Teaching information literacy is a multi-faceted endeavor. I see myself in multiple roles: guide, consultant and coach. I’m the first point of contact many students will have with the complex academic information ecosystem, I’m a consultant for faculty and other teachers who wish to integrate information literacy into their curriculum, and I’m a coach for those who are navigating information systems for their own research or knowledge creation. In each of these roles, I am informed by the fundamental assumption that humans learn best when they can see, do, and interact with what they are learning, and are given agency to make their own choices.
When working with students, especially first year students, I see myself as a guide to academia. Many early-career students have not been exposed to the underlying assumptions and norms of academic information, and feel lost about how to gain those required insights. Whether they are learning about citation, or trying to identify a peer reviewed article, the rules of academic communication can seem arbitrary. Through my teaching, I aim to provide them with the necessary context to become active consumers, participants, and creators in academic discourse, while critiquing the existing structures that exclude, marginalize, or harm.
When designing a class, my focus is on building authentic experiences that are transferable beyond the immediate need. That often means focusing on strategies, frameworks, and habits of mind that will serve students across multiple contexts. The ability to use, contextualize, and locate information does not become any less important when students graduate. Instead, I see these abilities as foundational to active participation in a functioning democracy, in building communities, or in constructing new knowledge.
In my role as consultant, I am committed to finding authentic ways to connect information literacy to discipline-specific modes. I work most closely with the Writing, Rhetoric, and American cultures departments, which means I find ways to connect information literacy to writing pedagogy. I don’t think that information literacy can be taught effectively without additional context; instead, it must be connected to what students will need to know and do in a specific class, or discipline.
Each researcher has their own questions, needs, and preferred approaches. When working one-on-one, I look for ways to increase the researcher’s own engagement with and investment in the process. My goal is to help the researcher become increasingly self-sufficient and confident in their own abilities. Our interactions are driven by their needs, and I practice active listening and questioning to tease out how to help.
Image from a camping trip I took to Yankee Spring State Recreation Area (Michigan), Fall 2018