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!



8 thoughts on “The ‘Rule of One’ and the One-Shot Session

  1. I enjoy your blog. I find that most tips on one-shot are unhelpful or off the mark. You are on the right track. However, I think you underestimate the challenge of teaching a semester long course. Is this based on personal experience? It certainly isn’t mine. A one shot isn’t more challenging; it presents a different challenge. The librarian-instructor may failed to take advantage of an opportunity, but perhaps there are educators (teachers, professors, your reference desk) that do offer a safety net. Librarians may have coined the phrase “information literacy,” but many educators have taught those skills for decades. Librarians should forge partnerships with these natural allies and not see their role as the Lone Ranger.

    • My tips come from an instructional design standpoint, aka ADDIE model.

      I agree that the challenge is definitely different for a one-shot versus semester long course. I’ve designed and taught one-shots and have designed a semester long course (using the NTeQ model). Teaching and designing are two different beasts, and from an instructional design standpoint, developing and implementing objectives for info lit in a one hour session is quite challenging because you really have to pare it down to the bare minimum to prevent cognitive overload, yet at the same time cover content that students will be using for many semesters to come. Eliminating the one-shot in favor of integrated info lit is the ideal solution. See my post titled Hello Google Docs.

      The librarians I know are always striving to build partnerships with classroom faculty, but it’s not always an easy go.

      Today, information literacy is not just a library thing, and it is no longer viewed in terms of just a set of information problem solving skills. It’s being redefined as part of the new literacies or new media literacies. The perspective is one of literacy as multimodal, situational and sociocultural in nature. And that presents new challenges for librarians.

      Thanks for reading my blog!

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