Sunday, 25 April 2010

On reflection

It seems an appropriate time to be reflecting. It's annual performance appraisal time and also almost a year since I started in my current post. It's also a year since 5 days study leave saw me hours away from having a completed CILIP chartership portfolio!

I've also attended a couple of events recently that have moved on my thinking in this area. 

The first, was organised by my colleague Paul, along with the Housing Studies Unit at the University of Stirling. The half day (and a bit) reflective practice taster session was targeted primarily at regenation practitioners, but the content was fairly generic and applicable to anyone who wants be more reflective.

(the photo is from the room at the Stirling Highland Hotel where the event took place)

We kicked off by fondling a lemon :-) and talking about our thoughts as we did so. An interesting exercise designed to help us understand the way we make associations. Unfortunately, being in the later stages of a cold that had hung around for 4 weeks I couldn't smell the lemon which meant I wasn't able to engage all my senses!

We then looked at a simplified version of Kolb's learning cycle - essentially: what? so what? now what? - and how to apply that to our reflective practice.

That was followed by a discussion about the barriers to reflective practice, including the reality that it's not the way we've been educated to write. And in my case that's something that has been amplified by being in the civil service for so long!

We'd been given some homework to prepare for the event - writing a diary style entry examining something that recently happened in our professional life. As mentioned in previous blog posts ad finitum I've been trying to be reflective in my practice for sometime now, so I cheated a wee bit and took along a blog post I had already written. We worked in pairs to rate each others homework (along with some sample pieces) on the following scale:

1. Description
2. Description with reflection
3. Stepping back and mulling it over
4. Critical reflection

My partner and I agreed that I'm probably at level 2, so I've a bit to go yet.

The key personal learning point for me was the confirmation that even when I think I've been reflective, I've only really been scratching the surface. I thought that once I'd made a conscious effort to be reflective that it would just happen - that it would be a fairly natural organic development of my writing style.

So I'm going to give structured reflection a go. After each event I attend I'll make a point of asking myself some specific questions under the headings of what, so what and now what (we were given a skeleton/template at the event, but I'm going to draft my own version, which I'll share when it's done).
The event also prompted some discussion about how we (the Scottish Centre for Regeneration) can help our learning network members become more reflective in their practice. Should we, for example, build in some time in our events for reflection? Watch this space for further thoughts...

The second event, was a workshop run at LILAC by Merinda Kaye Hensley on critical reflection for teaching librarians (but again, the content was fairly generic).

Over the course of a couple of hours we had the chance to develop a personal teaching narrative and to gain an understanding of how to support a community of practice in the classroom through guided peer observation.

Two key learning points for me. Merinda has come up with 25 critical reflection prompts which I can incorporate into my structured reflection framework. And secondly, that when I learn something from a workshop/lecture/training session I should give some thought to how that learning happened. 

OK, having looked back at this post, I think I've just about covered the what?, so what? and now what? Perhaps not up to level 4 yet, but it's progress!

Sunday, 4 April 2010

My last LILAC?

[edited to correct error of attribution]

I’ve been thinking about how best to blog LILAC 2010 (my third LILAC). I’d normally just write something up about all the sessions I’d attended – whether they were particularly useful to me or not. Not this year. In line with the whole getting down with reflection tip I’m on at the moment, I’m going to do a bit of a round up and then blog thematically about the stuff that actually made some impact on me.

So this is the round up and I’ll start with the positive stuff. As usual the conference was really well organised. The venue was great, the programme was packed and the presenters were all knowledgeable and obviously passionate about information literacy (IL). In particular there were a couple of really good sessions on reflective practice that have moved on my thinking in that area.

And it was heartening that the Scottish Information Literacy Project is still getting plaudits (as it has for the last couple of years), in particular for our emphasis on partnership working and success in bringing together librarians from all sectors, and gosh, sometimes, even non librarians! The national framework developed by the project has proved to be an inspiration to a number of other countries.

Wales is a good example. In December 2009, an event, organised by WHELF (Wales Higher Education Libraries Forum) and funded by CyMAL considered the development of a cross-sectoral information literacy framework (for a report, see Karl Drinkwater's post on the RSC Wales blog). An action plan was agreed - including a draft statement and formulation of a steering group. And CyMAL are now providing funding for an information literacy development officer. So perhaps Wales will end up with an IL framework that has statutory authority – something we’ve not been able to achieve in Scotland.

The Irish are also following our lead. Phillip Cohen from the Library Association of Ireland’s Working Group on Information Literacy admitted to stalking anyone connected with the project (including ourselves!) at the conference.
However…I think this will probably be my last LILAC. For a start, I don’t ‘do’ information literacy as my day job anymore. I’m still very passionate about it – which is why I’m more than happy to help facilitate our IL Community of Practice – but it would be difficult to justify my attendance at a conference that has such a narrow focus.

To be honest, I’m not sure I’d want to attend next year anyway. It was great to see that in this – the first LILAC held outside of the UK the delegate list was very international. But, it was disappointing, yet again, that the vast majority of attendees where academic librarians (HE predominantly). There were a few more workplace and school librarians than in previous years, but public librarians were very hard to find. 

Tony Durcan, Head of Culture, Libraries and Lifelong Learning, Newcastle City Council, keynote speaker on day one, talked about the key role public libraries can play in the digital inclusion agenda – and to me, this is where information literacy can have the greatest impact. Yet we had, maybe, one public librarian at the conference?

An even bigger issue for me though, is that every LILAC we talk about how IL isn’t just for libraries/librarians. Yet that’s what LILAC is – librarians talking to other librarians. Perhaps we need to change what the ‘L’ stands for in LILAC and find ways to encourage more non-librarians to attend. 

And from a personal learning perspective, I’m not sure I get much from attending traditional conferences these days. I had a great time at LILAC, but I’m not convinced I learnt anything I wouldn’t have gleaned from following the conference tweets, blog posts, etc. And I can make connections just as easily online as I can at a conference. (It doesn’t help that I really dislike travelling these days!)

This is very much a personal view and I’d like to emphasise it is no way a criticism of the conference organisers – who do an absolutely fantastic job. We all have a responsibility to venture outside our comfort zone sometimes and have conversations with the 'unconverted'. But I do wonder how sustainable the conference is in it’s current format? 

Further posts to follow. In the meantime, if you want to find out more about LILAC 2010, try these links:

Andy Walsh’s live blogging: 
Elini Zazani’s Delicious bookmarks: