Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Teaching Spotlight: Grant Kayler

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A key element of the University of Alberta Libraries teaching program is program and/or course integrated instruction.  Our librarians teach in a wide variety of contexts, working collaboratively with faculty to support student learning.  Our first Teaching Spotlight highlights Grant Kayler’s work with Humanities 101.  Grant is a Public Service Librarian in Rutherford Library and is the liaison to the Faculty of Law and the Department of Sociology.

Who was the audience for a class you recently taught? 
The audience was students in HUM 101, a free, non-credit course offered by Community Service Learning (CSL), a department within the Faculty of Arts. The students live in Edmonton's downtown and surrounding areas, and may have faced economic or social barriers to accessing formal education, but have a love of learning. Through group projects and discussions around issues relevant to them, HUM101 aims to empower students and help them use critical thinking in their everyday lives.

How did you get involved with the class?
Prior to being an actual department within Arts, CSL was associated with the Department of Sociology. As the Sociology liaison, I occasionally provided library support that aimed to include content relevant to their placements in community organizations off campus. HUM101 is a new involvement for me. Lisa Prins, Humanities 101 Coordinator, and Jay Friesen, PhD student in Modern Languages and Cultural Studies, invited me to participate in several sessions over the past year.

What was the topic of the session?
The library session came about as part of the course moving from an off-campus to an on-campus location. This move was intended to give students a stronger sense of connection with the campus learning experience, and it was felt that a library session would broaden the experience and help build their sense of belonging. I focussed the session on essential services they needed to know about - borrowing materials, using databases with temporary id's, searching for books and articles by topic, asking for help at the Service Desk, etc.  We also went on a tour of key areas of Rutherford Library. We called the session "The Library as a Learning Community."

How was this instruction session unique from your regular teaching activities?
Because HUM 101 students generally haven't had access to post-secondary education, they may think of the university as a big, overwhelming place where they don't really belong.  However, they are keen to be part of a larger community of learners.  Given their unique backgrounds, I tried to present details about our library services in a straightforward and practical way.  My emphasis was on helping the students master search basics and letting them know that the library was there to help them in whatever way they needed to achieve their learning goals and pursue their personal interests.  Above all, I wanted them to leave the class feeling that they are welcome in the library, and that they are part of the UAlberta community.

What was your favourite moment or takeaway from teaching this group?
First, it was seeing the looks of astonishment - then joy - on learning about the library services that were available to them, including the ability to sign out as many books as they wanted.  It was also great to witness their interest in articles we found.  Students would sometimes comment on an article - relating it to their own experience - and then start a broader discussion.  It was also interesting to learn about other the students' other interests, such as river valley photography and painting.

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