Fall Semester Wrap-up

I wrapped up this semester by attending a workshop on active learning hosted by NC BIG.  It was a great way to reflect on the work I’ve done in the instruction practicum this semester and think about how I’d like to improve my instruction techniques in the future.  Here are some of the main ideas I’m taking away:

-Active learning needs to be intentional: It’s easy to get excited about active learning and throw in a bunch of games and activities, but there has to be a clear reason for using these methods.  One of the best ways to be intentional is by writing student learning outcomes and connecting activities to them.  To be honest, the idea of SLOs kind of rubbed me the wrong way at the beginning of the semester, but I’m on board with them now.  They really do help to organize a class and make sure that all the key objectives are met.

-Active learning can take many forms, or, Is there such thing as passive learning, anyway?: Even when a student is sitting silently during lecture or class discussion she can be analyzing ideas and integrating them into her knowledge base–although this isn’t always the case.  Library instruction requires some lecture and demonstration, so students can’t all be active all the time.  But integrating active learning methods can help students focus their attention and learn more.  Activities can be simple, like class discussion questions, or time to work with databases, or more elaborate like a game or group problem solving activity.

-Real-world application can be difficult: In the afternoon we worked in groups to develop SLOs and active learning exercises for a library instruction session.  One of our group members suggested we design them for a class he teaches every year at the community college level: a world religion class of students who have to write an annotated bibliography of 10-15 book sources in preparation for writing a research paper.  This was a tricky one, because we recognized that these students needed two main skills from the class: narrowing down a topic, and evaluating sources.  It was really too much to hope to accomplish in a 50-minute class, and we felt like we would have to choose between talking about how to narrow down a huge topic like Buddhism using background research, or how to have students practice evaluating sources and articulating what makes a source quality.  Active learning techniques can help students practice skills and retain information more, but they also take more time.


Overall, it’s been a great semester.  I’ve practiced library instruction in my practicum, worked at the reference desk, and learned about web design and library management in my classes.  I can’t believe I’ve only got one semester to go!