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Meet the TATIL Advisory Board: Dominique Turnbow

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Dominique Turnbow

Dominique Turnbow
is Instructional Design Coordinator for the UC San Diego Library in La Jolla, California, USA. She joined the TATIL Advisory Board in 2014 and has been a key contributor to the development of the Threshold Achievement Test for Information Literacy (TATIL). In this interview she describes her work as an instructional designer, her focus on student learning, and the challenges of bringing Design Thinking to academic library instruction.


Q: Dominique, thank you for your time. Let's start with you telling us about your job.

Dominique: I am an Instructional Design Librarian at the University of California, San Diego. I work closely with our Instructional Technologies Librarian to design, develop, and deliver information literacy learning objects. My part in this process is largely focused working with faculty and liaison librarians to understand what they want students to learn. I use systematic processes grounded in instructional design theory and practice to translate historically in-person instruction to an online environment. I love being able to look at an instructional challenge from a 10,000 foot perspective and create big-picture solutions. The solution typically has a few components, including an online learning object. A big part of the work I do is to also create ways to evaluate the effectiveness of our work and assess student learning.

Q: Would you give some examples of learning objects?

Dominique: We use the term “learning object” to describe any online learning we develop. So, this could take the different forms such as:

  • a short screencast showing someone how to navigate a database
  • a video that uses hand drawings (like the “story of stuff” on YouTube) to illustrate the research process for chemistry
  • a more robust tutorial that covers multiple outcomes

Q: Why did you join the TATIL Advisory Board?

Dominique: I was excited to be a part of a group thinking about institution-wide information literacy assessment. While we aren’t doing this at UC San Diego yet, I feel strongly about libraries conducting this type of assessment in order to show their value to campus administrators.

Q: Please tell us about a project you are currently working on.

Dominique: We are currently working on creating an online learning object to teach lower division undergraduate students in a writing program how to use primary sources in their papers. While the focus of many things we’ve seen is on the difference between these types of sources, ours will delve into using them in their writing.

Q: Do you teach? How has your approach to teaching changed since you started your career?

Dominique: Currently, the only in-person teaching I do is delivering information literacy workshops designed by our Instruction Coordinator. My job is mostly focused on helping my colleagues design their in-person instruction or designing our online learning objects. In the past, I taught in-person workshops to undergraduate and graduate students mostly in the biological sciences or medicine.

The biggest “thing” that has changed my approach to teaching since I began my career in 2002 is technology. My pursuit to incorporate technology into my workshops was what led me to explore instructional design in the first place. I’ve since discovered many more ways instructional design can positively impact our work as instruction librarians. With regard to teaching specifically, however, the biggest change to my approach as a result of instructional design is moving from “teaching students how to do research” to “teaching students the skills they need to do their research.” The former is focused on imparting knowledge where the latter is focused on behaviors. You can observe (and assess) behaviors; you can’t observe knowledge. This shift has also led me to embrace the ways in which performance support can positively impact our students. With performance support, your focus is on helping students complete a discrete task. Incorporating performance support challenges us to focus our instruction on the research skills students need to complete their assignments. If students have a solid understanding, they are building blocks for the many other information literacy concepts we hope they will learn in the future.

Q: What types of information literacy assessment have you done?

Dominique: The assessment that I’ve been focused on is related to our online learning objects. There are unique challenges to creating assessments for an environment where you never see the learners and also don’t have an opportunity for following up with them. We draw heavily on instructional design research in corporate training for our ideas because designers in that environment are expected to show that their training contributes to the return on investment.

Q: Please tell us about a recent professional development activity. What was it and how was it valuable to you?

Dominique: This past Spring, I attended a preconference about Design Thinking at the Association for Talent Development conference. Design Thinking is quite the buzz word and I had read a lot about it, but I was struggling to apply it to our unique environment at an academic research library. The preconference provided me with the opportunity to put this approach into practice and reflect on concrete ways I could incorporate it into our design process. As a result, I’ve modified our process to incorporate learners (or the next best thing, teaching assistants) into our design process earlier. The primary sources object we are currently working on is the first application of this so I’m not sure how it will work out yet 🙂

Thank you, Dominique!