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The Teaching and Learning Library


Chickering, A.W. & Gamson, Z.F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education, AAHE Bulletin, 39(7), 3-7.

Cooperstein, S.E. & Kocevar-Weidinger, E. (2004). Beyond active learning: a constructivist approach to learning. Reference Services Review, 32(2), 141-148.

Head, A. J. & Eisenberg, M. B. (2010). Assigning inquiry: How handouts for research assignments guide today's college students. Washington: Project Information Literacy.

Jacobson, T. E. & Xu, L. (2004). Motivating students in information literacy classes. New York : Neal-Schuman.

Mark, A. E. &  Boruff-Jones, P. D. (2003). Information literacy and student engagement: What the National Survey of Student Engagement reveals about your campus. College & Research Libraries, 64(6), 480-493.

McDevitt, T. R. (Ed.). (2011). Let the games begin! : Engaging students with field-tested interactive information literacy instruction. New York: Neal-Schuman.

Prince, M. (2004). Does active learning work? A review of the research. Journal of Engineering Education, 93(3), 223-231.

Snavely, L. (Ed.). (2012). Student engagement and the academic library. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Wiggins, G. P. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VI: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Teaching Strategies

The backward design model (Wiggins & McTIghe, 2005) introduces teaching strategies once learning outcomes have been identified and linked to assessment methods. It is at this point at the instructor is ready to consider how best to teach a topic so that students are able to demonstrate their learning through the prescribed assessment. Since we are looking for evidence of what has been learned, the teaching strategy should provide opportunities for students to engage with the content through active participation.

What is the purpose of student engagement?

Student engagement, or active learning, is an established principle for good teaching practice. A frequently cited article  by Chickering and Gamson (1987) lists seven principles for good teaching practice in undergraduate education: 

Encourage contact between students and faculty.

Develop reciprocity and cooperation among students.

Encourage active learning.

Give prompt feedback.

Communicate high expectations.

Respect diverse ways of learning

Emphasize time on task.


 The notion of engagement originates with educational theorists including Dewey, Piaget, Bruner, Motessori, and Vygotsky and is referred to as constructivism.The intention of engagement is to take student beyond "hands-on" or interactive expereinces, where the instructor may serve as a facilitator and the students actively participate. Cooperstein and Kocevar-Weidinger (2003) describe how the constructivist approach provides students with experiences where they formulate/construct their own undertstanding of concepts and incorporate them into their own knowledge base using these four principles:

  • Learners construct their own meaning.
  • New learning builds on prior knowledge.
  • Learning is enhanced by social interaction.
  • Meaningful learning develops through “authentic” tasks.

What does a constructivist classroom look like?

It's a flipped classroom with less teacher talking and more student engagement with the content.Activities come first to provide a basis for student exploration after which concepts will surface with clarification following. There are fewer learning outcomes in a single class to allow for a focus on the learning experience. Social interaction is used to scaffold learning so that instructors and peer-students exchange ideas and problem-solve collaboratively thereby exceeding what might be learned by a student working independently. Questions are central to the experience to provide practice with linking what students already know and what they need to learn. Asking questions allows students to identify their learning gaps over and again so they can continually construct meaning and re-shape past thinking. Ongoing reflection, re-organization, and repetition is essential for student to retain their learning and eventually be able to transfer it to other learning situations outside the classroom.

For examples of active learning techniques in library instruction classes, refer to works such as those by Jacobson and Xu (2004) and McDevitt (2011). Below is a rough chart of potentially "engaging" teaching strategies but the true purpose for using them is to provide thinking experiences for your students that focus on what you want them to learn. Use a combination of strategies to give students an opportunity to explore and test the content inherent in the key learning outcomes and to become comfortable with asking questions and working with their peers.



Think of your answer – share with person next to you – share with group. Use to give independent thinking time and require participation in non-threatening way.

Example: How do you think a search in Google will compare to a search on this in X database?




Encourages students to think, compare ideas, and express themselves.

Ask for Examples. Null sets are an excellent teaching tool.

Generate as many ideas as possible.   Example: What types of primary sources would be useful for this essay. How could you use them to support an argument on X topic?

Small Group

Buzz Group

Buzz groups are small groups of two or three students formed impromptu to discuss a topic for a short period.

Visualization Tools and Graphic Organizers

Use organizers such as comparison chart, cross matrix, triple Venn diagram for analysis. Use to focus on higher thinking skills: compare, apply, evaluate, analyze, and synthesize. Example: Cross matrix to compare and score features of: Google – GS – library index.  KWL: what you knowwant to know – what you learned. Use to activate prior knowledge.


Coloured cards, hands, clickers, software, mobile devices.

Possible: Students hold up a green card when they understand the material, a yellow card when they are unclear on a point, and the red card when they do not understand.

Clickers provide a nice report that can easily be used for pre- and post-assessment where both you and your students can see answers hav changed.

Concept mapping


Relationship web.

Flip charts or with software; Smart ideas; FreeMind

Map the landscape of resources you find on the web.

One-minute Paper

Give question (open or closed) and give one minute to respond. Use to check progress in understanding material. Collect at end of class to gauge learning and follow-up.

Role Playing

De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats:Look at a decision from all points of view.

Webquest on evaluating websites. Webquests are one form of simulation that can offer students a means to consider a problem from someone else's perspective.

White Hat: Focus on data and facts.
Red Hat: Focus on intuition, gut reaction, and emotion.
Black Hat: Be the pessimist
Yellow Hat: Be the optimist.
Green Hat: Be creative.
Blue Hat:  Assess needs and give feedback to others.   

Cephalonian method

Cardiff 2002: library induction where students read questions that you would like to answer from colour-coded cards.


Sign up for free at the SMART Exchange to be able to download their Jeopardy and other SMART Board templates.

Student  Feedback

Use quizzes to provide immediate feedback, repetition, and reinforcement.

Record a question you would like answered. What do you find difficult about learning to use the library? After each discrete learning section, have students record 3 things they just learned.

Have students complete blanks on your handout as you work through it.

Use Think-Pair-Share to get provide individual thinking time, discussion with a partner, and presentation back to the class.


You Quote It You Note It and others in PRIMO: Peer-Reviewed Instructional Materials Online, sponsored by ALA.

Wiki; Blog

Create a wiki or blog with sections for different courses to follow through on points for clarification.

Case Studies

Authentic examples that require analysis.

Example: Paragraph with information with different sentences pointed to citations in list of references. How to rewrite to acknowledge.

Analysis and comparison of sources

Examine how Wikipedia documented and expanded the entry for 9/11 over time. How does it compare to sources from journals?


Profile of library skills before and after. Use to reflect on self-identification of gaps in understanding.

Example: List of 10 things you would like  students to understand with 2 columns with Yes/No above before/after session. Do you understand the difference between keywords and the subject headings assigned to materials listed in library indexes.

Research Journal

Record results as you go for comparison afterwards.

Problem Solving

Show 3 websites. They create list of evaluation criteria in groups and rank sites. Share criteria with class.

Teaching Others

Example: Compare the best way to search for this topic in X index. Model your best search for the class.