Monday, 21 May 2012

London LibTeachMeet

I attended my first TeachMeet at UCL last week. I'd read about others before and they sounded great, so I was excited when I saw that one was being held not too far away and signed up as an 'enthusiastic audience member'. There were nine speakers who all spoke for either two or five minutes about methods they had used to support diverse learners, with some chatting and cake thrown in. All the speakers were great, but a few in particular stood out for me.  

Adam Edwards explained that less confident speakers like international students find reading English easier than speaking it, and got us playing a game he uses to teach them about library resources. We were split into groups and given sets of coloured cards with the names of different resources (like book, journal, newspaper), descriptions of each resource and what they're good for, and we had to match them up. I thought this game was a great idea and could definitely see it working with a variety of students to get them thinking about the range of resources they might need to use. I like that it's hands-on and practical which I want to include more of in sessions.  

Suzanne Rushe got us up and about by demonstrating an activity she uses with customer service staff to help them empathise with international students for whom the UK is culturally very different. Imagining that we were at an interplanetary conference, we were given cards with an explanation of the traditional form of greeting on our planet. We then had to move around the room attempting to greet other delegates and find those from the same planet. It was genuinely awkward to try and greet someone who didn’t know what you were trying to do (make eye contact, shake hands and laugh loudly for me) and was trying to do something different (such as bow), and everyone agreed afterwards that it made them feel isolated until they found a fellow alien. I thought this was an excellent activity and very effective (and it made for a lot of silly looking librarians). Suzanne combines the activity with more information on cultural differences.  

Alison Chojna spoke about the skills days they have been running at London South Bank University. LSBU have a diverse range of students with a high percentage of mature and part-time learners who have often not used academic libraries before. They had run workshops in the past but found them difficult to timetable for part-time students, so have now moved to a monthly all day (including after 5pm) drop-in skills day. Students don’t book for this but drop in at any time and stay as long as they like. They are given workbooks to work through at their own pace such as on referencing and literature searching with exercises and activities. They have found that students like having the paper workbooks to take away, although they are costly to print. Three staff are timetabled at a time on a rota basis to give individual help where necessary, but they encourage students to work independently. We recently began offering weekly drop-in sessions to try and offer a combined session with IT services and a study skills tutor and want to try and improve them for next year. I really like the idea of the workbooks where students are given something structured to work through. Alison was very inspiring and I feel we could put some of her ideas into practice.  

I really liked the structure of the evening and thought it was brilliantly organised. It was good fun and I liked that it was informal and relaxed, and the tea and cake was a great addition! I feel like I've come away with some real inspiration for improving my own practice. Follow up information should be going up on the website soon. I'm looking forward to the next one!

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