Getting it wrong

One of my recent workshops went less smoothly than I like, so I can’t stop analyzing (possibly obsessing over) what went wrong. What it felt like from my perspective is that I wasn’t adequately prepared. This was the first of a new workshop series that I have not taught before. So the content is a little rough. The workshops were originally planned as in-person workshops with significant time spent on activities. That all changed when requests to stream the workshop came in and I decided to move away from the activities. In hindsight, shifting completely away from the hands-on activities that drive discussion towards examples should have been a red flag. I really struggle with lecturing for more than 10-15 minutes at a time, so I try to intersperse in-depth examples or activities to engage my audience. Time constraints kept me from developing the exercises as thoroughly as they could have been, so engagement was fairly low.

I’ve been exploring the use of different types of examples for a little over a year now. Developing strong examples is time-consuming, particularly when the audience is diverse and/or unknown (as is the case for walk-in workshops). I’ve found very few ready-to-use examples for data management/data literacy, so I’ve been adapting and creating my own. It’s possible that I’m not devoting enough prep time to this aspect of the workshops, or I need some skill development…or both. Before the next workshop, the plan is to dive into the instructional research a bit more and reach out to my colleagues who are instructional heavyweights. Also, I can’t wait for our new educational services librarian to start next month.

Another source of discomfort during the workshop came from trying to balance the in-person audience with the online attendees as a sole presenter. This split my attentional focus and made it difficult to get into the flow. Either I need more practice with this or I need to ask a colleague to help me manage the online attendees.

It’s also possible that the content in these workshops is better suited to another format, such as brief tutorials, with examples and templates that speak to the variety of ways the tools are implemented across fields of research. Creating modular instructional products that can be used in the classroom or independently is at the top of my list for the summer. Learning how to document research is so context specific and highly variable that workshops may not fit the bill.

Getting it wrong is really uncomfortable, but it’s a reminder that I’m still learning and stretching myself. This is what our students feel like a lot of the time. How do we provide the emotional support for the confusion and discomfort that happens just before real learning? Anyway, I’m leaning in to the discomfort and wringing every insight I can out of it until I have to move on to the next deadline.

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4 comments on “Getting it wrong

  1. Sorry to hear that your workshop didn’t go as well as planned!

    The phrase “you can’t please all the people all the time” comes to mind when reading your explanation about the requests for streaming your workshop. Trying to fit an in-person workshop to meet the needs of online attendees is darn hard, as you discovered. I wonder if offering your workshop in-person only is an option for next time?

    • Very true. I’ve been thinking of these general workshops as discussion starters and a way to raise awareness. This worked last semester, but I wasn’t trying to stream concurrently…I need to rethink how to offer the content to remote viewers.

  2. Thank you for being open and honest about your not-so-great workshop. Goodness knows, I’ve given a couple of these in the last few years.

    The good news is that, for all I feel bad right after the workshop ends, my next workshops are usually better because I’ve learned from the bad.

    And I too have trouble with the hands-on aspect of teaching data management, especially because because it’s so context-dependent and I’m usually just happy to get people at my workshops that I want to cover several big ideas. If you do come up with some great examples, I hope that you will share them!

  3. It definitely feels like I learn more from the failures and not-so-successful workshops than I do the smooth ones…but I worry about whether the students got anything out of them. It’s so hard to get people to show up to our in-person workshops that aren’t course related that I try not to squander that opportunity and often try to include too much.

    I will definitely be sharing the examples, great and not great. More on this later this semester. There are so many great minds in the data librarian community, I’m excited to see how others adapt and improve on what I’ve done.

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