Over the past two weeks, Georgina Cronin of the Moore Library has been running a series of lunchtime sessions aimed at researchers. Dubbed ‘March Munches’, these have covered everything from data sharing to social media and online presence. This was training in bite-sized sessions — half an hour’s presentation, bookended with free lunch at the beginning and time for questions at the end. I’m always interested in seeing what colleagues in other libraries are doing with regard to training in order to see if I can learn new tricks about how best to present different kinds of information to my students, so I went along to one such session. This covered ‘Selfish Reasons to Work Reproducibly’, and while I was interested in the content, I was particularly keen to see how the format worked, especially given Georgina would only have a short amount of time to cover such a complex topic.
The session was well attended — although it took place in a fairly large room, pretty much every table was full, with hungry grad students no doubt lured in by the prospect of free food (as well as the chance to learn). Given she only had half an hour, Georgina opted, wisely, to deliver the content lecture-style with slides, rather than in a more interactive, hands-on manner. She made good use of high profile examples where researchers hadn’t worked reproducibly, and had later been found out, and the damage this had done to their careers.
This is a technique I often make use of in my own teaching, as I find personal stories (whether of high-profile researchers caught fabricating data, or of my own experiences as a PhD student and things I would have done differently in hindsight) can make more of an impact and ensure that information is retained. People will often forget the contents of a contextless set of instructions, but they will remember a story or anecdote. It was helpful, therefore, to see that other library staff with responsibility for teaching make use of this technique, and confirmed that this aspect of my teaching is something that I should continue to implement.
Brief, lunchtime sessions are a format of teaching that we’ve been trying to institute in my library, with rather mixed results, so it was helpful for me to see that it is possible to deliver teaching in a similar library in this format — and I doubt that the prospect of some free sandwiches was the only reason for this event’s popularity at the Moore. Attending this session at the Moore has prompted me to rethink my own library’s attempt at lunchtime teaching to see if a slight tweaking of the content, promotion and format might make it work better. I’ll try to update here about this, so watch this space!