FYE, critical librarianship, and healthy discontent at LIW2016
16 Jun 2016
Reading time ~6 minutes
Four key questions framed this conversational panel session on the intersections between fye and critical librarianship, but many more came up in discussion. @kevinseeber played MC alongside @JessicaCritten, @nope4evr and @dani28.
The conversation got started with:
In what ways does the philosophy behind critical librarianship/#critlib complement, or run counter to, the philosophy behind FYE? #liw16
An interesting start, as it quickly made me realize I hadn’t taken a critical look at FYE, or its history. The discussion here walked through the somewhat complicated origin story for FYE programs, and then raised a number of interesting questions:
- Are some FYE programs overly focused on homogeneity?
- How do we balance the need for orientation and foundational skills with calls for more individualized and tailored research processes and instructional practices?
- Is there inherent complexity in creating systems and structures from a critical framework (that often involves critique of systems and structures)?
@kevinseeber provided a potential antidote to these concerns, or at least the beginnings of one, by offering:
I like to think about small fye - the experiences of students in their first year on campus. What are their existing foundational experiences?
This led an audience member to reflect that there are different types of FYE programs – some built around academic themes (e.g., common books), some revolving around a pre-planned sequence of experiences, and others offering an “open-menu” approach to FYE where there are many options and pathways.
As the conversation turned to questioning how can we teach the workings of an academic system while also being engaged in its critique, another audience member offered:
We can help students learn an academic language of critique. If they don’t have that language, they can’t critique that language.
What barriers (e.g., seeing students as entering with a deficit) exist to bringing #critlib into the FYE curriculum?
The concept of “deficit” seems to be pervasive on campuses, and it is clear we need a new way of thinking about this.
It is surprising how often academic professionals mention students’ perceived “lack of readiness” for university level work. Recently I have wondered if these conversations need to be reframed in terms of university’s lack of readiness - both pedagogically and in terms of campus climate - for its own students?
How can we introduce #critlib into the FYE curriculum at a level that transcends patchwork attempts by individuals?
Inevitably, we veered here into tricky territory when someone wondered where the one-shot came from ….?
While the implication may have been that perhaps the one-shot was externally imposed, it seems that, at least at some universities, the one-shot was the thing that previous cohorts of librarians were advocating for …. At our organization I have heard that much of the political work behind the standards involved a tremendous advocacy effort to highlight the importance of IL, and that this advocacy effort led to wider adoption of the one-shot, both by instructors and librarians.
I began to wonder: should we view the one-shot as a useful step toward greater connections between the library and the curriculum, or as a mis-step?
I tend to want to view things like this developmentally, but perhaps I’ll get a chance to think and write more on that later….
What approaches to bringing #critlib into the FYE curriculum have/have not worked on your campus? #liw16
On no! The working / not working assessment dichotomy appears again!
The ensuing conversation on assessment prompted the top tweet of the conference:
At other points during this session the panelists and the audience questioned whether the phrase “evidence-based practice” potentially privileges quantitative methodology and ultimately neoliberal/corporate educational practice.
These conversations were a part of what I found to be a healthy discontent at LIW with our current professional dialogs on assessment. Questioning asssessment was a strong theme throughout, and the conference helped me begin to give voice to some of the things I have found unsettling about how we often talk about (and implement) assessment.
I’m hoping in my own personal practice as well as in wider conversations about library services, to discuss assessment more developmentally. Rather than trying to classify something in the worked or didn’t work boxes, I’m wondering if we might ask questions like:
- How did this program benefit learners and researchers?
- What was the impact both academically and in terms of the whole learner? How do we know?
- Did we give opportunities for learners and researchers to not only provide feedback, but co-create our next steps? What did we learn and how can we improve? What’s next (for everyone involved)? Did we expand the adjacent possible?
Well after the alotted time for the session had passed, the panelists and quite a few of us in the audience stuck around for more discussion. My notes on the session rounded out with this very student- and learning- centered call to remember to honor the knowledge in the room:
For even more on this session check out this series of tweets on storify.
This note is part of a short series of reflections on Library Instruction West 2016