October 2, 2006

Translating our knowledge to our learners

One of the major myths library folks (and others of course) carry around is that the librarian with the subject expertise is in the best position to deliver the instruction. This is not always the case. In fact, I think this myth is one of the major problems with library instruction programs – experts often struggle to translate their complex knowledge in ways that non-librarians and novices can understand. I’ve seen this difficulty in translation over and over again during our team design process at the U of MN Libraries.

Regardless of who designs and delivers the instruction session – the expert or a generalist instructional staff - the two tools that can make the most difference are the task analysis (step 6) and the articulation of teaching points (step 7). These tools help the expert/designer to translate a task into its discrete parts and to articulate a perfectly understandable sentence or couple of sentence that communicates a key point. It can mean the difference between a confusing workshop and a clear one.

I go into these steps in 2 separate chapters, but found a very readable article by a school librarian about her discovery and use of a task analysis that I think is worth tracking down. Here’s the citation:

Rankin, Virginia, “Task analysis or, relief for the major discomforts of research assignments.? School Library Journal, Nov92, Vol. 38, Issue 11

Here’s a paragraph from her conclusion to entice you to track this article down:

Task analysis can be helpful to many of us as we try to make our vision of information literacy more concrete. Other things that now seem crucial to me-like the idea of slowing down, and stopping, or going into reverse to make sure one comprehends information-had been absent from my instruction. I now feel I am in a better position to systematically help my students to be better engagers/ interrogators/ interpreters/ processors of information.

Take a look!