Active Learning Notes

Active learning ideas – Moving beyond “Take these 5 minutes to search on your own topic” & Instruction/IL Pedagogy & Assessment

Facilitators:  Jon Jeffryes & Bonnie Fong
Notetaker:  Neil Dazet

During introductions, participants were asked, “What do you want to get out of this session?”

  • Move beyond the old standard approach where the instructor stands in front of the class and lectures.
  • Ways to liven up the classroom with active student participation and engaging conversations.
  • Looking for creative ways to share information
  • Active learning ideas for large classes, and for limited time frames.
    • One participant has 20 minutes to teach 469 students!

Active Learning is one form of pedagogy.  Participants talked about ways to improve instruction, activities they have used to make instruction sessions more dynamic and ideas they have used make students more motivated and engaged:

  • Ask the question to students at the beginning of a class, “Where do you think you are going to look for information on this topic?”  At the end of the class, the students answer the question, “Where did you end up looking for information on this topic?”
  • At the end of class, have students write down one last question and an email address so the instructor can send an email response later.
  • Have a specific assignment linked to the instruction session.  Ex.  Students must find one book and one article on topic X.
  • Students are motivated by things that can save them work and time.  Ex.  Citation management tool to create a bibliography.
  • Collaboration with professors – design an assignment with the professor of the class.  Or make a requirement for the assignment to have the librarian put a stamp of approval on work before turning in to professor.  Note:  one example of professor finding out about ability for students to schedule research consultations with subject librarian and made it a requirement for assignment(s), and this got out of hand quickly.
  • One person suggested that by enhancing the students’ learning, you are making the professor’s grading process easier (fewer errors to flag), which in turn makes them more likely to return for future classes.
  • How to show students that what you are teaching is really important.  Have them try to find a certain resource at the beginning of a class so they can see how hard it is, then you have their attention when you show them how to do it.
  • Attempt to show the value of information and relate it to items that are important to students like money and health.
  • Use classroom management technologies:  LanSchool, Netop, NetSupport School
  • Instructor can view student screens, instructor can put one of the students computer screens up on the big classroom screen, the ability to share individual windows with students.
  • Online scavenger hunts
  • Students can teach other students effectively.  Think – Pair – Share technique where instructor poses a question, students spend time thinking/working on it on their own, then they share their ideas and results with a partner, and then the pair shares that information with another group or the whole class.
  • Several participants had success with rearranging the classroom configuration to encourage more movement from students, so they are not hidden behind computers.  One arrangement was having computers facing side-walls so students had to turn a bit to see instructor at front of class.  One participant mentioned teaching in the back of the class to view all of the computer screens.
  • Teaching can be improved through peer observation, although several participants reported that other librarians in their department were opposed to this.
  • Teaching can be improved by watching video recording of yourself teaching, so you can adjust small things like posture, or tone of voice that you might not be aware of.
  • Tag team teaching.  Two instructors for one session.
  • Know where the class you are teaching fits in with whole curriculum.


  • One participant had success using clickers.
  • Use Poll Anywhere for instant audience feedback.
  • Use Google Spreadsheet viewable on classroom screen to have students update their research successes in real time.
  • See article in latest issue of ACRL news titled “Google Spreadsheets and real-time assessment”.
  • Important to develop assessment strategy at the beginning of teaching prep.
  • One participant used post-class interactions to get feedback from students, ex. cornering them after class, during reference consultations, or email dialogues.
  • Work with professors to build research skill assessment into the class.
  • One participant mentioned an exit survey that was used to query all students graduating that year.