Teaching Philosophy

I strive to empower students to become independent, successful researchers by teaching information literacy skills and building durable connections that extend beyond the instruction I give in the classroom. I have taught various library instruction workshops where most of the students openly admitted to never stepping foot into a library before. I do not think this is the result of those students harboring some form of active resentment towards the library. Rather, I think it is due to many students mistaking mere internet literacy and access for information literacy.

Information literacy is comprised of understanding certain research skills, from search techniques using keywords and operators to proper citation methods and multiple search strategies. More importantly, however, information literacy is about creating a conversation with students that allows me to empower them to guide themselves. In a workshop setting, I am focused on providing students with specific research skills; however, that is also my opportunity to begin the conversation that will introduce them to what a valuable resource the library can be in whatever field they choose. These connections are vital to their continued pursuit of success.

In one particular library instruction workshop, I was showing a video of a student deconstructing a research question to develop keywords. However, I could see the disinterest in the students’ faces. When the video ended, I decided to write my own research question on the board: Should alcohol be sold at college sporting events? I looked to the class- “Here is my research question. What are the keywords?” The class slowly started calling out answers, and I quickly wrote their suggestions on the board. I continued, “So what are other words we can use for alcohol?” This captured their attention, at first to test the limits of what they could say, calling terms out ranging from types of alcohol to slang words. But we were able to talk about why those terms may or may not work.

The students were more engaged and interested for the duration of the lesson as we searched with the terms they came up with. Following that workshop, many of those students sought me out for more reference help. The experience showed me the value of direct engagement with students. From this, I learned to continually refine my instruction methods to replicate that engagement in future classes. ​

​​After the success of that workshop, I have continued to incorporate interactive activities to encourage student participation, from group activities to creating games to test their knowledge. In teaching how to develop effective searches, I demonstrate previously tried search strategies that guarantee results, but I will also try live searches with topics from the students themselves. These live searches are not always successful in getting results, but I find this to be helpful so students see the importance of continuing the research process; more importantly, they are not the only ones to struggle with finding resources. And when these workshops are not as successful as I would like, I am able to reflect, learn, and change my teaching style.

​I have seen, first-hand, students become more excited about research when they have the opportunity to fully learn how to search effectively and yield relevant results. It is an incredibly rewarding feeling when a student expresses her appreciation for something we discussed in a workshop or for the one-on-one help she received in the library. These reactions not only encourage me professionally, but they also make me aware of how students do value these skills. Ultimately it is that connection with my students that drives me professionally as a librarian and empowers them with the information literacy skills they need to succeed.

– Elena Rodriguez
Originally written 2016