog, or by phone. 

 Keeping the library a vibrant presence requires constant vigilance in the newest technologies and best practices.

         At a minimum, using these two approaches have allowed me to be successful, but more importantly, it has allowed my patrons to be successful, both now and as life-long learners.”

Although I was a bit wordy (as usual!), I really do feel that teaching requires both the “mechanics” of information/knowledge searching (such as how to physically use the library and its resources, or how to do effective research), and the “personal”, which is realizing that every inquiry has importance and deserves time and respect.  Communication of both the mechanics and the personal aspect are essential to customer satisfaction, and hence essential to the reputation and possibly even the funding of your institution.

Spend some time considering your teaching philosophy and make sure that you incorporate it into your instruction plan or your everyday transactions.

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