Design collaborative or individual learning experiences based on learning principles and theories.
The Evolution of my Understanding:
What a Learning Experience Can Be
Section 1 of 4:
An Introduction to What Competency K Means to Me and to Library and Information Science
When examining contemporary learning theories and principles, I strongly gravitate towards those which work to dismantle systems of oppression. Cardwell, Havard, Rao, Diaz, and Kunkel’s article, Anti-Oppressive Composition Pedagogies, examines the power of everyday language and how it can “un-teach '' oppressive systems. Instructors at UC Berkley formed a group called “Radical Decolonial Queer Pedagogies of Composition” (Cardwell, et al., 2109). They examined how instructors and students think about and use language in all aspects of their courses, from course content, to how assignments are created, to grammar rules and grading practices (Cardwell et al., 2019). These elements were evaluated to recognize and root out influences and structures of white supremacy, sexism, racism, ableism, queerphobia and other oppressive structures (Cardwell et al., 2019).
Garran, Aymer, Gelman,and Miller’s article, Team-Teaching Anti-Oppression with Diverse Faculty: Challenges and Opportunities, demonstrates the importance of anti-oppression structures in education, pedagogies, the diversity of the staff who is creating and teaching the content, power dynamics, and teaching strategies. It shows that an understanding of power dynamics, privilege, and social justice is crucial when developing teaching strategies, course content, assignments, and environments that use anti-oppression beliefs.
Maar, Bessette, McGregor, Lovelace, and Reade’s article, Co-creating Simulated Cultural Communication Scenarios with Indigenous Animators: An Evaluation of Innovative Clinical Cultural Safety Curriculum, shows the importance of accurate cultural representation in those creating the media, content, and tools we use. In the U.S., there are countless examples of content where the few characters of Color or varying gender and sexual identities were created and scripted by white, cis, men. They are not accurate representations and often play into harmful stereotypes that limit the perspectives of the consumers. If it is an issue in entertainment, imagine the implications in healthcare areas like medical knowledge, communication styles, terminology, and language taught in white-centric clinical programs. This leaves gaping holes in cultural context, knowledge base, and communication styles. Historically excluded peoples must have accurate representation to receive accurate and supportive healthcare. To address the problem of, “the teaching of clinical communication skills for culturally safe care to Indigenous patients” (Maar et al., 2020, p.1), local Indigenous animators, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and the article’s authors formed a mutually beneficial partnership not based on concepts of whiteness and one sided power dynamics. They worked to create a “new teaching modality of Simulated Cultural Communication Scenarios” (Maar et al., 2020, p.1). The study recognized the problem, embraced accurate representation, inclusivity, and anti-oppression dialog to create a clinical training program that communicated in methods preferred by Indigenous practitioners and patients. The study’s representation, language, and communication styles used, embraced anti-oppression mentalities and discarded harmful practices of whiteness.
Jumping ahead to something I discuss in Competency G, practical application of these learning theories and principles can be found in information science through the following: “The Brian Deer Classification System (BDCS) is a unique way for libraries to catalog their collections to reflect the knowledge of Indigenous peoples and not of colonizing peoples (Worth, 2019). Brian Deer, a Kahnawá:ke librarian, designed the BDCS in the 1970s. He designed it to be flexible in order to better reflect the knowledge of specific and local Indigenous communities and institutions. The BDCS has been adapted by the X̱wi7x̱wa Library (pronounced whei-wha) at the University of British Columbia. The classification/subject headers they use can be found here (The University of British Columbia, 2021).”
Why Competency K is Important to Me as a Professional:
Dismantling systems of oppression is important to me across all aspects of my life and my profession is no exception. The information professions are well situated to design learning experiences based on learning principles and theories that work to provide greater levels of equity, diversity, and inclusion. I think about the many, many, ways that I can use my work in the information professions to do this. I can create infographics for any topic, and make sure that any representations of people that I include default to those who have historically been excluded: gay couples, People of Color, differently abled individuals. There are so many possibilities. As a librarian, I can choose to design summer reader programs around the theme of the “Libraries are for Everyone” campaign. As a researcher, I can create data analytics that present important information, backed up by statistics and research, in a form that tells a story about the effects of political influence on a culture’s people. My ability to design learning experiences based on learning principles and theories of anti-oppression make me an incredibly well-equipped information professional.
Why Competency K is Important to the Profession as a Whole:
Not to sound like a broken record, but I will say the same thing I have said in many of these competency statements again: all of the research, organization, resources, and good intentions in the world are not going to matter to anyone if they are not accessible. Designing resources, programs, services, reports, infographics, studies, and any number of information deliverables so that they are appealing, appropriate, and correctly marketed to their audience is how these deliverables will create meaning. The ability of information professionals to apply anti-oppression learning practices means that these deliverables will use inclusive and supportive language, will be examined to see who created them, and will be meaningful and accessible to their desired audience. Exceeding in Competency K is how the information professions lead the way towards a more equitable culture, and how we model the needed behaviors for other professions as well.
What Excellence in Competency K Looks Like to Me:
When I think of information professions who excel at designing learning experiences based on anti-oppression learning principles and theories, I see researchers taking initiative and creating projects and information deliverables that tell a story through facts. They can use databases like the Civil Rights Digital Library, they can verify all of their sources and ensure their reports are airtight, they can conduct studies on the effectiveness of inclusive classification systems and present the problematic implications of systems like the Dewey Decimal. I see librarians who fight for collections that are inclusive, supportive, and loud in that support. This could look like displays in teen and youth areas of books that support LGBTQ+ youth. It could look like a Black Lives Matter banner being displayed in the library. I see graphic designers who use their skills to provide positive representation of historically excluded peoples, such as ensuring their work highlights and lifts up the art and efforts of artists of Color, queer creators, or the stories of differently abled people.
Section 2 of 4:
The Discussion of My Evidence
As my “Evidence A”, I am presenting the study that I created and presented in the form of an interactive website, “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion/White Privilege Study in Children's Books”.
How and Why I Created Evidence A:
For my “Information 263: Materials for Children” course, I was tasked with providing an extensive look at how issues surrounding equity, diversity, inclusion and white privilege affected children's books and materials.
The Process of Creating Evidence A:
When I sat down to think about what I wanted to address in Evidence A, I knew right away that I wanted my deliverable to be comprehensive, professionally formatted, and to incorporate many of the resources I was already aware of regarding EDI. As I began to sift through and sort information that I had and that I came across in my preliminary research, a map of how to present the information began to form in my head. I decided to design a website that had distinct sections in which to organize the information I wanted to present. This would help the website’s users to effectively navigate the learning experience.
The sections of the site/study that I decided to include were:
Home: Containing quick links to the study’s introduction, to specific examples of white privilege in children’s books, and important additional resources outside the scope of my website. It also has quick links to world views on diversity, U.S. views on diversity, and a section for important definitions.
Introduction: Here I explain to the learner why I created the site and what it covers.
White Privilege: I break down examples of white privilege in America, how white privilege is harmful, and white privilege in libraries. I also provide a subsection of specific examples.
Diversity: I provide definitions and examples of how issues of diversity manifest in and affect libraries.
Inclusion: I provide definitions and examples of how issues of inclusion manifest in and affect libraries.
Children's Materials and the Experts: I provide statistics and research regarding issues of EDI and white privilege in children's books. I also provide two subsections here, examining world views on diversity and U.S. views on diversity.
Self-Reflection: I felt it was important to discuss my own agency and experiences regarding EDI and white privilege, to add depth, meaning, and relatability to the study.
Additional Resources: There were so many incredible and powerful resources that I wanted to bring to the learner’s attention, I could not realistically incorporate all of them into the project effectively. This section allowed me to provide some of those highlights. I built in a subsection here that provides children's book titles which excel in the areas of equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Conclusion: I restate and summarize the important highlights of the study.
References: I provide a comprehensive and extensive list of materials that I used for the study.
Why I Chose to Feature Evidence A and How Evidence A Shows Competency:
Evidence A demonstrates my ability to design learning experiences based on learning principles and theories of anti-oppression work. Evidence A shows application of inclusive and anti-oppressive language use throughout, as well as openly and honestly examining issues of representation both in children’s books and in my own life, as the study’s creator. I chose to really lean in with this project to examine the topics at hand. I did not shy away from hard topics like racism and privilege, I did not provide only the bare minimum for the assignment, nor did I try to spin my study to portray these issues as “not really a big deal”. I dove in headfirst. I wanted to use this project to shine a spotlight on a very real and prevalent issue regarding representation in children's books. As a society, we can only actively work to dismantle systems of oppression if we can see them for what they are. I wanted this website to act as a flashlight with which to see the problem.
Evidence A demonstrates my understanding of and ability to apply relevant learning theories in a particular information environment. Applying learning theories and practices designed to dismantle systems of oppression to the world of children's books was a niche I was well suited for. I have worked and excelled in the realm of children's books for years. First as a bookseller, then a manager, then a librarian, and always as a storytime creator and performer. I actively design storytimes so that the titles I chose to read provided representation for historically marginalized peoples (I never chose titles that would leave all of the characters in the storytime as white) and that promote inclusivity, acceptance, and joy. Finding these titles was hard, especially doing numerous storytimes a week. These experiences had prepared me well for creating Evidence A and its detailed, comprehensive, examination of issues of representation in children's books.
Section 3 of 4:
How Creating the Evidence Helped Me Gain Expertise in Competency K
How Creating Evidence A Helped Me Gain Competency in the Area of K:
Creating evidence A allowed me to design an information artifact that professionally presented many important resources and pieces of information, and to do so in a way that encouraged user interaction with the site and provided the site contents in an easy to access and understand way. There are many wonderful resources out there to help people understand issues of EDI and white privilege. Designing Evidence A in the way that I did allowed me to incorporate startling statistics, such as a well-sourced and designed infographic showing that in 2018, animals and inanimate objects had a better chance of being represented in children's books than all other marginalized groups of people combined (Staff, 2019). I was able to include an outstanding book talk by author Jason Reynolds, titled, “Honesty, Joy, and Anti-Racism”. I was able to take so many outstanding resources and build them into Evidence A to create a learning experience that works to help dismantle systems of oppression.
How Creating Evidence A Changed My Way of Thinking on Competency K:
Creating Evidence A gave me a new appreciation for my own collection of valuable resources and information. I am constantly bookmarking websites, articles, course materials, and cool things and ideas that I find, into a folder called “Incorporate into my job”. Over the years, this folder has become a treasure trove of resources. Creating Evidence A allowed me to present a selection of these items in a way designed to build off of and support each other, and to increase the value of a learning experience. At the beginning of Evidence A, I started by presenting basic information such as an introduction explaining what the site is and setting expectations, to a home page presenting easy access to some of the most important information in Evidence A. By the time the learner has progressed to the additional resources and conclusion section of the learning experience, they have been presented with an interactive information artifact that has slowly built on the knowledge presented in each section. Creating Evidence A in this manner allowed me to realize that I was already well-equipped to design learning experiences, and that it is an enjoyable task to me, to structure a learning experience to build steadily on itself.
Coursework That Has Prepared Me for Competency K:
In my “Info 286: Interpersonal Communication Skills for Librarians” course, I wrote an exploratory essay examining How Communication Styles and Language Can Help Dismantle Oppressive Systems. In my “Information 269: Early Childhood Literacy” course, I designed an Early Childhood Literacy Program for public libraries, created to teach library staff and caregivers how to best develop early literacy skills in young children. I completed a Theorist Research Paper examining the importance of designing publications, trainings, and resources in highly accessible and useful structures and formats that are well-organized and consistently designed for maximum efficiency to benefit learner absorption. I also completed an Article Review that explored the importance of building play into early childhood literacy activities and on the skills learned through play.
In my “Information 200: Information Communities” course, I wrote a paper (presented as a blog post) examining how libraries are leveling the playing field of hiking by providing access and information to resources and learners. In my “Information 244: Online Searching” course, I created a learning experience for a specific audience in the form of a LibGuide for civil rights activists. In my “Information 237: School Library Media Materials” course, I designed an interactive and multimedia learning experience for high school students, examining the importance of representation in recreational media consumption. I designed another interactive, multimedia, learning experience, but this time for young children and art aficionados. In my “Information 260A: Programming and Services for Children” course, I created A Children's Librarian's 12-Month Programming Plan, which acts as a learning and instructional tool for both library staff and patrons. In my “Information 263: Materials for Children” course, I created a website designed to educate families and caregivers on Children's Non-Print Resources from the Library.
How I Have Changed From the Person I Was Before These Courses, to the Person After, to the Person I Am Now:
Before I took these courses, completed these projects, and developed Evidence A, my understanding of creating learning experiences was very, *very*, different. I don’t mention it a lot, but years and years ago I trained to become a teacher, concentrating on English and Special Education for elementary school students. I took an alternative teaching certification program. I completed the entire certification program and to be honest, I was overwhelmed by most of it: developing lesson plans, IEPs (Individual Education Plans), building curriculum, teaching materials, grading papers...All I had to do to complete my teaching certification was finish my student teaching assignment at the end of the program. I went everyday to my assignment (which was to shadow an 8th grade teacher teaching summer school to students who had not passed 8th grade). As the weeks went on, I became more and more horrified: not only did the teacher not care at all, she was actively antagonizing, making fun of, and degrading these students in front of the class. She didn’t care at all about them, let alone their education. When she called a young boy fat and laughed at him from her podium, I stood up and walked out of the room so as not to confront her in front of the students. I ended up reporting her to my program director, who was, unbeknownst to me, one of her best friends from high school. It did not go well for me. The reports and communications began to be intentionally twisted around and lost until I was afraid to go back, so I never finished my certification. I left the program feeling like I had failed the students, that I had an inability to teach, and an inability to work within an education system that not only didn't care for, but actively harmed, its students. That was ten years ago, and the lessons it taught had remained with me: I couldn’t teach. I had failed. I was not equipped for this.
Although teaching in schools is no longer something I seek to do, receiving the support of my MLIS professors, their positive feedback on my assignments, and my having made it through this MLIS program with straight A’s has shown me that I am indeed more than capable of creating valuable learning experiences.
What I Have Learned:
I now know that a learning experience does not have to be a lesson plan or an IEP, or something dictated by a curriculum guideline I had no hand in creating. A learning experience can be a fun, visually appealing, multimedia, website exploring exciting resources like comic books. A learning experience can be a storytime that brings the benefits of positive representation to young children during important stages of their literacy development. A learning experience can be an infographic that incorporates color therapy, design principles, and best practices in synthesizing complex information into a targeted and easy to digest bite of information. I now know that I am more than fully capable of creating resources, artifacts, and content that provides carefully constructed and empathetic learning experiences.
Section 4 of 4:
How the Knowledge I Have Gained Will Influence Me in the Future, as an Information Professional
What I Bring to the Position, in Terms of Competency K:
I bring a passion for issues of equity, diversity, inclusion, and representation. I also bring the ability to translate that passion into my projects and into the learning experiences that I design. This can look like the graduate-level exploration of how communication and language styles can help dismantle systems of oppression that I wrote. It can look like the fun, colorful, website that I created, examining the importance of Kamala Khan, a Muslim, Pakistani-American teenager whose alter-ego is the comic book superhero Ms. Marvel. It can look like the digital book display I designed where I included virtual storytimes supportive of acceptance and joy. I bring the ability to design excellent learning experiences across a wide range of mediums and topics.
How My Learning in Competency K Will Contribute to My Professional Competence in the Future:
I am an excellent designer of learning experiences because I can apply learning principles and theories relating to anti-oppression work in a wide variety of environments. I have learned how to do this by creating a study, presented in the form of an interactive website, “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion/White Privilege Study in Children's Books”. Creating this study taught me to design a learning experience in a way that presented information in a buildable way, and that presented information in accessible and understandable methods. My understanding of designing learning experiences, including an extensive knowledge on a vast variety of materials, formats, and audiences, make me an outstanding choice to create learning experiences.
BookTube. (2020, October 22). Jason Reynolds: Honesty, joy, and anti-racism. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfmdmFYOyfc
Cardwell, E., Havard, J., Rao, A., Diaz, R., & Kunkel, J. (2019, Fall). Anti-Oppressive Composition Pedagogies. Radical Teacher, (115), 1+. https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A637808459/ITOF?u=csusj&sid=bookmark-ITOF&xid=4875ba70
Garran, A. M., Aymer, S., Gelman, C. R., & Miller, J. L. (2015). Team-Teaching Anti-Oppression with Diverse Faculty: Challenges and Opportunities. Social Work Education, 34(7), 799–814. https://doi-org.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/10.1080/02615479.2015.1062086
Maar, M., Bessette, N., McGregor, L., Lovelace, A., & Reade, M. (2020). Co-creating Simulated Cultural Communication Scenarios with Indigenous Animators: An Evaluation of Innovative Clinical Cultural Safety Curriculum. Journal of Medical Education and Curricular Development. https://doi.org/10.1177/238212052098048
Staff. (2019, June 19). An updated look at diversity in children’s books. School Library Journal. https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=an-updated-look-at-diversity-in-childrens-books
The University of British Columbia. (2021, August 18). Indigenous knowledge organization. LibGuides. https://guides.library.ubc.ca/c.php?g=307208&p=2049510#s-lg-box-6258579
Worth, S. (2019, March 22). This library takes an Indigenous approach to categorizing books. Yes! Solutions Journalism. https://www.yesmagazine.org/social-justice/2019/03/22/decolonize-western-bias-indigenous-library-books