An LIS education should foster students’ critical consciousness as they learn to recognize and analyze the underlying structures that shape our information systems. As an LIS educator, it is my job to expose students to core LIS competencies, as well as to ideas that may challenge them and perhaps rethink their assumptions. This is especially important if we want to support and educate librarians who are culturally competent and ready to serve diverse communities.
Whether it is in my Indigenous Systems of Knowledge class or a core LIS class—such as The Question of Information—I help students to rethink their assumptions by introducing them to ways of looking at information that may differ from their own perspective. I curate readings to reflect diverse perspectives, allowing students to hear and read voices that may be under heard in the LIS field, and juxtapose these voices with the core values of the LIS profession. It is important for students to learn the core values of the field, but to also be free to debate and discuss these values and assumptions in a safe classroom environment. This prepares students to be confident and prepared to effectively handle themselves as information professionals.
Through online and face‐to‐face courses, I give students the opportunity to engage deeply with the materials. This means expecting students to lead discussions, select and share readings with the class, and give presentations on their work. Peer‐to‐ peer education is critical in the field, as it encourages students to take responsibility for assisting others in understanding the materials. I can use the class response to the student‐led projects to assess the presenter’s learning, as well as to assess my work as a teacher who can set the foundation for students to successfully lead parts of the class.
While I believe that there are times and spaces for students to engage with each other, I also believe that there are times and spaces for students to engage directly with me as the instructor. For a course like Indigenous Systems of Knowledge, weekly reflections provide an opportunity for me to read and respond to each student as an individual so that I can provide feedback on their growth, direction, and engagement with the course. For instance, I recall a student who used Western philosophy to engage with Indigenous ways of knowing for several of their weekly reflections. While I was glad to see that they were using an entry point that was familiar to them, I also wanted them to begin to move away from this to see Indigenous ways of knowing as a concept that can stand on its own without having to be compared to something external. I was able to use the weekly reflections to assess the student’s learning and to provide direction to help them be successful in the course. The student ended the course by creating an innovative project based on Indigenous systems of knowledge that could be used directly at their academic library.
It is important for me to be engaged with students as individuals as much as possible. Building authentic relationships with students not only helps me to assess their learning, but also helps to model how they can also build authentic relationships with the communities they serve and with their future colleagues. Relationships are key to being a successful teacher.
Giving students real world examples and allowing them to connect them to practitioners in the field is crucial to prepare students to enter the workforce. Given the opportunity to develop a course, I would explore ways to integrate experiential learning or service learning into the curriculum. I am inspired by projects such as the Tribal Libraries, Archives, and Museums Project at the UW‐Madison iSchool as a way to build communities, network, and share resources through a service‐learning platform. Students not only have an opportunity to learn about Indigenous ways of knowing in the LIS classroom, but also have a chance to gain skills through projects based in these institutions. I am also inspired by Professor Susan Hildreth (for whom I was a TA) who curated a fantastic line‐up of guest speakers for some of her courses, where students not only heard from these experts, but also had a chance to ask questions and follow up. It is important to balance guest speakers and engagement with communities with opportunities to reflect on how these experiences relate to the course objectives. As an instructor, I expect students to build in these experiences into their written reflections, their discussions with their peers, and other course projects.
I am continuously revising and learning how to be a better teacher and a better student. Teaching and learning go hand in hand, and I always expect to learn something new about myself, about the world, about the field, when I teach a course. I am also always looking for teaching inspiration from my colleagues, my network of professionals, my family, and the world around me. Teachers should never stop learning from and with their students.