10 Tips for Teaching Your First Information Literacy Course

by Melissa Meggitt

Teaching your first semester-long information literacy course can be overwhelming. In preparing to teach my first course I read many articles and books on the topic. I pulled out the best advice and added in some of my own to create this list of my top ten teaching tips:

1. Get to know them. This may seem simple but it does take effort. Getting to know your students shows them you are interested in them and fosters a better learning environment. When your students feel comfortable in your classroom they will be more likely to participate in group discussions and become engaged with the subject. An easy way to do this is by welcoming them into the class and getting to know everyone by name.
2. Create learning outcomes for the course and tie assignments and class activities to them. Many departments may already have learning outcomes established for a major. You will need to be aware of those and incorporate them into your course. If not, it is good practice to set learning outcomes for the semester and tailor assignments and activities to accomplish the goals. Examples of learning outcomes: Students will be able to critically evaluate resources. Students will be able to develop a research topic.
3. Promptly grade and return assignments. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is easy to put off grading those homework assignments, especially if you spend a lot of time creating them. Returning assignments the next class period shows students you are organized and care about their academic success. It also gives the students quick feedback, this is especially important if you are teaching skills in a building block method.
4. Incorporate active learning into class activities and assignments. I think this is one of the most important tips. Students learn library research skills best when they are conducting the searches themselves. Make sure to have daily in-class activities for your students. These can be individual, group, or class activities. Giving them hands on time in class with the new resource or search method gives you the opportunity to monitor and make corrections immediately. Encourage students to share what they learned with the class or in their small groups.
5. Get immediate feedback. Many times at the end of a class you may be left wondering if you got through to your students. Did they learn what I wanted? Are they confused? Have students write down what they learned and what they feel is confusing on a piece of paper and have them turn it in as they leave. This can be done anonymously to encourage candid responses and be as short as one sentence.
6. Have class discussions. The best advice I received was to wait the students out. You will likely have the urge to start talking after a few minutes of silence, but wait for a student to speak up. Your students will learn that you expect them to participate and will wait patiently until they do. And someone will always start talking!
7. Use a variety of teaching methods. Not everyone learns the same way, so using different teaching methods is the best way to reach all learners. Try to incorporate different styles into each topic. You can have a lecture and then a hands-on activity. Or try a group discussion followed by a writing assignment. Free You Tube videos, digital tutorials and other web 2.0 tools can be great teaching aids.
8. Relate information literacy skills to their future profession. By connecting research skills to their future profession students will see a real need to learn the skills and strategies your teaching in class. A good way to do this is to have students interview the information seeking habits of someone in their field and write a paper about what they discovered.
9. Conduct pre and post tests. Conducting a pretest will help you gauge what your students really know and how much detail you need to cover in class lectures. The post test will not only show you what the students learned, or didn't, but what you as a teacher should change the next time you teach the course. Make sure the tests have multiple choice questions that are not leading, and use the same test for both pre and post to obtain accurate results.
10. Create your own instructor evaluation. Evaluations done by the institution can take up to a year to be returned and most offer only vague results. You can create your own evaluation of the course and perhaps teaching style, to get student feedback. Asking specific questions about assignments, resources, and style will give you good information for next semester. You may also want to have an evaluation midterm to make any necessary changes before the end of the semester.

Remember, you will always know more than they do about research! Be confident, friendly, and organized and you will have a great semester.