The ‘Rule of One’ and the One-Shot Session

The one-shot session. Most librarians are stuck with it. Many hate how limiting it is.

I’ve been thinking about that in terms of instructional design. The truth is that designing a good one-shot IL session is a lot more challenging than a semester long course. In a one-shot session, there’s no safety net. If you don’t deliver good instruction in that narrow window of time, you run the risk of too many students falling through the information literacy crack.

A good one-shot session requires good planning, and by planning I don’t mean trying to figure out how much content you can cram into an hour. That kind of planning is not instructional design. That’s information overload.

Using the Rule of One, I came up with some guidelines for designing the one-shot session.

  • ONE learning goal. What will your students be able to do by the end of the session? That’s your learning goal. You only need one for a one-shot session. Just remember, the more complex the learning goal, the more time it will take to teach. The best approach is to find out the students’ learning needs first. Prioritize those needs. You might discover that what you want to teach them is not at all what they really need to learn.
  • ONE objective per task. In instructional design, your focus is always on learning. Task analysis helps you determine every task or step that needs to be learned to reach the learning goal. Every task becomes an objective, and objectives are clearly defined and measurable. When writing them, remember ABCD: Audience, Behavior, Condition, Degree (see Mager’s tips on instructional objectives) . Don’t forget, in order to reach the learning goal, students will need to complete every task and meet every objective from the task analysis.
  • ONE strategy per objective. Instructional strategies can include anything from mnemonics to modeling to graphic organizers to clicker questions (that’s where your creativity comes in). The strategies you use will dictate your instructional materials, activities and assessments. If you had the time, you could easily come up with multiple learning strategies for each objective. In a one-shot session though, one strategy per objective is more realistic. Even better, folding multiple objectives into one strategy.
  • ONE culminating activity. All good instruction ends in a culminating activity. Sometimes it’s a quiz, sometimes a group activity, sometimes a discussion. Creativity is key here too. Just make sure that the culminating activity requires students to apply all the skills they learned during the session, and provides them (and yourself) feedback on whether or not the learning goal was met.

Using the Rule of One instructional design techniques for planning one-shot sessions will help you prioritize student learning needs, plan your time wisely and create effective instruction. Most of all, it will make you a better teacher!