Developing a Library Instruction Course Curriculum

Although this semester is not even halfway over, I feel as if I’ve learned an incredible amount in these past few months, mostly due to the one-credit information literacy course I’m teaching this semester. Last semester I managed to master the one-shot library session and I entered this semester feeling fairly confident in my instruction abilities. Well, as it turns out, teaching a regular credit-bearing course is a whole different ball game than a one-shot session.

1) In my credit-bearing class I’m not the friendly class guest that the students feel a little pressure to be on their best behavior for. I see these kids everyday and they really don’t feel any pressure to be on their best behavior with me. In fact, I have to earn every bit of attention I get from these people.

2) The organization of a full credit-bearing course is MUCH more complicated. Not only am I dealing with grades and deadlines, I’m also trying to manage how larger course themes should be organized and presented. I really didn’t anticipate how difficult this would be.

3) If I thought one-shot courses were time consuming, they really are *nothing* compared to a full course. For every little 50 minute class period I spent HOURS putting together activities and lectures. And then I looked at most of them and spent HOURS changing them so they weren’t so terrible. When I got to the week before classes started I thought I had finished and was ready to go. Wrong. Everything changed when the class actually started and realities messed up all my hard work (i.e. snow days, the timing of activities being off, students having excused absences, etc.).

4) The students become more … real. Now that I see their work consistently and I’m learning more about them, I feel like I have a stronger relationship with each of them and more of a responsibility to help them succeed. In a one-shot session that complexity is missing from interactions with students.

For those of you readers who are preparing to teach an information literacy course or are already teaching, here are some pointers from my own experience that may be helpful in developing your own course curriculum and preparing to teach a credit class.

Use the Resources Available to You

I was lucky enough to have access to the lecture slides and some instruction materials from my predecessor, but to be honest I got most of my content from exploring the Internet treasure trove of information. It’s no secret that librarians like to borrow and share information–why reinvent the wheel? Being a true librarian, that is exactly what I did. Some useful sources for me:

ACRL Instruction Session – Source of instruction standards, ideas, and discussions.

ili-listserv – I asked and the genius instruction librarians of the world responded – I would highly recommend asking this group if you have questions because they are very eager to help newbies!

PRIMO – Lots of things in this list actually end up relating to ACRL, but this is an especially helpful list of instructional tools compiled by ACRL IS that have been reviewed by instruction librarians

Books – Some helpful books that I ended up consulting included Karen Sobel’s Information Basics for College Students, Char Booth’s Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning, Scott Sheidlower’s Humor and Information Literacy, and Claire McGuinness’s Becoming Confident Teachers: A Guide for Academic Librarians.

Colleagues – I learned to unabashedly peddle my former classmates and current mentors for ideas and feedback on what I had planned for instruction. I know some pretty smart instruction librarians! (See previous post – an interview with one of them …)

Google – Is this sad? The truth is, I Googled many times in the creation of my curriculum and was able to find some fantastic activities, library guides, and syllabi from my colleagues across the US. Some of the most useful things I found came from just Googling.

Publications & Presentations – Because I’m such a nerd, whenever I’m reading a library publication I instantly am drawn to the instruction articles, and the same is true at conferences. From this kind of geeking out behavior I’ve learned about flipped classrooms, reaching out to faculty, using technology in the classroom, and tons of other valuable things. One of my favorite publications (again from ACRL, big surprise) is College & Research Libraries.

Be Prepared for Surprises

As I mentioned earlier, planning ahead is a great idea, but don’t be surprised when your plans, applied to a real situation, are quickly destroyed. This is especially probable if you’ve never tried those plans in a classroom before. It’s okay! If you know that your plans will go out the window, you can embrace the flexibility required to be a good teacher. Be ready to adapt your instruction to whatever your class is like that day and be realistic in your planning. Eventually you won’t feel like every class period is a circus about to spin out of control. I promise.

Reflect Often

I’ve reflected after every instruction session I’ve ever done as a librarian and it has helped me tremendously. For one-shot sessions it’s especially helpful if the class comes again another semester I can look back on my reflection and have a better idea of how to approach that class. For the credit-bearing course it’s been extremely valuable to document my progress and make each class period better than the last. I’m also working with a coworker in a critical friend relationship–more on what that is hopefully soon …

If you have any advice or reflections on preparing for credit-bearing information literacy instruction, go ahead and share below!


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