Build Student Confidence Through Authentic Learning Experiences

March 7, 2022

Images of “Bibliocircuitry: Old Books, New Stories” artifacts and creators. Photographed by Katherine Perales, UNC-Chapel Hill.

Written by guest bloggers Laura March & Maggie Melo.

Can LIS curricula dedicated to makerspaces provide an authentic learning experience for future librarians interested in makerspace-adjacent careers? Our article, “By the Book: A Pedagogy of Authentic Learning Experiences for Emerging Makerspace Information Professionals,” illustrates how educators can use an authentic learning framework to help narrow the preparation gap in makerspaces. More specifically, we outline how one class project, named “Bibliocircuitry: Old Books, New Ideas,” challenged students to use their newly learned skills to upcycle a hardcover book into a personalized artifact.

We became interested in researching and sharing our experiences as educators to highlight the absence of formal LIS maker curricula and to reimagine current one-shot, pressured, makerspace training. In particular, we were surprised to find how this authentic experience facilitated deep reflection and ultimately fostered transformative joy through building confidence. 

Bolstering student confidence is especially important in our current era of uncertainty. While we’ve recently blogged about tackling perfectionism more generally, this study illustrates how incorporating authentic learning activities helps students overcome initial reticence and stress when faced with learning new technology and highlights the recursive nature of stress and achievement. As one student reflected, “Once I started working on the physical book, I got so into the process and generally felt that it was a thing I felt good about doing. I think that when I saw that certain parts were definitely going to work and [was] able to solve problems and fix mistakes were the individual moments when I most felt proud of myself.” Providing small and recurring victories reminds learners of the joy associated with making.

We challenge other instructors to create similar learning experiences by mapping their educational activities to Newmann and Wehlage’s (1993) standards of authentic instruction:

  1. Higher order thinking: Learners manipulate information and ideas to create their own meanings rather than simply reciting factual information.
  2. Depth of knowledge: Learners explore central ideas of a topic. Connections are made to previous material without forcing students to gain large quantities of superficial, fragmented information.
  3. Connectedness to the world: Learners tackle real-world problems and/or use personal experiences as a context for applying knowledge.
  4. Substantive conversation: Learners interact with each other often, sharing is not completely scripted or controlled, and dialogue promotes improved group understanding.
  5. Social support for student achievement: Educators have high expectations as well as respect and include all students in learning activities.

Author headshot

Maggie (Maggie) Melo, School of Information Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is an assistant professor in the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the director of the Equity in the Making Lab.

Twitter handle: @marijel_melo

Author headshot

Laura March, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is a PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and explores the many intersections of education, technology, and creativity. Her website is

Twitter handle: @theartofmarch

Their article, “By the Book: A Pedagogy of Authentic Learning Experiences for Emerging Makerspace Information Professionals” was published online with the Journal of Education for Library and Information Science through Advance Access.

The UTP Journals blog features guest posts from our authors. The opinions expressed in these posts may not necessarily represent those of UTP Journals and their clients.

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