Last updated July 4, 2020

Teaching Philosophy

I believe a key purpose of a university is to be a successful learning environment for students’ lives and careers. A university degree should prepare students in both theory and practice that can help inform not just their first job after graduation, but the breadth and depth of their professional career. My aim is to have students not just pass an individual course or even earn an individual degree, but to be able to build throughout their careers on the learning experiences I help facilitate. To achieve this in my teaching, advising, supervising, and mentoring, I do my best to facilitate a collaborative and creative learning community, one that can benefit students both during and beyond any individual course. I encourage constructive communication and interaction between students and with myself as instructor, offering detailed and useful feedback to students throughout each course. I also do my best to address the varied strengths and interests of student learners. I am grateful for having experienced and helped facilitate many such learning communities, with strong interactions and addressing students’ multiple strengths and interests, as a student, teaching assistant, and instructor, and continue to draw on these.

Students display a diverse range of learning styles, strengths, interests, intelligences, and community ties beyond the classroom (Edutopia, 2016; Kazmer, 2005; Smith, 2008). Most students will be motivated best by and learn best from a combination of educational approaches drawing on their preferences, interests, and multiple intelligences. While I cannot address every possibility, I try to use methods and strategies that align best with the course objectives and purpose, students, and learning community, drawing on my own research and knowledge, within the constraints and context of course structure, time, and other resources. This requires knowing and acknowledging students’ learning styles and varying strengths and interests, addressing them in activities and assignments. It requires respecting students, their other obligations, and their diversities, so as to uphold my responsibility and commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and respect in higher education and the library and information studies field. It requires keeping open lines of communication and in interaction with and assisting students, encouraging them to interact with and help each other and to show respect to me and each other in return. Finally, it requires realizing my limits in and biases towards teaching and mentoring.

I value, support, and facilitate such an environment and community using the most appropriate direct and indirect strategies within a structured and focused, but also appropriately flexible course. I enjoy having students grasp concepts and apply them creatively to new and exciting situations, sharing, communicating, creating, and applying knowledge in a course, degree program, and beyond. Facilitating a collaborative and creative learning community, and the mutual experiences students and I share in one, allows me to support their short- and long-term success as information professionals and the purposes of the university and their degree program.

I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your course this semester. … You made the online format of this course feel personal and immersive, more like an on-campus course than other online courses I have taken, so I am very grateful for that.

- unsolicited student email, LIS 501 Fall 2017 (online)

Teaching Contexts and Experiences

My five years as an assistant professor at the University of Alberta School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) include teaching 19 sections of four different courses (plus one directed study) in the Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) degree program, a total of 385 students (averaging 77 per year) enrolled in these. The MLIS is a program accredited by the American Library Association, incorporating student learning outcomes per course and broader program-level learning outcomes that students map their ePortfolios to in their capping exercise (LIS 600), assessed by SLIS faculty as their academic advisors. Following my teaching philosophy I have used a variety of assessments in courses where students can learn and apply their skills creatively, sharing their knowledge within and beyond the classroom learning community and in alignment with these learning outcomes. I wish to focus on two of these four courses—which I have both taught the most and am most proud of—and how my pedagogy and instruction in each has been informed by my teaching philosophy.

LIS 501 Foundations of Library and Information Studies

Every year while an assistant professor I have taught the online sections of SLIS’s LIS 501 core course, required of MLIS students. I teach about 50-60 students across two sections each fall term, a total of 274 students across five years in LIS 501. The course provides newly admitted MLIS students from across Canada and beyond with an introduction to the historical, current, and potential roles of libraries and of library and information professionals in western society.

In LIS 501 I give students multiple opportunities to engage with and synthesize what they are learning in collaborative learning communities. This includes weekly discussions, responding to carefully crafted prompts, in smaller groups of 5-8 students; and “virtual seminar” group projects they lead broader discussions of. Students’ multiple intelligences, preferences, and strengths are accounted for through diverse course materials: text readings, audio and video interviews with librarians and information professionals, podcasts, and text and audio summaries and reflections from myself. Students also complete a variety of assignments requiring them to write, present, discuss, and reflect; observing and reflecting on a local library or information organization, integrating and presenting knowledge about key historical figures in the LIS field, creating a “virtual seminar” web site under a relevant professional scenario, and reflecting on their beliefs about the LIS field and profession at the end of the course. I also ensure I communicate frequently with students and offer sustained and helpful feedback, particularly as these new students get settled into the course and their MLIS program. In USRIs, emails, and informal feedback at library association conferences students have expressed strong appreciation for the instruction, learning community, and professional belonging I have helped facilitate.

Adam provided amazing learning opportunities through relevant readings, assignments, and videos. A survey course is not easy to prepare and I felt the scope and sequence of the course made sense and was in a great order. I really appreciated the extensive feedback on initial posts and assignments. … Adam is a wonderful professor to teach this first course of the program. I can tell that he cares very much about the profession and all of the first year newbies!

- student USRI feedback, LIS 501 Fall 2018 (online)

LIS 598 Technology, Information, and Society

By invitation of then-SLIS Chair Toni Samek, I developed from scratch this IT-designated elective course for MLIS students (one of five options for their two required IT-designated courses), teaching it during four of my five winter terms at SLIS. The course draws on and connects to my research agenda, engaging students in a critical and interdisciplinary examination of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the contexts of libraries and information organizations, incorporating human (e.g. human-computer interaction), social (e.g. social informatics), and critical (e.g. social justice) perspectives to examine the complex relationships between technology, information, and society. Enrolments have ranged from 13–21 students per section, totalling 77 (plus one auditor) over three on-campus and two online sections. I successfully shepherded the course through its approval as a permanent part of the MLIS curriculum; as of 2020–21 it is in the University Calendar as LIS 530.

In Technology, Information, and Society I again include a variety of course materials and assignments, all to encourage students in different ways to critically and carefully assess, critique, and reflect on technology design, implementation, adoption, and use in libraries and information organizations. Connections between theory and practice are another common theme across lectures, discussions, and assignments. Students thus come away from the course with skills and knowledge that can benefit them across their career, even as technology is ever-changing. A collaborative learning community emerges alongside students’ display of skills and knowledge in written work, group and classroom discussions, “discussion leading” presentations, and a culminating LIS Technology Case Study where they apply what they have learned in significant, critical evaluation of an LIS technology in context. In addition to this diversity the course also offers flexibility; students have the option of completing any two of three written report assignments relating to the human, social, and critical perspectives covered, based on personal interest and context. These pedagogical techniques address students’ varied interests and strengths well, while maintaining a broader collaborative learning community that benefits all of us during and beyond our time together.

Probably the most useful class I’ve taken at SLIS. Learned a lot that is actually useful. Loved the discussion …. All the assignments aided in learning and applying knowledge in a way that appealed to each individual student. Professor’s feedback and professor came in well prepared. Guest lectures strongly added to discussion.

- student USRI feedback, LIS 598 Technology, Information, and Society Winter 2016 (on-campus)

Research and Service Contexts

My teaching at SLIS is also in the context of my mutually complementary research interests, service activities, and skills and abilities as an information professional. My research on the sociotechnical contexts of ICTs and the information behaviour and information practices of users of ICTs in such contexts has informed my teaching of LIS 543 Human Information Interaction and LIS 598 Technology, Information, and Society, as has my service to the Association for Information Science and Technology and its special interest groups for information needs, seeking, and use and social informatics. My use of multiple, mixed research methods provides an excellent basis for teaching how to conduct research in academic and professional environments, informing all four courses I have taught at SLIS. My teaching in LIS 501 is also informed by the breadth of my knowledge of and service in the LIS field, and my overall philosophy that library and information science is not two separate fields, but one field of research, theory, and practice.

In relation to teaching, advising, and supervision I aim to be a consistent voice, as part of my service to the School, in SLIS’s Academic Council faculty meetings, Curriculum Committee discussions, and our Teaching Symposium events that occur most years. Finally, since my move to Canada in 2015 I have learned about and begun to engage in truth and reconciliation efforts as part of SLIS, the Faculty of Education, the University of Alberta, and the broader community, including teaching, advising, mentoring, and discussion with Indigenous students and instructors in the MLIS program. I look forward to continuing this important and critical work moving forward, as it reinforces and aligns with my values of encouraging and being part of a reflective and collaborative learning community.

...Adam was able to easily clarify and expand [on readings] (obviously an expert). The article presentation assignment ensured that all students had an in-depth grasp of theory and it fostered peer learning. ... Adam is a respected and appreciated professor and a real asset to SLIS.

- student USRI feedback, LIS 598 Technology, Information, and Society Winter 2016 (on-campus)

Advising and Supervision

I have been part of three thesis supervisory committees (none as the student’s direct supervisor): two dual-degree students (MA in Digital Humanities / MLIS), and one pure MLIS student. This is in the context of very few on-campus MLIS students choosing to complete the thesis option and online students not having this option. I do hope in the future to be part of further thesis committees and to supervise students, developing a stronger thesis supervision philosophy.

My academic advising workload has been significant; I have averaged about 40 advisees each year at SLIS, advising a total of 95 students (including 58 MLIS graduates) during my five years. This includes evaluating and assessing anywhere from 2-8 of their ePortfolios each term for the LIS 600 Capping Exercise, which students complete in their final term and align to SLIS’s program-level learning outcomes. I answer questions in their run-up to completing this ePortfolio, then evaluate each one and provide feedback and assessment, multiple rounds if and when necessary.

My philosophy to academic advising of students builds on many of the same student- and community-focused tenets that are seen in my teaching philosophy, seeking to help students progress not just through an individual term, but through their degree program and towards their professional career. I encourage and model open communication and interaction between my advisees and myself as their academic advisor. I also try to address the diversities of interests, learning styles, demographics, and contexts that our students find themselves with and in. I strive to communicate with advisees via at least one email every term, to encourage them to check-in with any concerns or issues they may face; provide them with requested and helpful information on course offerings, scholarships, and other educational activities (e.g. study abroad) that could be of interest, as well as relevant departmental and university policies; and appropriately balance the needs, interests, and goals of student advisees with SLIS policies, procedures, and available resources, serving well in the resulting dual role of student advocate and university employee.