Flipping the One-Shot Library Session

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You are probably familiar with the concept of the flipped classroom – it’s currently one of the hottest trends in educational technology, thanks in part to Khan Academy. But, have you ever thought about flipping library instruction?  I think there’s real potential in it when done well. “Done well” is hard to define though, as just about everyone can offer you a set of best practices. In this post, I will cover the basics of some of those best practices and tie them into the specific issues that librarians face with the one-shot session. Here it goes:

BEFORE you flip: Flipping the one-shot library session has the added complication that you are being invited into someone else’s classroom. Of course, this means that the instructor has to be on board with you. You will also need to take into consideration how much the instructor utilizes his or her course page, and whether or not s/he is willing to grade the students on their completion of the activities prior to the library session (participation points can be very motivational). Flipping won’t work if the students rarely use their course page, and it will probably be a waste of your time if they don’t have some motivation to participate in it.

What NOT to do: The number one mistake in flipping instruction is posting a video or two for the students to view before coming to class. That equates to nothing more than an extended lecture, which is not the purpose of flipped instruction.

What to DO: Flipped instruction should not only be active, but also interactive (see my post on Beyond Active Learning). If you do post videos – screencasts included – you will also need to create some sort of activity to go with it. Whether this is through the use of discussions, games, quizzes or something else will be entirely dependent on the needs of the students and input from the classroom instructor. The bottom line is that the flipped part of the instruction should be designed to include feedback and/or assessment in order for you to tailor the in-class instruction to the learning needs of the students. Above all, flipped instruction should be learner-centered.

Process vs. Procedure: Limit the outside class activities to teaching procedural tasks (how to do) such as how to navigate the library catalog, how to do Boolean searching, etc…  In my own experience, I have found that librarians spend far too much time on teaching procedural tasks in one-shot sessions. I believe the one-shot session should focus more on process (how to think) such as strategies for source selection, source evaluation, etc… If we were able to solely focus on process during library instruction, we might make more progress in developing deeper learning in our students.

Project-Based Learning (PBL): Project-based learning is ideal for flipped classroom instruction. In PBL, you take on the role of “guide on the side.” You are there to facilitate learning, not lecture.