A Great Script Deserves Great Actors

By Nelson, Robert S. | Academic Exchange Quarterly, Winter 2004 | Go to article overview

A Great Script Deserves Great Actors


Nelson, Robert S., Academic Exchange Quarterly


Abstract

This article discusses how the practical employment of dramatic skills evaluation in the assessment and development of information literacy teacher-librarians. By providing an observation rubric, suggestions for teacher-librarian motivation, and some ways to cultivate dramatic talent in teacher-librarians, this article will assist library instruction coordinators in their efforts to maintain a successful information literacy program.

Introduction

On the Waterfront is, arguably, one of the greatest scripts ever written, but an examination of what it became when acted on by Marlon Brando yields a different perspective. A metamorphosis occurs when an actor is able to transform a great script to great performance. This transition has an interesting corollary to library instruction. Teaching is an exercise in performance art therefore the impact of any instruction program is based on the dramatic talents of the teacher. [1]

For library instruction coordinators transitioning from bibliographic instruction to information literacy programs, talented teacher-librarians are crucial elements to the success of that transition. It may be useful to the coordinators of such programs to examine the effectiveness of their current faculty concerning their classroom-teaching abilities. The Association for Academic and Research Libraries (ACRL) Information Literacy Standards provides a wonderful script for teaching information literacy. (Anonymous, 2003) A library instruction coordinator must utilize and train their faculty to take that script and transform it into a great performance. This article will assist in developing a strategy to assess faculty by providing an evaluation technique that assists in reviewing the performances of teacher-librarians.

Acting and Teaching in the Library Classroom

For many library instruction coordinators, the pool of available teacher-librarians is drawn directly from the members of the public-services faculty. These teacher-librarians may or may not have had formal training as classroom educators. Regardless of training or the lack thereof, there must be a process of performance evaluation that regularly reviews how effective that teacher-librarian is in the delivery of instruction. As the person responsible for overseeing the delivery of information literacy instruction, it is important for library instruction coordinators to adopt a clear approach to observation and evaluation. One such approach would be to view the teacher-librarian as actor or performer and conduct observations accordingly.

If a library instruction coordinator chooses to adopt this methodology, then a gauge of an effective teacher-librarian may be found in the dramatic aspects of their delivery of a session. To assess this requires multiple observations and an eye for theatrical or acting talent. Due to the nature of the ACRL standards, the teacher-librarian must be able to impart information as well as inspire thought and inquiry. Using a dramatic-performance rubric to assess potential, a coordinator can gauge the abilities of the teacher-librarian to present abstractions and concrete information simultaneously.

Great performances are founded on the ability to form a meaningful connection to the script both in the text as well as the sub-text. (Griggs, 2001) In the case of library instruction, an academic understanding of the ACRL standards is needed, but more importantly the teacher-librarian must have a real sense of what the standards are trying to accomplish. The ideas of access, evaluation, and use are meant to pave the way for active and independent inquiry. This form of learning will allow the student formulate new ideas, challenge existing patterns, and develop personal philosophies. A talented teacher-librarian will use this to drive the discussion. Linking to this sub-text of the standards will allow the teacher-librarian to address not only the standards themselves, but also the spirit of those standards. …

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