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Baby Steps

Remember last school year I said I wanted to shift my teaching? Yeah, well that hasn’t happened yet. Who knew it would be this hard?

And yet, things aren’t quite what they used to be, either. Tonight, as I planned out the class I’ll be teaching tomorrow, I realized that the way I think about and plan classes has changed. I’m not sure this has actually made any difference to the students I’m inflicting myself upon, but that’s a topic for another day (or another year… or another lifetime).

Anyway, last year my teaching notes were arranged according to the order in which I was going to introduce tools and strategies. “Searching the catalog; searching one database; searching another database; practice searching.” That’s my typical outline from last year. This year the notes are arranged around tasks, which I somehow started calling “blocks,” though I couldn’t tell you why. “Block One: Use Britannica – after an introduction to the encyclopedia, use the index to find entries related to your topic and record good looking citations for later; Block Two: To The Computers! – after an introduction to searching for books and journals, find out if we have the items you found in Britannica, then find the best possible article on your topic.” (I like having students justify the “best possible article” to each other. It opens the door to all sorts of wonderful evaluation topics.) I’m still introducing search tools and strategies, and they’re still in roughly the same order, but my focus has changed. Just a little.

Like I said, I’m still not sure this has changed my actual teaching very much, but it’s a baby step in the right direction, I think. Now, if I could just get my classes to mimic the messy non-order of actual research rather than this mythical progression from Reference Books to Books and Articles to Finished Research, Ta-Da!

Baby steps.