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Part 2: A brief look at teaching and learning research

In the last article (May 29, 2006 under "Overall Thoughts" category), I wrote about the work of several educational experts who’ve identified principles for good instruction. Here I’ll examine in a little more detail three themes from their research in light of the one-shot library workshop.

1 - Interaction. Education experts conclude that learning isn’t best accomplished as a solo venture. On the contrary, learners should be engaged with others on many levels – not just intellectually. The evidence is clear that the most effective learning environments enhance connections between people.

We shouldn’t be leaving this up to chance. When we design methods for delivering content (Presentation), for applying that content with an exercise (Application), and for getting and receiving feedback on the degree to which the learner understands the content (Feedback), we should be working in ways for learners to interact. The learning, more pointedly, should be designed to give them an opportunity to engage with others about the learning content.

2 - Feedback. Feedback and interaction can be tightly related. Remember, this may not be connection, interaction, and feedback with the librarian/instructor; it may be just between one learner and another, within cohorts of students, or with the client/faculty*. Feedback may also simply be just between the computer and the learner.

There are a lot of methods listed in the book (pp. 100- 105) that facilitate opportunities for sharing and receiving feedback. For example, try using the “think-pair-share? method to allow for peer-to-peer feedback during the “pair? part of the method, and group-to-peer and instructor feedback during the “share? part of the method.

3 - Problem-based learning. Learning occurs more often when the learning experience mirrors a challenge the learner has in the real world – or when it at least simulates a problem they face. This is why on-the-job training is often the best kind of learning – it happens at the point of need and in just the right amounts to help make the learner successful at the task at hand. Experts show that problem-based learning is a key element of good principles for instruction. If you are able to simulate as much as possible the actual experience the learner will have in their real life, you will increase the potential for learning.

This might mean designing classroom scenarios based on your needs assessment (step 1) and learner assessment (step 2). It might mean incorporating learner’s real work into a lab component of the class. Or it might mean taking the instruction out in “the field? so to speak – something librarians are very familiar with in terms of instruction as a form of one-on-one reference assistance - a true problem-based learning situation. Group instruction can be a way to increase the scope of the limited one-on-one reference interaction while retaining the benefits of problem-based learning.

There are, of course, many other principles of good practice in the research I discussed in the last article, but these three stand out to me as important threads throughout Creating the One-Shot Library Workshop. Stay tuned for more about learning theory and practice in upcoming articles!

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