May 9, 2011

Value of Instructional Designers in Libraries

I've long been a proponent of libraries contracting with or employing skilled instructional designers. We did that here at the U of MN a little over a year ago. Recently, Steven Bell had a chat with our designer and covered some of that in his From the Bell Tower blog. He called it "How an instructional designer can make a difference" and included this great quote from Paul, our designer:

"Instructional designers add value to academic libraries in two ways. First, in collaboration with academic librarians, instructional designers utilize design models to assess, identify, and codify learning outcomes, design and develop projects to satisfy those learning outcomes, and implement and evaluate the completed offerings. Historically academic librarians have not been trained in educational theory therefore instructional designers have become essential partners in the translation of librarians' expertise into intentional and measurable learning experiences."

Take a look at the whole blog entry here.

February 18, 2010

Culture of Library Teaching

Recently I read an interesting LISNews blog entry by Susan Ariew (University of South Florida) called "The Teaching Librarian Versus The Teacher" in which she explores how the teaching mission in large academic libraries is often not understood or valued by the library at large. This is something so many of us teaching librarians experience and I found her insights both interesting and oddly comforting.

Here's a snippet:

"Unlike teaching departments on most campuses, much of what has happened with the instructional mission of academic libraries has been defined, shaped and created in response to forces outside the library, forces like academic faculty requests for library instruction and faculty frustration with students who lack skills in evaluating their sources. Thus, the new and changing role of the teaching library and librarian is much less established (or even autonomous) than other traditional library functions such as cataloging, interlibrary loan, circulation, reference, special collections, or collection development."

September 11, 2009

Ten Teaching Tips

Our Information Literacy Collaborative here at the U of MN came up with this list of teaching tips for our librarians. Great advice - take a look!

1. Less is More. Avoid too much content. Remember the brain can only remember 5 to 7 bits of information--after teaching content include a short activity to help refresh student's brains and allow them to take in more information. Include additional details in a handout or CourseLib page for students to refer to.

2. Write 3-5 learning objectives as you prepare materials for an instructional session. They will help focus your teaching in the limited time you have available. Also ask faculty and instructors for their syllabi or assignment description so you can tailor the objectives.

3. Add a 5-minute "Think-Pair-Share" to help students process. For example, 1.) Ask a question (What are your biggest challenges with doing research? Let's say you are working on a project on health care reform-what is the best place to start? How can you avoid plagiarism? ) and 2.) have student think for a minute then talk to a fellow student for 2 minutes and 3.) then have a couple students share with the group.

4. Make content available after the instructional session such as with a CourseLib/PageScribe page, department blog, handout, PPT, etc. Ask the instructor to forward an email with the material to the students or post it in the course site.

5. Refresh your use of PowerPoint. Look for examples of good PowerPoint usage or presentation tips:
* Presentation Zen
* How NOT to use Powerpoint (Warning: Humorous)
* Doing a 15 Minute Presentation in 10 easy steps

6. Start with an open-ended question ( "What are your questions about the library and research?" "Where do you start your research?" "Do you think research is easier or harder than it used to be?") to get the students engaged in the material.

7. Try a small-scale experiment with technology such as the clickers. Instead of trying to redo your whole presentation just add three questions at the beginning or at the end.

8. Students learn by doing--build short hands-on activities to help students practices what you are teaching.

9. Analogies and stories are powerful teaching tools. Write down a couple or ask colleagues about analogies or stories they use in instruction.

10. Here are a few more readings and resources:
* Eric's Top Ten Teaching Tips
* Adventures in Library Instruction Podcast
* 10/20/30 Rule of Powerpoint
* Less is More: Making Your Presentations Zen-tastic

May 28, 2008

Training is About Creating CHANGE

Bob Pike and Ken Blanchard had a teleseminar recently (download here) in which they talked about trainers as change agents. This powerful blurb is from that discussion:

Training is about creating… CHANGE.

CHANGE… in the way people do things.

CHANGE… in what people know.

CHANGE… in the results people get.

March 10, 2008

Workshop Take-aways

After a bit of a hiatus (in other words, having a baby), I gave a half-day workshop at Cornell University Library on Friday. Here is a list of individuals' workshop take-aways that many of them gave me at the end of the session:

Needs Assessment

- Take 1-2 stakeholders to lunch to get feedback on course
- Have a conversation with faculty
- Find the right questions
- Ask why the students want to attend the workshop
- What is desired outcome? This is workshop title or description
- Frame as deliverables
- Engage client
- Refine the interview, process with faculty
- Ask “Why? What’s the point??
- Get from the client what/how does success look like.
- Concept of “delivering? on x, y, z outcomes - you’re giving the client something

Brainstorming Content
- Group brings ideas and their points of view
- Make this a group activity
- Great way to cover everything. I missed a lot on my own
- Not to analyze, just say it
- I like brainstorming in a circle (taking turns). Seems to prompt responses
- Work with co-workers to discuss. Can this be done with faculty? [Answer: Yes, if they know the content fairly well.]
- Be open to all ideas! Facilitate process.

Filtering Content
- Don’t overpack the session with information
- Look at what I plan to present and divide by need-to-know and nice-to-know
- Importance of limiting/focusing on goal -what I can deliver.
- Focus on need-to-know because nice-to-know will probably fall by the wayside
- Get to what’s important
- Be strict. More B’s (nice-to-knows) than A’s (need-to-knows)
- Breaking topics into different categories
- Focus on need-to-know, not nice-to-know
- Be ruthless with A’s and B’s
- Classify and eliminate
- Space facilitated discussion (from the brainstorming) to avoid anger over Boolean cut (as an example)

Task Analysis
- Delineating steps focuses us to ask whether the students have the necessary background knowledge
- Look at my existing exercises and break down tasks more; have a student do them beforehand to test
- It’s hard to figure out what your actual goal is
- Painful process to figure out what the learner has to do to be successful
- Change level of task based on what learner already knows
- Have realistic expectations, actions, and steps
- Try to imagine 3 modules per 50 minute class

- Emphasis on moving from lecture to users teaching each other
- Design content for pre-class and post-class handouts/worksheets/web pages
- Content presentation can be done by students
- Give handouts with gaps. Reveal answers later (mystery!).
- Learners can present content
- Renewed enthusiasm for integrating information competency into curriculum
- Awareness of the need to discuss this more within the system as a whole and the need to advocate for a change in the model system-wide

Obviously there are many steps we didn't cover in a half-day session. I focused on some of the most difficult steps which often can have the biggest impact on the final library workshop design.

February 19, 2007

Instructional Design Do's and Don'ts

A library school student recently interviewed me over email about the instructional design process. One of the things she wanted was a short do's and don't list.

Thought I'd share this with you all:

> Identify a client with enough clout to strongly recommend or assign learners to your workshop
> Keep in communication with that client throughout the design process
> Conduct a thorough needs assessment
> Take responsibility for your learners meeting your objectives
> Keep content to a minimum and focus on application and feedback

> Drown your learners in content
> Blow off the needs assessment
> Think if you say something that your learners have learned something. (Saying does not equal teaching.)
> Design an entire workshop by yourself - stretch yourself by collaborating with others.
> Assume just because you designed the workshop that you have to teach it. There may be others who might be better suited to deliver your workshop.
> Assume just because you're good in front of the classroom that you're a good instructional designer. Sometimes being a good performer can get in the way of a good workshop design!

Hope this list helps!

July 31, 2006

A relational model to instructional design

The instructional design model I describe in my books is fairly linear. Although in practice you would be bouncing around from step to step, there is still a sequential flow to the process. What I want to talk about now is a relational model of instructional design that might be helpful in understanding how the basic parts interact.

This model comes from an instructional design consultant from the University of Oklahoma named L.Dee Fink who recently came to the U of Minnesota to talk about course design to instructional designers and faculty.


There are basically 3 key components to his design model that are influenced by situational factors the designer needs to identify.

Fink’s main point here is that these 3 elements – learning goals, teaching and learning activities, and feedback and assessment are entirely interrelated. Each teaching activity must be connected to a learning goal and an assessment; each learning goal and assessment needs a learning activity, etc..

Despite the non-linear connection of these elements, Fink is a big fan of backward design where you start with the end and work your way back to the beginning.

As a way to make this more concrete, I’ll delineate the questions Fink would have us ask ourselves to get around this model in a helpful way:

1st ask: “What is it that I hope that students will have learned, that will still be there and have value, several years after the course is over??

Next ask: “What would the students have to do to convince me that they had achieved those learning goals??

Finally ask: ‘What would the students need to do during the course to be able to do well on these assessment activities??

These questions should help you get going. You can also get an overview of his ideas in his article, What is Significant Learning.? This is what Fink had the participants in the workshop I attended read before he came.

The questions I poised above are on page 63 of Fink's book on this topic, Creating Significant Learning Experiences.

June 12, 2006

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!

May 29, 2006

A brief look at teaching and learning research

Because the Creating the One-Shot Library Workshop book is more of a how-to handbook for design, I didn’t take much time to show how the practical aspects of the instructional design process are supported by a rich body of research in learning theory. But when I work with librarians and staff, they are sometimes interested in having this background information in order to create a more compelling argument to make changes to current practices.

Here, I’ll bring three important bodies of research into the discussion: Chickering and Gamson (1987), Marchese (1997) and Merrill (2002). These are seminal works that are used regularly in university courses and in university centers for teaching and learning as guiding principles for effective teaching.

Chickering and Gamson’s work is focused on good practice in undergraduate education, but we can apply much of this to adult learners in general as you will see with Marchese and Merrills’ work.

Chickering and Gamson learned that good practice:

• encourages contact between learners and teachers,
• develops reciprocity and cooperation among learners,
• encourages active learning,
• gives prompt feedback,
• emphasizes time on task,
• communicates high expectations, and
• respects diverse talents and ways of learning.

Notice the connections to the PAF model in step 12 of Creating the One-Shot Library Workshop which emphasizes application of learning and feedback during the workshop. Keeping students engaged via contact, active learning and feedback is critical to good teaching practice.

The next researcher, Marchese (1997), drew from neuroscience, anthropology and cognitive science to encourage teachers to emphasis certain approaches to instruction that includes engagement, but that also adds among other things, active involvement in real world tasks.

Marchese shows that the more a teacher can emphasize

• learner independence and choice
• intrinsic motivators and natural curiosity
• rich, timely, usable feedback
• coupled with occasions for reflection and
• active involvement in real-world tasks
• emphasizing higher-order abilities
• done with other people
• in high-challenge, low-threat environments
• that provide for practice and reinforcement

. . . the greater the chances he or she will realize the deep learning that makes a difference in student lives.

David Merrill’s research come along more recently and also points out that learning is facilitated when

• learners are engaged in solving real-world problems.
• existing knowledge is activated as foundation for new knowledge.
• new knowledge is demonstrated to the learner.
• new knowledge is applied by the learner.
• new knowledge is integrated into the learner's world.

There are a number of common themes here that can help guide us in our instructional design process. The next article will examine 4 of these: interaction, feedback, problem-based learning, and application to real life.

Thanks to the Digital Media Center at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities for their "Teach" handout on this research.