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Emerging Strategies for Supporting Student Learning: A Practical Guide for Librarians and Educators
Date Reviewed: June 11, 2017
If you are a librarian or educator engaged in student learning, and are satisfied with the sameness and predictability of current methodologies, read no further. However, if you have need of developing strategies that are up-to-date, relevant, and promote shared perspectives, read on.
Emerging Strategies for Supporting Student Learning equips the reader with an arsenal of educational approaches, geared for higher education. They are field-tested, validated by case studies, and include both North American and European perspectives.
Like many other researchers focusing on emerging trends in education, Allen echoes the common refrain that today’s rapidly changing society necessitates “new approaches to support student learning” (1). Where this volume finds its niche and wields special power, is its ability to connect across disciplines – amongst librarians, information workers, and classroom instructors. It can also be utilized with students from undergraduate to doctoral level, and in varied settings.
Among the trends included in this text are: student digital literacies, learning and teaching activities, designing face-to-face, blended and online courses, assessment, and issues of lifelong professional development. The chapters are divided into sections that include a concise introduction, subject content, summary, and references.
Allen brings to her research an acute awareness of the challenges faced in higher education, having worked for several years in varied educational settings in the United Kingdom. She might even be faulted for showing too much concern when covering certain settings in minute detail. For example, she reminds us that because educators have so little choice about room allocation, “it is worth visiting it beforehand to check the facilities….This double checking could help you avoid being in an embarrassing situation” (126). This relentless attention to detail can also be viewed as her way of ensuring that such strategies are successfully executed.
Throughout the text, we are encouraged to ask critical questions that will help inform the decisions we make about education strategies. When examining formative and summative assessment, the author offers a multitude of questions that might be asked beforehand, including: Why am I assessing? What type of assessment is better served? And where is the best place to do the assessment? (91-92).
The strategies Allen offers are never dogmatically presented. They are, rather, offered in a smorgasbord manner. They are easily constructed and user-friendly. She encourages the use of ice-breakers, informational graphs, and e-posters at academic gatherings and as a way of allowing material “to be presented in a colorful and imaginative way” (87).
Pedagogic models like flipped classrooms are viewed as a way of maximizing student engagement and which runs counter to conventional approaches to teaching and learning.
Traditionally face-to-face classroom time is spent by a tutor explaining or presenting new ideas, and this may be followed by some activities. In a flipped classroom, students explore the material outside the classroom and then spend time with the tutor clarifying and developing deeper knowledge through discussion and activities. (116)
Keeping up-to-date with professional skills is a high priority for this author. She suggests several digital resources across the spectrum to help make that happen, including the American Library Association (ALA), Flickr Creative Commons, MERLOT, and the National Digital Learning Resource (NDLR) – a “collaborative educational community in Ireland…. interested in developing and sharing digital teaching resources and promoting new teaching and learning culture” (110).
The emerging strategies included in this book bear testimony that education is both evolving by the day and in need of constant need of revision. This book helps us move a little toward embracing good educational practice and relevancy.
Reimagining the Academic Library
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
Technology and the digital age are rapidly changing the landscape of education. Theological institutions are not immune. Even though these changes can be difficult and painful, the fulfillment of our mission is enhanced and expanded when we embrace and lean into them.
One big current issue is the future of our libraries – what the digital academic library looks like and what it will take to get there. Even though significant change is necessary, a discernable path forward does exist (viii). This includes a substantial change in the role of library staff and the roles libraries play in their institution. As digital technologies replace print as the primary means of access to nearly everything, libraries will “move from using technology to do old things in new ways to using technology to do new things” (vii, viii). This will require new technologies, strategies, values, and even a new culture (xv). It is encouraging that Lewis writes this as an academic librarian with forty plus years of experience. He is a digital immigrant who has learned to accept and navigate the changes. Instead of holding onto the comfortable past, he is excited about the future!
This book reminds me of a well-written backcountry trail guide. It is divided into two sections. The first, “The Forces We Face,” describes the landscape, including the history and background; the second, “Steps Down the Road,” is the practical description of the trail ahead, including landmarks along the way. Whereas my backcountry guides discuss the flora, fauna, geology, people, and events significant to say Olympic National Park, Lewis takes us on a historical journey of academic libraries. The central theme is that libraries have always done three things: (a) kept documents for the long haul, (b) provided the knowledge and information that the communities and institutions that fund them need, and (c) assisted individuals in finding and using information (xi, 153). Libraries of the future will continue to do these same things, but how they do them will look different. The focus has been and will continue to be their role in research and preservation and distribution of scholarship.
As with any trail guide, section two is the most important: the trail descriptions are found here. My backcountry guides list waypoints, elevation, mileage, landmarks, campsites, and other important information needed to successfully navigate the trail and arrive at the destination. Lewis in like manner describes important steps that need to be taken to arrive at his destination: an academic library, relevant and effective in the digital age. The trailhead is the library of the past, a place that builds local collections and staffs them with people who organize and know how to find the documents and facts in them (153). The destination at the end of the trail looks much different. Collections will be streamlined and library space will be utilized differently. Staff requirements and roles will not be the same. You will be uncomfortable with some of Lewis’ ideas, but you will be stretched and prompted to thought and healthy conversation. We are using the book for this purpose at Denver Seminary.
I heartily recommend this book. The price may be high for a paperback, but this is a unique book that should be read by key members of every institution that wants to be proactive in moving ahead into the digital age. If nothing else, get ahold of a copy and read the Conclusion. This provides a quick summary of the major premises and practical steps.
Becoming an Embedded Librarian: Making Connections in the Classroom
Date Reviewed: July 15, 2016
It would be easy to become intimidated while reading Michelle Reale’s book. It isn’t just her wealth of practical knowledge and hard won experience that may intimidate the reader, it is the daunting nature of embedded librarianship (EL) itself. Reale writes that “embedded librarianship necessitates the stepping out of an old, comfortable role and embarking on a new way of being, without the safety net of known results” (79). Even so, setting the intimidation factor aside, there are excellent reasons to add this book to your reading list.
The author makes the most of this slim volume, a mere 104 pages, by combining both her personal journey through and scholarly support for her flavor of EL. Tucked in the middle of Reale’s twelve chapters are two chapters discussing educational theory in-depth as it applies to EL. The author’s theoretical foundation is based on Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger’s “community of practice” model of learning. This community work constructs learning through the art of conversation. In addressing the group work that establishes a community of learning Reale writes “learning begins to take shape in community as students are encouraged to think out loud” (37). Her focus is on the librarian encouraging and mediating student communities within the classroom. This approach explains her dedication to in-person EL.
While Reale’s scholarship on the application of educational theory to EL is helpful, it is her personal journey that makes this book special. Reale brings the reader along the path, mitigating neither failure nor success, allowing the individual to decide whether this journey is also for them. The book reads a bit like a suspense novel with the reader wondering whether the hero will survive the next faculty encounter or student misunderstanding. The journey is filled with practical advice including concept mapping – hand out sheets of paper with just circles in them to allow the students to fill in; marketing – quoting Ulla de Stricker “Marketing isn’t our issue. Relationships are” (73); and personal goal setting that helps librarians visualize success.
Reale’s chapters “Relationship Building,” “Clarifying Your Role,” “Establishing a Teaching Style,” “Setting Personal Goals,” and “Personal Branding” are as effective for standard librarianship as they are for EL. Consequently, even if the reader decides the EL journey is not for them the read is still worthwhile.
There was one small negative. It is not evident from the cover that the book discusses only in-class embedding. There is no discussion about online embedding which is becoming more and more relevant with the rapid growth of online education. That in itself is not negative. But this comment juxtaposing online and actual classroom embedding, “I am primarily interested in actual classroom embedding and believe it to be true embedding” (xviii), may lead some to believe Reale is a bit too chauvinistic in her approach. Her comment on one-shot instruction, “The days of one-shot instruction just don’t work anymore,” (8) may add weight to this opinion for those who strive to excel in online embedding or creatively moving forward with one-shot instruction. But considering the value of the rest of the work these are minor concerns.