Community Informatics · Syllabi · Teaching

New Class: Informal Learning Spaces and Pedagogies

I am so excited to share this working draft syllabus, updated 7/21/15, (bibliography posted separately) for a new class I am developing to teach fall 2015.

  • Title: Informal Learning Spaces and Pedagogies
  • Meeting Time: Tuesday, 9-11:50, August 25 – December 8
  • Meeting Location: Library and Information Science Building, room 341
  • Prerequisites: none — open to all graduate students and upper-level undergraduates


This course will explore the design of space and pedagogy for informal learning in libraries, museums, the workplace, and other collaborative spaces. We will investigate together a variety of informal learning spaces such as information and learning commons, learning labs, and Makerspaces to understand the impact environment has on learning, and will review key literature concerning informal learning pedagogy and critical sociotechnical perspectives on technology and society. We will also consider qualitative and quantitative evaluation strategies for measuring output and impact of design of space and programming for informal learning in libraries, museums, and other public venues.

Learning Objectives:

We will work collaboratively to answer the following core guiding questions:

  1. What is informal learning?
  2. How can we design the built environment to better support informal learning?
  3. How can the LIS professional better support informal learning?
  4. How can we evaluate design and pedagogy of informal learning in relation to stakeholder goals?

An overarching question will also inform our work over the course of the semester: “How can we regularly bring into dialogue our lived and academic theoretical perspectives as informed by our personal and shared histories, culture, race, and other social contexts as part of LIS professional life so as to create a more just society?”

Required Texts:

None. Readings will be selected collaboratively in support of guiding questions as described below.

Attendance, Participation, and Statement of Inclusion:

Students are expected to attend all class sessions except in case of emergency. If you have an emergency, communicate with the instructor as early as possible to prevent negatively impacting your grade.

This class will serve as a professional community of practice collaboratively researching the topic of informal learning spaces and pedagogies. Further, the community of practice will be extended to the broader community through our regular participation with professional staff through the service-learning component of the class. We stand in full agreement with the Chancellor’s Commitment Statement (

As the state’s premier public university, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s core mission is to serve the interests of the diverse people of the state of Illinois and beyond. The institution thus values inclusion and a pluralistic learning and research environment, one which we respect the varied perspectives and lived experiences of a diverse community and global workforce. We support diversity of worldviews, histories, and cultural knowledge across a range of social groups including race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, abilities, economic class, religion, and their intersections.

As such, active participation is therefore expected not only to satisfy requirement to earn course credit, but as a professional courtesy to these communities of practice. Our communities of practice are vitally enriched when each participant contributes to fieldwork and class discussion by bringing into dialogue their unique perspectives and lived experiences. On the other hand, failure to fully prepare each week for participation in fieldwork and class discussion weakens the community of practice by less-than-fully bringing into dialogue your diverse worldview, history, and cultural knowledge.

Assignments and Methods of Assessment:

Students will be graded on a 90% (A), 80% (B), 70% (C), 60% (D) scale. Graded assignments and the overall percentage for each category of assignments are listed below.

Concept Papers (40%)

There will be an approximately 1000 word research paper plus bibliography due in response to each of the four guiding covered during the course of the semester. In support of the research for these papers, weekly class meetings will be used to:

  • Identify sub-questions and research themes related to the guiding question;
  • Identify potential resources related to the sub-questions and research themes;
  • Discuss our interpretations of the resources in light of our personal histories, race and culture, and lived experiences; and
  • Develop a framework for better practices as LIS professionals in support of informal learning spaces and pedagogies.

Analysis of an Informal Learning Space in a Library, Museum, or other public or private collaborative space (32% of grade):

This final project is a 2500-3000 word paper plus references that analyzes an informal learning space in a library, museum, or other public/private collaborative venue. You may do the investigation in collaboration with another class member. The length of the paper doesn’t change if it is done in collaboration with another student, however I expect that the depth of information that goes into the paper to be greater.

Students are highly encouraged to consult with regular staff of the space to develop guiding questions to be addressed as part of the analysis so as to better serve the interests of the host organization and their community.

The analysis must include various sources of information, such as:

  • Your own experiences gained by volunteering at least 30 hours in support of the programming within the space (per person if paper is written in collaboration with another student);
  • An interview with one or more regular staff (paid or volunteer) and one or more active users of the space;
  • Readings, including but not limited to those on the resource bibliography for the course
  • Websites with resources on the programming and the organization
  • The organization’s mission and identified goals in the area

The analysis should incorporate an overview of the informal learning space, an analysis of the space and program design inspirations, a consideration of several examples of successful and failed uses of the informal learning space, and strategies used to evaluate the overall impact of the space. For full credit, the paper should make clear connections between the analysis of the informal learning space and the primary literature reviewed for the class.

Site Coordinator Evaluation (18% of grade):

Each student will work with the instructor to identify a host organization engaged in informal learning in some way with which they will volunteer at least 30 hours in support of programming. Students also agree to attend any initial training required to fulfill that volunteer position if this is not an organization with which they are already serving. This service-learning opportunity should be viewed as a professional activity and be treated as such. As such, students should treat this activity as a priority in their schedule, should report on time to their volunteer shifts, should work in advance with the site coordinator to reschedule if an unavoidable conflict arises, and should critically reflect on the lessons learned and incorporate these lessons into class discussions and their research papers.

The site coordinator will be asked to provide a review based on the following items using the scale: 3 – Exceeded expectations; 2 – Met expectations; 1 – Partially missed expectations; 0 – Completely missed expectations. The scores from each of the six rating items below will be summed together to arrive at a total site coordinator score:

  • Reliability/Commitment to Job
  • Quality/Quantity of Work
  • Human Relations Skills
  • Teamwork/Cooperation
  • Initiative and Creativity
  • Overall Performance

Instructor Evaluation (10% of grade):

The instructor will evaluate student attendance, active participation, and overall progress throughout the course of the semester. The following rubric will be used to assign a score mid-semester and again at the end of the semester. These will be averaged together to create the final score.

  • 10 = Student has been an active participant in class discussions, bringing to the class insights from their interpretations of readings and lived experiences and is demonstrating an increasing grasp of the key concepts covered in class.
  • 8 = Student has been an active participant in some of the class discussions and is demonstrating some gains in grasping key concepts covered in class.
  • 6 = Student is occasionally active in class and is demonstrating some learning, but it is clear they are not performing to their full capabilities
  • 4 = Student has missed several classes and/or is not always active when attending class
  • 0 = Student has consistently missed class during the rated period

Reflections on Readings (Maximum 10% Extra Credit):

Each week students are encouraged to post a three to five paragraph reply to the weekly reading discussion thread for the week. If done within a week of the date of the readings (e.g., for the “Readings for August 25” posting, the reply must be made before September 1st), students will receive one point. A maximum of 10 extra points (10% of total grade) may be earned. Reflections should not only be based on selected readings for the week, but also on past readings (for class and outside of class), fieldwork, and personal histories.

Library Resources:;; 217-333-3804

Academic Integrity:

Students should review and follow the University policy on academic integrity, available online at: . When you submit an assignment, you are certifying that the work is your own, or that of your project group, and that all use of other people’s material is used in accordance to fair use and copyright policies and is properly referenced.

Accessibility Statement:

To obtain accessibility-related academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids, students with disabilities must contact the course instructor and the Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES) as soon as possible. To contact DRES you may visit 1207 S. Oak St., Champaign, call 333-4603 (V/TTY), or e-mail a message to

Organization and Course Calendar:

The following is a tentative chronological list of the main topics that will be covered. This schedule is subject to change. Please refer to the online course Moodle page for the definitive schedule for any given week, including specific readings that should be completed prior to the class session.

  • Week 1-4: What is informal learning?
  • Week 5-8: How can we design the built environment to better support informal learning?
  • Week 9-12: How can the LIS professional better support informal learning?
  • Week 13-15: How can we evaluate design and pedagogy of informal learning in relation to stakeholder goals?

Copyright: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

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