July 23, 2021

Lesson Plan Series: Praxis Course

What is your name? Where are you in the field currently? What has been your teaching experience thus far?

My name is Ana Diab; I am the Collections, Reference + Instruction Librarian at Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, Canada. This is my first full-time librarian position after working as a library technician for five years, then completing my MLIS in 2016. As part of my role, I am the liaison librarian for the Faculty of Art, and I coordinate, plan and develop information literacy sessions across the curriculum. I am also responsible for managing research help services and selecting monographs, journals and media for the library collection.

What is the name of the institution and position that you were in when you wrote and gave this lesson plan? What is the context of the lesson plan you wrote — who was the audience, what were your learning objectives, etc?

This lesson plan was developed by my colleague in the writing centre, Heather Fitzgerald, and I for a new course in the visual arts curriculum called Praxis. It is a required course for third year students and includes a semester-long research-intensive visual arts project. The lesson plan I have is the first of three research/writing sessions that students participate in at the beginning of the semester to encourage them to connect their creative practice to research and writing processes. It is designed to mitigate barriers to library research and writing and to illustrate the necessity of connecting their art practice to the broader discourses in contemporary art, theory, and interdisciplinary fields.

The lesson plan was developed as a guide for my writing centre colleague and I, as well as for instructors of the Praxis course, who invited us to speak with their classes.

For the first session, our objectives were to encourage students to:

  1. Understand their own research and writing practices and how these contribute to, intersect with, or participate in their creative practices
  2. Identify, access, evaluate, and use information that will support their creative practice
  3. Analyse the political, cultural, and social aspects of information
  4. Understand how the research process connects to the writing process, and how one can facilitate the other

The session began with a writing activity. Students were given a sheet of paper with writing prompts about their research process, asking them:

  • How do you start your research?
  • Where do you look for information?
  • What do you do when you can’t find what you’re looking for?
  • Do you ever ask for help? If not, why?
  • What is one question you have about research?

They had 5-10 minutes for the writing activity, and then we collected papers to look over while they completed the next activity.

The next activity is the Library Derive, which is based off of the Situationist Derive. The students are given a brief introduction to the Situationist Internationale, a social practice group who would take walks through the city to observe and respond to what they saw. For the Library Derive, the students are instructed to take a walk through the library stacks and find materials that interest them in some way. They are encouraged to observe and interrogate the structure and organization of the collection and find as many books as they like. They have 20 minutes to go through the stacks and bring back a selection of books, magazines, or media. While students browse the stacks, my colleague and I look through their writing responses and organize them into themes that come up. We use their responses to direct us for the remainder of the session.

When the students return, we ask them about their experience with the Library Derive and how it compares with other ways that they do research. We tell them that perusing the stacks for information based on curiosity is a legitimate way of doing research, and that they will unexpectedly come across resources that will lead them to further questions to investigate.

Next we discuss their responses to the questions and methodically answer them, while making connections between creative practice, writing and research. The questions naturally lead into showing them how and why to use library databases, evaluate resources, and ethically use resources to inform their work.

Were there any resources that you used in the creation of the lesson plan? What were they?

  • Writing prompt handout
  • Handout with instructions for the Library Derive, which is from the 2005 artist book, Library Derive by Beth Howe

How was the plan received? Would you make changes to future iterations?

The plan was received really well. The instructors provided informal feedback, stating that they were happy we got the students to go into the library to find sources right away and that we helped them see the importance of research and writing. Students reported in a feedback form that they enjoyed the derive activity, and learned a lot about how to use library databases.

If you have any questions or would like to contact Ana, feel free to reach out at adiab (at) ecuad (dot) ca.

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