Once upon a time, I was invited to speak in front of a small group of librarians in my local area about the un-research project as part of their professional development day. As part of the presentation, I described the structure of the project itself, why I created it, and its various outcomes. At the end, there was plenty of time for questions. I had given this presentation before, so I thought I knew what kind of questions to expect. But the one in which my audience seemed most interested was one I had not anticipated.
I mentioned at the very beginning of the presentation that I am always making changes to what I teach, both big and small. I claimed that I had never taught the same thing the exact same way more than once or twice.
Apparently this was quite a shocking claim.
I think it was shocking for a couple of reasons. The first was a question of time. Like, how much time do you have to have on your hands to constantly be tinkering with what you teach? Interestingly, some recent research I conducted with a group of former colleagues on why academic librarians leave their jobs suggests that librarians tend to be overwhelmed by the number of job duties they are given. Often, whether our job descriptions reflect it or not, we’re asked to do the work of ten people. No wonder spending time on a revision process for a standard information literacy course seems like such a luxury.
To be honest, I have no idea how the demands of my own job compare to that of others, but it might help to know that I usually save the bigger, more sweeping changes I want to make for the summer, when I have a longer period between classes and (theoretically) more time to plan.
The second reason it might have been so shocking is because there’s a lot of risk in change. Not only does it potentially take a lot of time to plan, but there’s no guarantee it will even work. And that could really screw up things like course evaluations (for a credit-bearing course) and assessment data. Plus, once you find something that’s comfortable and that works, why mess with it?
These are legitimate anxieties and certainly I have tried things that didn’t work. But making changes is still worth it to me.
Here are some thoughts on why