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Active Learning in Library Instruction


Incorporating Techniques

Incorporating Active Learning Techniques

Because active learning techniques are so flexible, they can be utilized in a variety of contexts to support your session's learning objectives and the Framework for Information Literacy. See below for just a few ideas about how active learning strategies can be employed in an instruction session. 

I want my students to evaluate their information sources.

Paired Annotations: Provide students with two or more sources (2 sources for pairs, 3+ sources for small groups). Each student will examine and annotate each source and then trade with a partner/group member. The next student to examine the source will make their own annotations. When everyone has had a chance to examine the sources, partners/groups will discuss what they noticed. As a class, discuss the evaluative criteria you might use as you select a source for a research project. How do these sources stand up to those criteria?

Gallery Walk: Place several different sources about one topic around the room. Students move about the space, examining the sources and discussing amongst themselves. A whole-class or small group debriefing (with guiding questions) can follow. 

Guided Annotated Bibliography: Individually, in pairs, or groups, students work to locate and evaluate sources. In a guided worksheet (online or paper), students are asked to make note of why they selected a source and what criteria they used to evaluate it. This strategy works especially well as a preliminary activity for a class that has been assigned a formal annotated bibliography. 

I want my students to develop a research strategy and make adjustments as they search.

Scavenger Hunt: Independently or in groups, students are asked to find a variety of sources using the library website. Questions may be broad ("Find a book about religious women in the Middle Ages") or narrow ("What is the call number for The Sun Also Rises?" "How many results do you get for an article search with the keyword 'psychology' and limiting to peer reviewed articles?").

Turn & Talk: As students learn about the search strategies appropriate to their research assignment, they follow along with their own searches. At key moments in the search process, ask students to turn and talk with someone sitting nearby and then report out to the class. How did adding a search term affect the number of search results they received? What subject terms did they choose to use as limiters? What happens when they narrow their search to only items published in the last five years? 

I want my students to understand that information has value and that they must cite their sources.

True/False Flags: Students are provided with true and false flags on popsicle sticks. The instructor displays a citation, an example of plagiarism, etc. on the screen and asks students to vote using their flags. Is this an example of plagiarism? Is this citation formatted correctly? Do I have to cite this information?

Citation Puzzles: Provide students with envelopes that contain a full bibliographic citation cut up into pieces in the course's preferred citation format. Using their knowledge of the citation style, they must assemble the pieces of the citation (author name, journal title, date of publication, etc.) correctly. This activity can be made into a game by challenging students in pairs in front of the class, placing students in groups to compete, or setting a timer for the whole class. 


I want my students to select a research topic with an appropriate scope.

Concept Map/Graphic Organizer: For students who have selected topics that are too broad, a pre-made graphic organizer can help them focus on the more nuanced aspects of the topic. Students can complete the graphic organizer alone, or trade with a partner when they are done to get assistance in brainstorming. 

Gallery Walk: After students are given some preliminary information about narrowing a research topic or forming a research question, they are sent on a gallery walk. Each poster around the room contains a broad research topic. Their goal is to come up with a more narrow research topic or question and write it on the poster without repeating any of the other ideas others have written. Once everyone has had a chance to write an idea on each poster, the whole class debriefs and students have a chance to narrow their own topics.