With the help of my coworker Mark and his car (along with his encouragement to apply for the scholarship) – I was able to attend the 2018 Oregon Information Literacy Summit presented by ILAGO (Information Literacy Advisory Group of Oregon) at Chemeketa Community College in McMinnville.  It was a day long conference of modest size, but it was a big deal for me since I hadn’t been able to attend professional development gatherings in the past couple years due to costs. Although I don’t work within classroom instruction (which was one of the main focuses),  I still found the sessions to be relevant to the reference desk.

The breakout session I chose to go to was presented by Lewis & Clark College’s Visual Resources Librarian, Erica Jensen – titled,  More Questions than Answers: Thinking through Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) in Library Instruction. Again, this is classroom instruction (not relevant to my job/duties), but I’m always going to jump on anything art or museum related (I was also interested in hearing Jensen speak since her job title sounds amazing).  I knew nothing beforehand about VTS, but I realized it was a warm-up exercise used every so often in my art history classes years ago. The instructor would display an image with no context and ask the class three questions in the following order:  1. “What’s going on in this picture?” (once), 2. “What do you see that makes you say that?” (if a claim is made without supporting evidence), and 3. “What more can we find?” (continuously). This process is meant to build upon student curiosity and have the class actually slow down to engage with the ambiguous, rather than having immediate answers.  VTS began in art museums and art history classes over 20 years ago, but Jensen is interested in how it can be further integrated into a non-art setting within secondary, medical education and so on.

Afterwards I went over to one of the presentations, Reading and Metacognition in Library Instruction from Pam Kessinger of Portland Community College (PCC). Kessinger’s slideshow focused on how important reading apprenticeship is for students to be able to perform source evaluation, bias identification, and self-analysis (Metacognition: “thinking about thinking”). It may seem like the ability to read clearly in order to research/understand information is a no brainer, but there are some students leaving high school or entering community college that still struggle with reading comprehension. The takeaway (for me) from this is to slow down (either in reference or instruction) – talk through your search/thought process when demonstrating a database to a student. Print out the library homepage and draw arrows and circle menu items if a student needs a hard-copy of a research plan. Have the student verbalize their assignment/interests or (if instructing a class) have the students discuss their topics amongst themselves.

After lunch I signed up for the afternoon work session – Metacognitive Information Literacy Assessment hosted by Sara Robertson (PCC), Kim Olsen-Charles (my coworker at Concordia University), and Michele Burke (Chemeketa Community College). The workshop was part of developing an open source, statewide self-assessment tool. The participants were divided into groups – myself and Gabriela (a former fellow MLS student I hadn’t seen in ages) were one – and we had to take short statements which referenced any point of the research process (printed out on adhesive labels) and stick them under one of the three categories that we deemed applicable: Conditional Knowledge, Procedural Knowledge, and Declarative Knowledge. The stickers also had to be placed in descending order of relevancy. My head almost exploded but it was a good challenge and Gabriela was a champ. It was also a reminder that the subject of metacognition goes deeper than I had previously expected (which of course makes sense).

The main lesson I came way with from the ILAGO Summit is a reminder to (again) slow down. I still catch myself at the reference desk rushing through, trying to get an article for a student, trying to make things simple – to get them what they want without having them dig a little deeper. This could be chalked up to performance-anxiety under pressure, or the left over food-service industry instant gratification training. Showing a student how to research can also reveal how they can best process information – and there’s an overwhelming amount.

Phrases from the presentations that I wrote down in my notes because I liked how they sound (or look?):

  • habits of mind
  • permission to wonder
  • metacognition
  • constructionist pedagogues
  • why I did what I did
  • building identities
  • foundational to the frames
  • thinking about thinking