Practically Speaking:
Teaching Tips for Information Literacy Instruction

What are your favorite teaching techniques? This is the place to share your hints, tips and ideas for effective information literacy instruction. Some of Joan’s ideas are included to start things off. If you have comments on these tips or wish to share some of your own, please Contact Joan.

Ending on the Upbeat

How you end your time with your learners is just as important as how you “hook” them in at the start. Always end with some kind of active, fun, and upbeat exercise that allows learners to review the material. Giving learners time to reflect on the material, and allowing them to put it into their own words, increases the chances that learners will transfer the information to new learning situations in the future. An extra bonus is that these “checks for comprehension” activities can serve as ways to assess the instructional effectiveness. And you do not have to make these activities up yourself. Check out Classroom Assessment Techniques by Angelo and Cross to find some great ideas. I like to do these closure activities as a group brainstorming exercise – especially in the one-shot situation – so that everyone has the benefit of hearing these final thoughts. However, they could also be done in writing and collected for later analysis. Even if you have your learners spend a minute or two reflecting on their experience and writing up their thoughts, you could still ask for a few people to offer their ideas verbally. Here are just a few examples.

Getting More Bang for Your Instructional Buck

I often hear ILI librarians lament that although they agree that assessment is important, they just don’t have enough time in their sessions to actual do it. However, the fact of the matter is that if you don’t assess the expected learning outcomes you set for the instruction, you have no way of judging the effectiveness of your teaching.

Here’s where being a learner-centered activities based teacher comes in handy. All those exercises, discussions, hands-on practice activities as well as the closure examples discussed above can serve as informal assessments opportunities. When you include small group problem-solving activities, or hands-on practice experiences, you can observe how well your learners can apply what has been shared. Discussions and structured question and answer segments offer you a great way to do comprehension checks and to point out places where you might need to go back and review something if your learners seem confused or have gotten some misconceptions about the material.

End your session with an upbeat and entertaining closing activity and your learners will not only have been given the chance to summarize and review the material in a fun and engaging manner, you will get some insight into what they are taking with them from the instruction. Plus they will be leaving on an energized and positive note. Your learners may even go out and spread the word that ILI in your library is kind of cool as well as useful and informative.

Hook ‘em in or Soak ‘em Up –
How to get learners attention in the crucial first 5 minutes

You can win or lose your audience in the first five minutes. So it is important to engage and involve learners from the get go. Plan a hook, sponge or “go” activity for people to “soak” people up as they arrive and immediately make them part of the learning process For example you could:

Using a sponge activity sets the tone for your instruction, and lets people know that you care about what they think. It creates a learner-centered atmosphere from the start and shows that you are serious about sharing the responsibility for learning with your learners.

Less is More – The Three-tiered Outline Approach

Worried that you will run out of time when you are planning your instructional session? Remember the “less is more” rule. Try to concentrate on the most important things you want learners to take away with them. There is so much to share and often so little time to share it. We want to include everything we think they might need – especially if we think this is the only time we may work with these particular learners

To deal with this problem try the three-tier approach to outlining or notes preparation. Once you have prepared your outline and/or notes, try to break your material into three levels. The first level contains the crucial material you feel the learners absolutely need to know. The second level has the “it would be nice if I could get it in” stuff. The third level contains the bonus information or “bells and whistles” stuff that the learners really do not need to know but might be of some interest to them.

Designate the levels in some fashion. For example you could highlight the notes, using three different colors, to indicate the three levels. Include timing notations on your outline to indicate when you need to move on to the next segment. Add or skip over material as you go based on how you are doing time-wise. Make sure you have a clock or watch with you so you can keep track. The more you practice this technique, the better you will get at judging how much material will “fit” into a given timeframe.

Take it Easy – Dealing with Stage Fright

Does working in a face-to-face group instructional setting or teaching in front of a camera make you anxious? That is not surprising as most people rank public speaking as their number one fear – even higher than death. Novice and experienced instructors alike can get the jitters before teaching. Whether you are in the same room with your learners, being filmed, or having your voice recorded, you will probably experience some measure of nervousness. There is nothing wrong with that. Being nervous means you care and want to do your best.

However, you don’t want your “nerves” to get the best of you. Learning some basic relaxation techniques can help. Do some stretching before you have to “perform.” Try rotating your neck, raising and lowering your shoulders, and shaking your arms and hands. Do not forget to warm up your voice by humming or sub-vocalizing.

Pay special attention to your breathing. Yoga breathing exercises can be very helpful. Try to monitor your breathing. Take deep, slow breaths from your belly rather than shallow ones from your chest. Shallow, quick chest breathing can reduce oxygen intake and actually increase your anxiety. Slow down your breathing rate by increasing the length of your inhales and exhales. Try counting to ten as you breathe in and again as you breathe out. You should feel calmer after a few of these longer, deeper breaths.

Some simple yoga stretches can also help. My two-minute yoga routine can be used as a warm-up before teaching. You can also use it as a stretch break for your learners during multi-hour sessions.