“What shapes academic librarians’ conceptions of their teaching practices?” An invitation to participate in research


If you’re interested please email me at eveline.houtman@utoronto.ca and I can send you more detailed information.

 Purpose of the research: This is a qualitative research project that aims to explore what shapes academic librarians’ conceptions of their teaching practices.  I understand conceptions of teaching as individually held constructs that develop in relation to the context (both physical and social) and the librarian’s experiences (such as personal biography and identity; formal and informal learning; classroom teaching). My assumption in conducting this research, grounded in the education research and in my own experience, is that how librarians think about their teaching affects what they do in their teaching, which in turn affects their students’ learning. I hope to construct an analytical framework that will inform practice and further research while staying close to the perspectives of teaching librarians.

About me: I am a librarian at the University of Toronto. I am also a part-time Ph.D. student. I am conducting this study towards a doctoral degree at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

What you would be asked to do:

  1. Participate in two virtual interviews (via Skype or VSee), approximately one hour each. The interviews will be scheduled at your convenience, with a gap of weeks or months between interviews.

Interview 1: Exploring personal experiences and contexts – tentatively scheduled May-July

Interview 2: Focusing on your teaching practice (I’ll ask you to choose a class or online tutorial to talk about) & Follow-up to Interview 1- tentatively scheduled June-October.

2. Take the Teaching Perspectives Inventory (http://www.teachingperspectives.com/tpi/), as a prompt for reflection and discussion in Interview 2. The TPI is a free, online, anonymous instrument that takes approximately 10 minutes to complete. I will not ask to see your results.

3. Optionally, provide me with teaching materials from your chosen class/online tutorial, e.g. lesson plan, slides, handouts, assessment instruments, link to a research guide. Also welcome is other documentation related to teaching, e.g. a statement of your teaching philosophy (if one exists). These materials are meant to enrich the discussion. They will not be published in my thesis or made public in any other way.

This study has been approved by the University of Toronto Research Ethics Board.



Invitation to reflect on your teaching & participate in research (in just 20 min)

Project title: Reflecting on teaching: Evaluating the usefulness of the Teaching Perspectives Inventory for academic librarians

The Teaching Perspectives Inventory (TPI) is a free, online, self-report instrument whose purpose is to help teachers reflect on and articulate their teaching approaches, e.g. for teaching evaluations or for the creation of statements of teaching philosophy. It is also seen as helpful in better understanding colleagues’ teaching approaches and in prompting discussion. As of 2010 (the last date for which this data has been reported), more than 100,000 teachers in K-12 and higher education had taken the TPI (Collins & Pratt, 2010).

The purpose of this exploratory study is to evaluate whether the TPI is a useful instrument for reflection in the contexts of academic librarians’ teaching.

If you’re interested, please do the following:

1) Take the TPI at http://www.teachingperspectives.com/tpi/  (approx. 10 minutes). You’ll get your results immediately.

2) Complete an anonymous survey about your results and your reflection on the results (approx. 10 minutes) at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/12WFDzvnDoVXdRCirPlDZHvpozZU1gwiBgRsHjFDhv1A/viewform. Consent is implied by your completion of the survey.

Benefits: You’ll get to reflect on your teaching in a way that may be new to you and contribute to research.

This study has been approved by the University of Toronto Research Ethics Board.

More information on the TPI

The TPI is based on phenomenographic research (Pratt,1992; Pratt & Associates, 1998) that examined teachers’ actions, intentions, and beliefs (as reported in interviews and through observation) and found that teachers held five qualitatively different perspectives on teaching. The perspectives are differentiated by the way the relationships between teacher, learners, and content are conceptualized. Each perspective is seen as a valid approach to teaching. The perspectives are also seen as contextual, that is, in different contexts the same individual may hold different perspectives.

The five perspectives are:

  • Transmission — “Effective teaching requires a substantial commitment to the content or subject matter.”
  • Apprenticeship — “Good teachers are highly skilled practitioners of what they teach.”
  • Developmental — “Effective teaching must be planned and conducted ‘from the learner’s point of view.’”
  • Nurturing — “Effective teaching assumes that long-term, hard, persistent effort to achieve comes from the heart, not the head.”
  • Social Reform — “Effective teaching seeks to change society in substantive ways.” http://www.teachingperspectives.com/tpi/



Collins, J. B., & Pratt, D. D. (2010). The Teaching Perspectives Inventory at 10 years and 100,000 respondents: Reliability and validity of a teacher self-report inventory. Adult Education Quarterly, 61(4), 358–375. doi:10.1177/0741713610392763

Pratt, D. (1992). Conceptions of teaching. Adult Education Quarterly, 42, 203–220. doi:10.1177/074171369204200401

Pratt, D. D., & Associates. (1998). Five perspectives on teaching in adult and higher education. Malabar, FL: Krieger



ACRL IL revisions feedback: “How satisfied are you with the overall Framework?”

Well, I’ve run out of time to address all my nitpicky issues with the revisions, but I thought I’d tackle the big issue of how (I think) the framework as a whole works.

I needed a definition of a conceptual framework for my In the Library with the Lead Pipe article, and I’m going to start by quoting it here to use as a jumping off point:

A conceptual framework is simply a structure or model that helps us make meaning of issues or phenomena in ways that lead to greater clarity and coherence. A framework can be thought of variously as a lens through which to view the issues; a map of the territory under consideration; or a working tool (Bloomberg & Volpe, 2012). Conceptual frameworks can allow us to step back from the day-to-day to frame issues in a larger context. Alternatively particular frameworks may guide our day-to-day actions and practice.

New IL framework as a lens: there’s a lot to like in the way the revisions get us to take a new look at IL – I wasn’t a fan of the old Standards. I like the new definition; the focus on teaching concepts (not totally convinced by the threshold part); the inclusion of new (media) literacies; the emphasis on metacognition and reflection. I think the frames that are identified are important and I can see ideas here enriching my teaching or in some cases validating things I’m already doing.

I don’t see this framework as the only lens I want to apply to IL, so I have some trouble with the idea that this will be the officially sanctioned ACRL lens for IL.

New IL framework as a map of the territory: I think this is where the revisions fall down.

  • First of all, what territory are we mapping? All of IL? Or IL in higher ed? I wouldn’t mind focusing only on the latter (with a recognition that some things transfer to other contexts) if we would acknowledge that what we’re mapping and teaching is IL as an academic literacy in particular contexts, and that there are other ways of “doing” IL.
  • There’s one map of the territory — metaliteracy — inside another map of the territory.
  • There are things left out of the map. Is “skills” suddenly a bad word? Learning outcomes are left to individual libraries to fill in. And what about the purpose of IL (learning? helping students enter their discipline? supporting writing? creating informed citizens?), that is, its place in the broader landscape?
  • Most of all, it’s a librarian-centric map. I see this in some of the jargon. I see this in the way metaliteracy puts IL at the centre of its diagram. I see it in the way IL is characterized as an education reform movement (really? as a grad student in education as well as instruction librarian, I’ve observed first hand how indifferent to IL most educators are). I see it in the sample assignments which don’t really take into account the way students approach information through their class assignments (okay, I get that these aren’t so far in authentic contexts). I see the framework focussing on how librarians teach and how we position ourselves and IL more than on how students learn.

For the sake of comparison, see ANCIL for an alternative map of the territory that puts the student at the centre.  The authors also have a slide showing a kind of IL hierarchy of needs, with access and awareness at the bottom (access is assumed in the ACRL framework); then functional skills; then situated practices; then finally attributes and identities. This makes a lot of sense to me – could it also work with the ACRL framework?

New IL framework as a working tool: Not sure yet exactly how’ll I’ll use the framework in my teaching. At this point I don’t see myself structuring my teaching around the six frames, but rather pulling in pieces where helpful. I’m interested to see how others approach this.

Does the framework lead to greater clarity and coherence? Not yet! But I’ve gotten used to feeling muddled in the process of learning.

Last thoughts on the ACRL IL revisions

1)  I much prefer the new definition of IL to the old one, but it’s a mouthful. We need a snappy secondary definition for day-to-day use to go along with the snappy titles for the threshold concepts. How about: IL is being smart about how you use information?

2) The “Searching is strategic” section would be better with a recognition that not all searches have a well-defined information need, that searching (and finding) can help to define the need, that searching is recursive (tie it to research as inquiry), that there are other search strategies besides database searching (e.g. browsing, following the references).

3) I’m glad the metaliteracy learning objectives are being taken out. However, the more I think about it, the more I think metaliteracy should be taken right out of the new ACRL Framework, i.e. out of the introduction as well.

  • I don’t think we need one framework that claims to reinvent IL inside another framework reinventing IL. They’re not well integrated (see Donna Witek on this).
  • Metaliteracy seems to “belong” to its two originators, rather than to the profession. Contrast this with the threshold concepts, which are being developed collaboratively through a delphi study and through feedback from the academic library community. For that matter, IL itself originally went through a delphi study. Metaliteracy hasn’t been tested by discussion and debate over its elements.
  • Metacognition is one of the key elements of metaliteracy – but metacognition is already baked into IL and into the threshold concepts.
  • Social media use is the other key element of metaliteracy. Social media is important, but I think we need to be cautious of over-emphasizing its use in higher ed and therefore in the IL Framework – it puts us in danger of proselytizing. As someone who has proselytized in the past (on OA as well as social media) I can say it doesn’t go over well. Based on my experience as librarian and grad student, most students aren’t actually interested in becoming producers of online information – nor are faculty. I’m not saying we can’t push against this at all, but (as I was told once) we need to respect the academic culture – though this of course varies depending on context. (BTW I write this as someone who’s published on new literacies and academic blogging.)
  • Also, do we really want to adopt a term for social media use that is not recognized by people in other fields? That therefore cuts us off from the scholarly conversation on, say, new literacies? (I made a similar argument about transliteracy.)