Saturday, January 28, 2006


The glazed looks... The students IMing during your carefully prepared database demonstrations... An instruction librarian's worst nightmares! How can librarians motivate their students to actively engage instructional content? This issue has produced a flurry of e-mail as of late on the Information Literacy and Instruction listserv. (See, for example, these messages.) The answers have ranged from "give 'em chocolate" (an idea that a good friend of mine challenged) to "let the students teach the class." The consensus, though, seems to be that instructional content must be connected to course content (so students see the relevance of the material) and that sessions must include a healthy amount of active learning (so that students take responsibility for their own learning and "construct" their own knowledge).

In my first several months as an "instruction/reference" librarian, I have been experimenting. Like everyone else, I have had my successes and failures. Here's my general format: Each session includes some brief demonstrations. Then students are turned loose on an "assignment" that requires them to demonstrate their understanding of the material, as well as provide them with some initial sources for their research projects. The assignments are then submitted to me online, where I can provide each student with individual comments. Not only does this give me a chance to make an individual connection with each student, it also helps me assess the effectiveness of my teaching (ostensibly, if students successfully complete my assignments, they have mastered the objectives I set for the session). I also prepare course pages for each class I teach, so students can come back if they forget a resource or strategy I taught during the session. If any of you are interested in seeing my activities and course pages, please e-mail me.

Next week will be busy for me. I'll be teaching a session for the Eastern religions class on Monday, a session for the biblical interpretation course on Tuesday, and a session on finding secondary sources for a history course on Wednesday.

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