More Research Needed on Librarian Teaching Anxiety

Stephanie J. Schulte

Abstract


A Review of: Davis, Kaetrena D. “The Academic Librarian as Instructor: A Study of Teacher Anxiety.” College & Undergraduate Libraries 14.2 (2007):77-101.

Objective – To identify the types of librarian teaching anxiety and the coping mechanisms that often accompany it and to compare those findings with those described by Showalter in “Teaching Literature”; also, to examine whether perceptions of librarians from both inside and outside the profession influence teaching anxiety.

Design – A 35-item online questionnaire created using Zoomerang; a link to the questionnaire was distributed through the Information Literacy Instruction Listserv (ILI-L).

Subjects – Subscribers to ILI-L. There were approximately 3,700 subscribers to ILI-L at the time of the study. This electronic mailing list is sponsored by the Instruction Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries and is moderated.

Methods – As previously mentioned, a link to the questionnaire was distributed via the ILI-L. Requests for participation were sent to the list three times during the six weeks the survey was open for responses. The questionnaire consisted primarily of multiple choice questions, several with the option to enter a free text “Other” response, as well as four Likert-type questions. After the survey closed, the collected data was analyzed using SPSS. The article did not indicate when the survey was completed.

Main Results – 687 responses were collected. Of those, 657 were completed. Surveys were assessed for accuracy, during which 305 responses were eliminated, resulting in 382 “viable” responses (84). Accuracy assessments consisted of throwing out surveys in which respondents answered questions inappropriately, however, an explanation of what constituted an inappropriate response is not included.

Nearly three quarters of respondents (74%) indicated they enjoyed teaching. This trend did not appear to be related to the number of years of experience as a librarian. The majority of respondents (58%) had never taught full semester or quarter courses, whereas “virtually all” (86) had taught one-shot instructional sessions. Sixty-three percent of respondents noted being nervous prior to teaching. Although 40% of respondents noted having no physical symptoms of anxiety, of those who did, the main symptoms included sweating and upset stomach. Sixty-five percent of respondents noted experiencing mental or emotional symptoms, mainly identified as worries about being sufficiently prepared and answering tough questions (40%) and fear of public speaking (27%). These mental and emotional symptoms were noted to occur often in the case of 29% of respondents, and at least some of the time in 41% of respondents. Nearly three quarters of the respondents reported using personal strategies for dealing with teaching anxiety, including over-preparation, joining groups where they were able to practice public speaking, and prayer. Most (84%) did not have routines or rituals that they followed prior to teaching.

Some additional findings were presented regarding librarians’ perceptions of themselves as well as perceptions of librarians by other faculty. Eighty-four percent of respondents agreed or somewhat agreed that there are many differences in the roles and duties of librarians and paraprofessionals, while 78% agreed or somewhat agreed that faculty do not understand the librarian’s teaching role. Thirty-five percent noted defending teaching roles to other librarians.

Conclusion – The role of librarians in academic institutions continues to evolve and include more teaching. As an increasing number of librarians regularly teach and move to teaching semester-long credit courses, the subject of teaching anxiety will continue to grow in importance. This small study draws attention to the need for more research in this area.

Keywords


teaching anxiety; academic librarians

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