Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Developing a Reflective Practice Template for Citation Management Software Instruction

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Developing a Reflective Practice Template for Citation Management Software Instruction

Article excerpt

One of the essential characteristics of successful librarians is the ability to use their experiences to build their skills. Donald Schon defined this concept as "reflective practice" in his 1983 book The Reflective Practitioner. Here, Milewski and Williamson take on the role of reflective practitioners in examining their work in teaching citation management software. Their experience offers a model for librarians in all sorts of instructional positions to engage in reflective practice.--Editor

Reflective practice, which Schon termed "reflection-in-action," has to do with practitioners' attempts to make sense of surprising elements in the unique and uncertain contexts in which they act. (1) As Schon discusses, practitioners often must solve problems that do not match theoretical knowledge in their disciplines. Such problems, when reflected upon, can lead to improvements in practitioners' understanding and practice. Describing this process, Schon states:

   In each instance, the practitioner allows himself to
   experience surprise, puzzlement, or confusion in a
   situation which he finds uncertain or unique. He reflects
   on the phenomena before him, and on the prior
   understandings which have been implicit in his behavior.
   He carries out an experiment which serves to
   generate both a new understanding of the phenomena
   and a change in the situation.

Library researchers, too, such as Booth, (2) have discussed the value of incorporating reflection to undertand instruction and improve it. This paper describes our reflections on uncertainties arising in bibliographic management instruction, which led us to develop a template for others to use in reflecting about these kinds of classes.

As citation management software such as EndNote has been adopted by universities, librarians have often been responsible for instructing faculty and students how to use complex computer programs that automate the complex task of formatting citations in thousands of reference styles. Citation management software instruction poses challenges distinct from other kinds of library instruction due to its level of detail and numerous things that can go wrong as students with varying technology backgrounds, academic majors, and language skills attempt to follow along with instruction while using different kinds of computers, operating systems, browsers, and word processing software.

While research has focused on the features and futures of citation management software and the use of citation management software, (3) we could locate no writings on the application of reflective practice to citation management software instruction. Instructors in the fields of education and library science have used reflective practice to reflect upon and improve their instruction, (4) and citation management software instruction can benefit from such reflection. The present study describes the development of a reflective practice template for citation management software classes using critical incidents as prompts for reflection. Specifically, we selected surprising events that happened during the instruction as the incidents for reflection, since we find that surprises are frequent in citation management software instruction and can provide useful data for analysis.


Tripp made the point that critical incidents could include any occurrences in instruction that are interpreted by the instructor as significant. (5) They could include routine events typical of a category of occurrences, as well as solely surprising ones. Any analyzed event could be a critical incident. For example, a librarian might notice that students regularly check their smartphones during instruction. While this regular event is not surprising, it is worth analyzing because it may point to students' lack of engagement in the instruction.

Booth seems to have a fairly flexible conception of instructional events or features that can provide material for reflection, as well. …

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