It's Academic, Librarian.

Trends, Achievements, and Competencies

Building Competencies

Several times a year, I revisit the goals that guide my professional life in librarianship. One goal pertains to the ongoing development of a suite of professional competencies. Through their work, librarians develop a wide range of competencies, such as:

  • technologies
  • software
  • mobile applications
  • interpersonal communication
  • cultural competencies
  • leadership skills
  • collection development strategies
  • instructional competencies

In the context of instruction, librarians have many opportunities to develop instructional design competencies, yet are at risk of being overwhelmed by those same opportunities. We review literature, discuss options with the institutional instructional technologist, review the college learning management system with the resident expert, consult with other faculty, and reach  out to our communities of practice. I am the sole librarian at this college isolated from other forward-facing librarians and depend upon experts in the field of current trends.

Photo Credit: CCO Public Domain

Photo Credit: CCO Public Domain

The International Board of Standards for Training, Performance and Instruction develops, validates, and publishes instructional design  (ID) standards for instructors, training managers, evaluators, and instructional designers. This non-profit group identifies 105 performance indicators within 22 sets of competencies.  However, the group acknowledges that full-time instructors may not achieve a high level proficiency in each competency.

Librarians need not master all instructional design competencies, but they do use aspects of the instructional design process to improve not only in-class and online  instruction, but any instruction that takes place at a reference desk or circulation service point. Troy Swanson, winner of the 2016 ACRL Instruction Section Ilene F. Rockman Publication of the Year Award and author of Social Media in Libraries, is one of several librarian-authors who refer to the ADDIE model for instructional design.

Analysis: the librarian defines learner needs

Design: the librarian identifies strategies to meet learner needs

Development:  the librarian creates learning objects and tools (print  and electronic)

Implementation: the librarian instructs learners

Evaluation: effectiveness of learning is assessed

I base my instructional practice and build instructional competencies by interchanging the ADDIE model with the BLAAM model. Steven J. Bell and John D. Shank, authors of  “Academic Librarianship by Design: A Blended Librarian’s Guide to the Tools“, introduced the Blended Librarians Adapted ADDIE Model (BLAAM) in 2007.  I believe that this model is essential for forward-looking librarians whose practice has made them partners with subject instructors, integrating library and information literacy instruction into courses and curriculum.

Bell and Shank’s model sets the ADDIE within the context of librarian-led instruction:

  1. Assess learners needs by consulting and collaborating with instructors; informal assessments
  2. Create measurable learning objectives
  3. Develop instruction strategies and lesson plans; share with community of practice or subject instructor for feedback
  4. Deliver the instruction and offer training and support for other librarians or subject instructors to teach the session
  5. Measure learning using formal and informal assessment tools; assess to provide evidence of learning and improve instruction

The instructors with whom I collaborate to develop an information literacy session provide important feedback to my instructional practice.  Instructional sessions are designed around learning activities such as demonstrations, online polling, hands-on exercises, small group discussions (buzz-groups), teach-backs, and quizzes. Sessions plans are based on constructivist learning theory, instructional best practices, and prior knowledge of student learning needs, framed by the BLAAM model.

Assessing and measuring learning is at the heart of modern instructional design theory, but librarians often get only a single opportunity to instruct and assess learning.  The most common library and information literacy instruction sessions, which are designed and delivered by librarians, are delivered in single sessions to classes or groups.  Without an entire term to use informal and formal assessment tools to measure students’ learning, librarians are faced with an acute challenge.

Improvement to program and instructional sessions, and to pedagogical development generally, can be achieved through analysis of the learning assessments, which constitute evidence of the ability of the teacher.  Assessments may take the form of surveys, quizzes, worksheets, observations, and presentations.  This kind of analysis is a critical aspect of making instructional changes over time, and of increasing pedagogical skills and competencies. Assessment results provide the librarian with evidence upon which decisions and actions to improve and enhance the learning experience are made. Actions include refining learning outcomes and making improvements to instructional activities.

Following select Information Literacy Skills Development sessions I designed and delivered from September – December 2014, 321 participants responded to the following statements:

  1. The librarian provided a valuable learning experience for me.
  2. The librarian was effective in communicating the subject matter.
  3. The librarian demonstrated enthusiasm for teaching the class.
  4. The librarian was well prepared for the class.
  5. Please describe an activity that moved you forward in your learning.
  6. Please describe what the librarian could have done differently to help you learn.
  7. The librarian provided an atmosphere supportive of learning.
  8. The librarian demonstrated the relevance of workshop content to course assignment.

In a separate survey, 6 subject faculty responded to similar statements:

  1. The librarian provided a valuable learning experience for my students.
  2. The librarian was effective in communicating the subject matter.
  3. The librarian demonstrated enthusiasm for teaching the class.
  4. The librarian was well prepared for the class.
  5. Please describe an activity that moved your students forward in their learning.
  6. Please describe what the librarian could have done differently to help your students learn.
  7. The librarian provided an atmosphere supportive of learning.
  8. The librarian demonstrated the relevance of workshop content to course assignment.

Student feedback on instructional sessions continues to inform my professional development and instructional practices. Three hundred and twenty-one (321) students over 17 classes responded to an assessment tool with the following result:

  • 96.57% strongly agreed and agreed the librarian provided a valuable learning experience
  • 96.26% strongly agreed and agreed the librarian effectively communicated the subject matter
  • 98.75% strongly agreed and agreed the librarian demonstrated enthusiasm for the class
  • 98.83% strongly agreed and agreed the librarian was well prepared for the class
  • 95.64% strongly agreed and agreed the librarian provided an atmosphere supportive of learning
  • 97.51% strongly agreed and agreed the librarian demonstrated the relevance of the workshop content to course assignment

Faculty feedback

  • 100% strongly agreed and agreed the librarian provided a valuable learning experience
  • 100% strongly agreed and agreed the librarian effectively communicated the subject matter
  • 100% strongly agreed and agreed the librarian demonstrated enthusiasm for the class
  • 100% strongly agreed and agreed the librarian was well prepared for the class
  • 100% strongly agreed and agreed the librarian provided an atmosphere supportive of learning
  • 100% strongly agreed and agreed the librarian demonstrated the relevance of the workshop content to course assignment

The answers to the open questions gleaned the greatest information. Student responses included:

  • more questions during the lesson would have reinforced learning even more
  • come back for a second sessions to help make sure everything is reinforced
  • introducing new and interesting ways to research
  • gained more knowledge
  • learning how to research around your topic
  • presenting in front of the class definitely instilled what I have learned in the class
  • working directly with an article to track citations
  • how to find cited articles
  • the interative  search
  • learning how to search articles/books in the library database
  • ways to narrow your search when you can’t find something
  • analysing a website for being valid and credible
There were close to 1,200 comments to analyse.

Though this small formative assessment was encouraging, I have closely reviewed the results to identify gaps in my instructional competencies and find ways to improve.


Suggested Readings

Bell and Shank, Academic Librarianship by Design; Char Booth, Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning: Instructional Literacy for Library Educators (Chicago: ALA, 2011); Goodman, Keeping the User in Mind; Troy A. Swanson, “ADDIE [Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate] in the Library: Building a Model for the Information Age Library,” Community & Junior College Libraries 13, 2 (2005): 51–61.

Tiffany A. Koszalka, Darlene F. Russ-Eft, Robert A. Reiser, Fernando A. Senior Canela, Barbara Louise Hopkins Grabowski, and Clinton J. Wallington, Instructional Designer Competencies: The Standards, 4th ed. (Charlotte, NC: Information Age, 2013).

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