The Ways of the Teacher, Leader, and Assessment Practitioner


Ways of the teacher

This summer I am teaching a class in leadership at Drexel’s College of Computing and Infomatics, a required course in their masters program for Library and Information Science. What a thrill! To be in the role of instructor, helping soon-to-be information professionals as they contribute in new ways to their organizations – it’s an exciting challenge, but also scary. As that class wraps up,  I am reflecting on my own practice as a teacher, leader, and practitioner of assessment.  It turns out they connect in some unexpected ways.

The reflection on teaching was encouraged as part of the perfectly-timed Teaching Challenge designed and hosted by the Learning & Student Success Strategic Steering team here at Temple Libraries.  It was so beneficial to join a cohort of other librarians engaged with instruction, helping me to feel less isolated in my role as adjunct. I had much to learn from my supportive, and more experienced colleagues.

The challenge encouraged me to ask hard questions:  “What’s important to me as an instructor? What is my teaching philosophy? ” It solidified for me the idea that I didn’t want to be the “sage on the stage.” My desired role was to facilitate a learning experience for my students in which we learned from one another.

But I also needed to consider the students’ expectations for the class. What do they need from me as an instructor? How do I balance their needs and my responsibilities to them? How best do I assess their learning needs in this asynchronous, online environment? How do I connect to them in a way that feels authentic?

I may have had more questions than answers, but these are things I’ve learned about teaching so far:

  • Take time to reflect on your practice
  • To be prepared to learn and be prepared to change. Be humble.
  • Be respectful of others and their voices, their experiences.
  • Be available to make changes based on students’ feedback, but remember that you are the instructor – you are being paid to make hard decisions about course policies and procedures.
  • While students are responsible for their own learning, you have the responsibility  to facilitate and foster that learning.

Ways of the leader

The students’ favorite part of the class was a series of “practitioner” interviews I conducted with colleagues. They have many different roles, including deans and directors of research libraries, public libraries, IT and organizational performance.   I asked them to define management versus leadership, and what they experience as opportunities and challenges in their practice as managers and leaders.

From these interviews, I learned some things too:

  • Good managers and leaders see the value of self-reflection and knowing yourself – your strengths and where you have challenges (and of course the willingness to work at those challenges). ​
  • Managers and leaders have a passionate desire to learn continuously.​
  • Good managers are good listeners, cultivating and coaching their staff, oftentimes acknowledging strengths that were not recognized before.
  • Good managers are able to think outside their managerial “domain” to consider the needs and goals of the organization (and the organization’s parent institution) in a holistic way. ​
  • Good leaders are able to see a bigger, longer term picture.  Metaphors for the leaders’ view were expressed in terms of height, distance, and time: the “30,000-foot view”, the “long view”, the “5-10 year vision”.​

Connecting to assessment practice

These activities surfaced for me many parallels between teaching and leadership. And of course good assessment practice incorporates many of the same maxims.  (Maybe these are life strategies as well,  but that’s a different blog!)

  • Curiosity: Always be asking questions. Never assume that the current way is the only way.
  • Learning: Always be seeking to improve.
  • Engagement: Always be curious and engaged with the user experience. They are a large part of what we’re about.
  • Self-reflection: Always be aware of your own biases. Be willing to listen to diverse voices. That diversity makes us stronger in thinking about solutions.
  • Vision: Be patient. Cultivating a culture of assessment takes time. Take the long view.

Reflecting on these connections provides me with a renewed sense of purpose as we begin the academic year. Building a culture of assessment here at Temple Libraries/Press isn’t just about insuring we count reference transactions the same way. The practice is also one of teaching and leadership as we work with the organization, helping it to grow and support the University community in new ways.

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