More questions than answers: I think that’s a good thing?

Yes, it’s definitely a good thing!


“The job of a university is not to find the answers, but to ask the right questions.”*

When I published my last post, I patted myself on the back thinking that I’d answered a few of my own questions and that would be that for a week or so.  But it wasn’t and it isn’t.  I carried on thinking about the teaching that I had done, the feedback that I had received and what I have discussed with colleagues over the years.  I read about the experiences of others on FSLT14, I even followed up some of the references on our annotated bibliography .  Is that all of Brookfield’s lenses?  I think that it is:

1) Autobiographic experiences

2) Student’s eyes

3) Colleagues’ experiences

4) Literature

What I need to work on and what I don’t do enough of is 3) and 4).

Neil was kind enough to comment on my first post so I’m going to use the questions that he asked to add structure to this post.

We learn by doing with the support of others.
If you were to guess what you want to learn next about this topic what would it be? Which direction are you looking in?

What I would like to learn next on the topic of ‘learning with the support of others’?  I think that I’d like to learn some new ways to engender feedback from colleagues that I could use to help me to improve my professional practice.  My last few jobs have involved a large proportion of solo flights, much enquiry answering and training with lots of informal customer feedback.  However, there has been little formal feedback and very little colleague feedback.  I think that I would like to find ways to strengthen my peer support network and/or look at other ways of gaining this support (from the literature?)

Interesting that you don’t think an informal tone always works. Can you expand a bit on why?

My basis for the thought that informal tone doesn’t always work is based on my own experiences.  I would estimate that in 80-90% of my interactions with HE staff and students an informal tone is appropriate and the most effective approach in determining whether what I have said has been understood.  However, I have had experiences where customers/colleagues have preferred to be greeted by title and surname rather than first name.  This rather sets the tone for the interaction which proceeds on a much more formal basis.  I’m much less likely to try and crack a joke.

I also feel that a first meeting with large numbers of staff and/or students often has to have at least an element of formality.  As librarians we’re often  in the position on a first meeting of outlining (quite a few) rules and regulations.  “Welcome to the library, we’re here to help!  Don’t eat, drink, smoke, talk too  loudly and definitely don’t bring things back late!” 

When you are in ‘standing at the front mode’, what techniques do you use to encourage questions? What have you found that works best?

Now this is more tricky for me to answer and it is where I start to feel inadequate.  I don’t have any formal teacher training so I’ve learnt by watching others and doing.   To encourage questions I usually begin by stating that I’m more than happy to be stopped as I go along, please ask!  If I’m in a real rather than a virtual situation I look for facial expressions and body language.  Have I lost anyone?  Do I need to pause and ask a question to judge understanding?  If I’m running a virtual training session I use the online tools available to ask attendees to signal their understanding or happiness for me to move on.

As a caveat I would add that you can’t always take questions as you go along for example if there are a large number of attendees or no time for lengthy answers.  In that case I would always let attendees know how to get hold of me for follow-up questions.  I’d be very interested in finding out how other folks do this.

And Neil’s right, my “…next step is to think about how these questions and your reflections can be informed by the literature and your colleagues.”  Where’s that learning styles and pedagogy document that I’ve just borrowed?

Until next time, happy FSLT14!

*A quote etched on the windows of one of my workplaces, anyone have an idea of an author?

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