Teaching Philosophy Statement

Teaching Philosophy Statement
Sara D. Miller, MLIS
Head of Information Literacy
Michigan State University Libraries
“Information literacy can itself be conceived of as a recursive process that is one important
dimension of the way we all make and negotiate meaning… Any literacy is an active and
engaged literacy only in so far as it is practiced, and only as it is practiced.”
–Rolf Norgaard i
As a teacher and librarian, I believe that teaching involves not simply guiding
students to information sources, but placing an emphasis on information literacy or fluency
as an essential key to inquiry within a discipline. This approach focuses on the nature of
information and the recursivity of research, while encouraging the development of
searching and evaluation skills as a natural outgrowth of students’ interaction with
information in a more critical context. Learning must always be student-centered and
The nature of knowledge is in constant flux, and in order to navigate collected
knowledge and to participate in the creation of new knowledge, students must interact
critically with information. Discovering information on one’s own terms is already part of
students’ everyday lives; helping them to understand context, ask good questions of the
information, and stimulate their search for more is where the teacher librarian’s job begins.
In short, my role as a teacher librarian is to facilitate students’ discovery of
information, stimulate inquiry, and provide support for integration of information toward
the development of critical thinking. Through the approach of guided inquiry, I
encourage the students to interact with information, drawing out questions about its nature,
creation, and functions, and to explore how the sources inform their own inquiry. Since
information literacy skills function within a larger context, I must always focus on and
remain within that context in my objectives.
I structure my classes around opportunities for student discovery - not lecture or
presenter demonstration - both of which, without serving as the main focus or method, can
have a place within the overall structure of the class depending on the needs and learning
styles of the students and the nature of the class outcomes. I present questions to groups
designed to stimulate deeper inquiry in relation to information. Basic skills and
competencies such as location and evaluation of information are never the primary focus
of the class, but are integrated naturally into the service of larger outcomes focusing on
higher-level thinking.
I base my classes on a cycle of inquiry – response, seeking out new information,
and creating new knowledge. Beginning the class with information designed to elicit a
response – an article, video, or other object for students to engage with – leads to
questioning and begins the inquiry process. This engagement in turn leads to a more
authentic search for information in response to students’ questioning – seeking out new
information. Carrying out a search for additional information within groups builds
confidence and begins to demonstrate varying techniques among the searchers. As the
group members together answer strategic questions designed to stimulate an inquiry
approach toward their resources, a dialogue emerges about the nature of the information.
At this point, each group presents their resource to the class and shares some of their
dialogue, which I use to compile a list of information characteristics– creating new
knowledge. A brief demonstration by me, with students following along on individual
computers, follows as an alternative to finding similar types of information, which can then
begin the inquiry process again, reflecting recursivity in research.
The contextual nature of information literacy or fluency necessitates close
collaboration between the librarian and the disciplinary expert. I place a high value on
these relationships and am committed to supporting the unique information literacy needs
of disciplines across the institution. Working together to coordinate outcomes, pedagogy,
and understanding of student needs ensures the highest quality of information literacy
teaching and learning. As fluency in information is an essential component of the ability to
think critically, the importance of interdisciplinary efforts in this area highlights the role
that information literacy plays in leading out in support of institutional excellence.
Norgaard, Rolf (2003). Writing Information Literacy: Contributions to a Concept. Reference and User
Services Quarterly, 43(2), 124-130.