The purpose of this paper is to call into question the most longstanding pedagogical practices in academia while analyzing their potential to foster student creativity and innovation in the classroom. While some suggestions advanced in this paper may not have the same importance in other fields and disciplines, they are highly relevant in the applied, interdisciplinary, and very fast moving field of Library and Information Science (LIS).
Positioning creativity as a teachable skill and relying on the learner-centered pedagogy of Carl Rogers, the paper presents a model that can serve as a litmus test for the creative potential of graduate-level assignments in LIS programs. The model is called “Walls,” “Doors,” and “Fences” (WalDorF); these terms refer to specific statements in graduate assignment descriptions that are necessary (“Walls”); conducive to creative expression (“Doors”); or unjustifiably restrictive (“Fences”). The paper uses a sample assignment from a “Foundations of LIS” course to illustrate the model; it also provides several examples of the WalDorF model application in other LIS courses.
Using the WalDorF model, the paper revisits and challenges some of the most common pedagogical practices in graduate LIS teaching, including the prevalence of written papers as course assignments; the implications of equating “research” with an overview of secondary literature; the need for professors’ approvals of research topics; the meaning of the “quality of writing;” the imperative of “academic” writing as opposed to other types of writing; the word/page limit; the use of standardized reference styles; the class participation requirement; and the late assignment policies, among others.
The real change in education is foundational and goes beyond cosmetic improvements. If we want to develop learning experiences that tap into students’ creative potential, the very core of our approaches needs to be scrutinized and questioned, even the centuries-old staples of academic teaching. At the end of the day, we may decide that changing things is not in the best interests of learning. However, a complete critical analytical work must be done to convince and reassure ourselves that tried-and-true methods are the best way to go. The proposed WalDorF model presents one possible frame for critical revision.
The author thanks everyone who participated in the session for interactive engagement (SIE) titled “From Information Professionals to Information Creatives: On Educating Future Generations in iSchools,” at the 2016 iConference in Philadelphia, PA, USA (March, 2016). The author is especially grateful to the session co-organizer Dr Nadia Caidi (University of Toronto) and to Dr Bill Kules (University of Maryland) and Dr Paul F. Marty (Florida State University) for their contribution to the model discussion during the conference session. She also thanks Laina Kelly (University of Alberta) for her help with citation verification. Last but not least, the author thanks Dr John Burgess (University of Alabama) for suggesting the compact “WalDorF” abbreviation for the proposed model.
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