Share Your Teaching Tool Kit:
Best Practices in Library Instruction

Topic: Increasing Your Teaching Skills

Where did you learn to teach in a library setting?

  • On the job/working as an assistant/by example 16
  • Library school course 2
  • Teaching degree 1
  • Making mistakes 2
  • Previous teaching experience 2
  • Training 2

What do you do to improve and update your teaching skills?

  • Obtain feedback from colleagues/other librarians
  • Watch what other librarians and colleagues do
  • Attend Instruction Section meetings and programs
  • Read the literature
  • Attend a university-sponsored class that instructs Teaching Assistants about teaching techniques
  • Attend an education technology course on campus
  • Plan programs, conferences, seminars, workshops -- forces you to rethink your approach and get you out of ruts you may be in
  • Sharing examples of what works and what doesn't work with your colleagues during informal meetings through the year; particularly discuss what doesn't work and why
  • Attend new faculty meetings that may discuss teaching methods
  • Listservs -- post questions and read answers to questions others post
  • Create a web-page -- you can incorporate it into your teaching sessions and/or the creation makes you think about instruction in different ways
  • Ask the faculty for whom you teach for feedback
  • Ask the students for evaluations -- on paper or perhaps even create a web-based feedback form. Include some open-ended questions, such as:
    • What was the most surprising thing you learned today in this session?
    • What are you going to take away from this session?

What tips, tricks, planning, exercises to you do before or during class time to present yourself with confidence and engage your class?

  • Do a live computer demonstration of how Boolean and truncation tools affect a search, rather than just saying what each operator or tool does
  • Demonstrate Boolean operators by giving students M&Ms and asking them to sort by the various operations that you tell them (blue and red; brown or orange, etc); do a similar demo using the students in the class (girls and blue jeans; boys or girls, etc)
  • Select a relevant page of the LSCH, make copies for each student in the class and discuss the implications of the subject headings
  • Make a student type your demonstration searches; this gets at least one student involved and can show other students who may be hesitant about using the computers that it's not difficult, that their peers can do it, and so can they
  • When teaching about print resources, make sure to bring the resource to the session
  • Make fun of the library jargon that you use -- this can help break down barriers to student understanding of the library
  • Give students two examples of web sites and have them point out and evaluate the relevant information: currency, accuracy, authority, etc. Make sure that one page is a bad example and one is a good example
  • Provide a cover sheet outlining the session with pertinent contact information (your name/phone number/email, computer services phone number, etc.) and a list of the databases you will be covering with the URLs for them. Include this with whatever handouts you distribute.
  • If you ask the class a question, give them at least 30 seconds to respond. It seems like a long time, but students need a few seconds to process the question.

Submitted by Shellie Jeffries

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