Information & Instruction
At the completion of this section, you should be able to:
- Compare different types of library instruction.
- Describe the role of instruction in various library settings.
- Compare and contrast different types of teaching and learning materials.
- Evaluate instructional materials for teaching information skills.
Begin by viewing the class presentation in Vimeo. Then, read each of the sections of this page.
Explore each of the following topics on this page:
- Information Instruction
- Instructional Materials Evaluation
- Types of Instructional Materials
Bibliographic instruction, user education, library orientation, information skills instruction... these are just a few of the terms used to describe learning experiences in the library setting.
McAdoo (2012) described different formats of library instruction:
- Bibliographic instruction - Since the late 1800s, emphasis has been placed on the use of books, card catalogs, and bibliographies.
- Library orientation - Emphasis is placed on the physical location of items and services.
- Library instruction - Emphasis is on one-shot workshops the focus on awareness of library resources and services.
- Course-integration instruction - Emphasis is on the use of resources and services needed for specific assignments or discipline-related content.
- Credit-bearing courses - Emphasis is on a broad range of topics related to libraries and information based on institutional needs
- Information literacy instruction - Often embedded in specific courses, the process-based approach focuses on skills needed to become information literate
School and Academic Libraries
Since the late 1800s, library instruction has been a part of school settings.
In the K-12 environment the format for instruction is sometimes dictated by the school system of local administration. For instance, some elementary schools require that librarians provide instruction during a scheduled time each week. In other cases, flexible scheduling allows librarians to collaborate with teachers as needed. For instance, the librarian may spend a week with fifth graders working on states projects. At the high school or college level, the librarian may infuse information literacy skills into a freshman English course or a senior level research course.
According to McAdoo (2012), the responsibility for library instruction in colleges varies from institution to institution. McAdoo identified two approaches:
- Centralized - one person or a small group is assigned to provide instruction
- Distributed - a range of people are involved in instructional duties including subject-area librarians
In many cases, academic librarians are assigned as liaisons to departments developing rapport with faculty. The librarian may offer workshops as requested. Recently, the term "embedded librarian" has been used to describe a librarian who becomes an integral part of subject-area courses. The librarian plays an active role in the course. Both students and faculty view the librarian as the person who can connect the course to valuable information resources. They may be involved in team teaching.
A wide range of library and information science environments exist. Learning occurs in all of these settings.
Go to Information Literacy Kits: Leading Edge Librarians from the Indiana Library Federation Explore the wide range of activities and opportunities. Think about how these could be adapted for your teaching and learning environment.
Read Cook, Jean Marie (May 2014). A Library Credit Course and Student Success Rates: A Longitudinal Study. Think about the pros and cons of credit courses rather than workshops at the university level.
From after-school programs to business seminars, public librarians are increasingly involved with instructional programs.
In some cases, instruction focuses on information literacy skills such as using the OPAC, accessing government documents, or using the photocopier.
Sagar (1995, 51) provides a definition of library instruction that reflects the activities of the public library "such as providing library tours; delivering classroom lectures, presentations, or demonstrations on information gathering skills and resources; developing and teaching credit and noncredit library courses; co-teaching or providing course integrated library instruction; developing print, media and multimedia library signage systems."
Increasingly, libraries are involved in content-rich experiences for all ages from storytelling and early literacy for the youngest users to medicare seminars for the elderly.
Gilton (2012, 35-36) in Lifelong Learning in Public Libraries, described the following forms of instruction in the public library environment:
- Outreach to teachers, parents, scholars, business people, people in institutions, unemployed people, and other groups.
- Instruction in combination with other programming and activities, such as literacy and book discussion groups.
- Information and referral services connecting people to local organizations and agencies.
- Networking with schools, institutions, and organizations.
- Reader's advisory and other services to independent and lifelong learners.
- Indirect, asynchronous instruction.
- Promotion of new technologies to the public, including computer and Internet instruction to elders and other adults.
- Electronic networking with other organizations, businesses, and especially the government to connect people to technology.
Health professionals are required to maintain a high standard of knowledge associated with their specialty areas. According to Thompson, Lewis, Brennan, and Robinson (2009), medical radiation science students and professionals require information literacy skills including the ability to locate, analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information from quality resources.
In addition to basic information literacy skills, an important need in the health sector is assistance in developing evidence-based practice.
In Development and evolution of an information literacy course for a doctor of chiropractic program, Harvey and Goodell (2008) found that as accreditation bodies continue to update their criteria, information literacy skills will become increasingly incorporated in the health professional curriculum.
Osborne (2011) conducted a study of nursing students participating in information literacy instruction. He found that nurses view information literacy as an important element of evidence-based practice, however they don't always see the connection between academic and clinical experiences.
"It would appear that continued effort in trying to change their attitudes towards information literacy within the clinical area is of considerable importance as it may then be possible to demonstrate more clearly to students how academic learning within the university and clinical learning on the wards are not separate, but mutually inclusive. In doing this, it can be demonstrated that both have their part to play in providing the best care possible for the patient." (Osborne, 2011, 230)
Librarians play an important role in educating people in the use of information products and services, as well as facilitating information sharing within a variety of settings.
From large group presentations to one-on-one research assistance, special librarians deal with a wide variety of instructional situations and needs.
Kirton and Barham (2005) state that
"the key to an effective role for information literacy in the workplace is for the librarian to teach those skills required for the individual to function efficiently in their own pursuit of information."
Read Information Literacy in the Workplace by Jennifer Kirton and Lyn Barham.
This article explores information literacy in the workplace.
Think about the skills required of today's information age workers.
Read about information literacy in your area of interest:
IL & Public Libraries
IL & Health Libraries
IL & Higher Education
IL & Special Libraries
What do you see as your instructional role in your area of interest?
An instructor needs quality teaching and learning materials to be effective. Evaluating materials can be a time-consuming and challenging task.
The use of existing materials can save a librarian endless hours of development and production time. Unfortunately, it's not always possible to find materials to fit every need.
Criteria for Evaluating Instructional Materials
When examining materials, it's useful to have a criterion-referenced checklist to help in making decisions. Without an effective evaluation tool, it's tempting to select materials based on "bells and whistles" or "cool graphics" rather than sound instructional principles.
Below you'll find some resources you can use to design your own evaluation checklist.
The materials should be sound in terms of the academic content.
- Aligns with information skills, technology skills, and/or content areas skills
- Supports a specific objective or set of objectives
- Addresses needed knowledge, skills, and dispositions
- Focuses content based on identified needs
- Uses approaches that connect with other instructional materials
- Contains a reading level appropriate for the audience
- Meets the needs of the instructor for flexible resources that can be adapted for varied instructional styles and learning preferences.
- Based on research or respected learning theories
- Ranks highly by others (i.e., professional reviews, peer usage, studies)
- Presents information in well-organized, challenging, and stimulating style
- Provide quality examples and non-examples
- Contains valid and complete information and examples from reliable sources
- Contains timely, current information and examples
- Contains information and examples of interest to the audience
- Provides the depth and breadth of coverage appropriate for audience
- Sequences information in a logical order
- Chunks information is manageable pieces
- Appeals to the imagination, senses, and intellect
- Fosters respect for all people including women, minorities, ethnic groups, disabled, and elderly.
- Reflects a culturally diverse, pluralistic society and promote global awareness
- Balances opposing views of a controversial topic using factual and unbiased perspectives
- Free from inappropriate or derogatory material
- Matches the vocabulary and approaches necessary for "real world" applications
- Provides multiple ways for students to explore concepts
- Provides developmentally appropriate content
- Provide a clear conceptual framework for concepts and skills taught
- Contains an interesting introduction to grab student interest
The materials should contain features appropriate for the content and the instructional approach.
- Contains clear, concise directions for students and/or teachers
- Accessible for auditory learners
- Accessible for visual learners
- Accessible for tactile learners
- Accessible for students with disabilities
- Draws on a variety of resources
- Presents information using a variety of modes/channels of communication
- Uses variations in text, graphics, sounds, or other elements to maintain students interest
Active Involvement and Assessment
The materials should contain active involvement and assessment such as questioning and feedback that facilitate learning.
- Keeps students engaged and motivated throughout
- Aligns assessment with objectives and student skill levels
- Encourages students to apply prior learning to new situations
- Incorporates the use of active learning, inquiry, and/or problem solving
- Uses manipulatives, examples, scenarios, or cases to explore, model, or analyze
- Demonstrates or describes concepts with examples then provides opportunities to practices
- Incorporates frequent opportunities for active involvement or self-reflection
- Provides a variety of opportunities to practice and improve comprehension
- Includes positive, corrective, and informative feedback for students
- Provides additional examples or remediation to assist students in need
- Provides multiple ways for students to communicate ideas and solutions
- Provides developmentally appropriate engagement and assessment
- Encourages discussion, reflection, or other types of active thinking
- Incorporates a variety of pedagogical strategies such as discussion, open-ended questions, practice, and cooperative learning
- Contains a balance of activities to assess conceptual, procedural, and problem-solving skills
- Provides suggestions for enrichment or reinforcing activities
- Incorporates multiple forms of assessment such as oral response, written work, observations, and/or quizzes.
Technical and Format Aspects
The materials should be available in a format that can easily be accessed by instructors and students.
- Meets acceptable production standards of quality
- Works without error (i.e., website runs, software opens)
- Is easy to install, access, reproduce, or use
- Includes documentation to support materials use
- Contains navigation or organizational elements that make the materials easy to use without getting lost
- Incorporates principles of effective page or screen design including readability, legibility, consistency, and use of functional areas
- Allows user to adjust the font size for easier reading
- Provides means of printing or downloading
- Uses the best format for learning
Explore the All The Information in the Known Universe learning experience from Kentucky Virtual Library. Use the criteria above to evaluate the instructional materials. In some cases, you may not be able to address all the items. For instance, you need to know about your audience needs and the instructional goals.
Many free, instructional resources are available online for teaching information skills. You can also find resources in other content-areas by doing a simple Google search. Simply search for the topic and add the words game, video, interactive, tutorial, or other type of material.
Why reinvent the wheel when there are so many great materials already available online? Increasingly libraries are providing learning resources to help people of all ages become information literature. Spend some time exploring online instructional materials.
Go to ShowMe Information Literacy Modules from NoodleTools.
Explore their lessons.
Keep in mind that both free and subscription-based library learning tools are available. For instance, the subscription-based tool Niche Academy provides ready-to-use online tutorials for using common library resources such as Overdrive and Zinio.
Many of the online resources are focused on academic information instruction. However the content and approaches can be adapted for other uses.
Instructional games are a fun and motivating way to learn. However keep in mind that if students don't have prior knowledge related to the content presented in the game, they may not be successful. Consider using a game to jump-start a new topic, review prior knowledge, introduce a concept, practice skills, or reflect on a topic. Surround the experience with other types of materials that will provide quality content, examples and nonexamples, and opportunities to practice with feedback.
- College Information Literacy Game
- Information Literacy Game from University of North Carolina
- Lord of the Flies
- Plagiarism Game from Lycoming College
- Within Range from Carnegie Mellon Library
Play one of the games listed above.
Do you like games or not?
How could you incorporate this game into a larger instructional experience?
What other ways could you learn this content?
Learning guides are print materials or online handouts provide information, step-by-step instructions, or resources. Rather than providing an entire learning experience, they are often used for review or as part of a larger instructional unit.
- CiteSource from Trinity College
- Copyright Guides from De Montfort University
- General Guides from Berkeley
- Guide to Library Research at Cornell
- HEAT from De Montfort University
- Info Skills from the University of East London
- Learning and Learning Services Guide from De Montfort University
- Library Catalog Users Guide from Rutgers
- Library Research Process from Northeast Illinois University
- Online Reference Guide from San Jose State University
- Research and Documentation from Bedford/St.Martin
- Seven Steps of the Research Process from Cornell
- Sources and Citation from Dartmouth College
- Study Skills Self Help from Virginia Tech
- What is a Scholarly Journal?
Explore a couple of the example above.
Do you see their learning guide as a stand-along tool or as part of a larger instructional experience?
Recorded demonstrations are common in information skills instruction. From videos where students learn how to use a piece of equipment to screencasts that show the steps in using an online database, demonstrations provide the knowledge and skills needed to use tools and resources effectively.
These "how-to" videos often use screencasting or screen capture software.
- Database Guides from San Jose State University
- Embedding RSS feed in your wiki from Joyce Valenza
- Info Skills from University of East London
- Internet Archive: LION TV. This website contains nearly 100 items.
- Online Tutorials from Orange County Library
- Screencast.com. This TechSmith site contains dozens of screencasts organized in folders.
- YouTube: LIONTV. This YouTube channel contains nearly 100 screencasting projects.
Explore a couple examples from the options above.
Are the instructional clear and concise?
Could you complete the task being demonstrated?
Are adequate examples and nonexamples provided?
Is the screen-size and resolution effective for what is being demonstrated?
Were arrows or screen labels used to focus attention?
Quizzes are often an element of instruction. They may include a range of question types. Questioning can be an important part of active involvement when students have a knowledge of the correct answer and receive informational feedback about errors and how they can improve next time.
Complete an online quiz.
What knowledge or skills would this quiz check?
What would you add or change about this quiz to make it more effective.
Research toolkits are self-instructional materials that provide a framework for students doing research or faculty guiding student work. They often provide information and examples. However, they may not provide practical or feedback to users.
- Academic Writing OWL from Purdue
- Guide to Library Resources from Rutgers
- Tips to Improve Student Research (for faculty)
- Tools of the Trade: A Library Starter Kit for Harvard Freshman
- Understanding Writing Assignments OWL from Purdue
- Writing Task OWL Resource List from Purdue
- Writing a Research Paper OWL from Purdue
Compare two of the research toolkits above.
How are their approaches alike and different?
Which approach do you like best? Why?
Slide Show Video Tutorials
Slide Show video tutorials are intended to teach new information by providing small chunks of content and examples along with opportunities to practice. Some tutorials do a better job than others with the active involvement and assessment aspects of tutorial development.
Many instructors develop PowerPoint presentations and record audio over these presentations. Others use screen capture programs to combine slides and screen captures with audio narration. Generally these are linear presentations with some active thinking elements such as reflective questions, suggestions, or other ways to help the viewer engage with the content.
- Research Minutes from OLIN Library (Finding Books, How to Read Citations, News Articles, Wikipedia: Beneath the Surface, Scholarly Articles)
- San Diego State University Library Tutorials
- Vanderbilt University Tutorials
View a couple of the videos above. Notice how slides and/or screen captures are mixed with narration.
Is this an effective approach for the content?
What other approaches could be used to teach these concepts or skills?
Video instruction can take many forms from online demonstrations to library safety topics. Think about the value of motion in teaching and learning.
You'll find that many of the videos you find online are lectures. Large group presentations can be a very effective instructional tool, but they can also be incredibly boring. Skilled presenters are able to engage their audience in meaningful content, engaging examples, and active thinking.
YouTube and Vimeo are two popular locations for video sharing. When using YouTube be sure to search for channels related to your topic of interest. Also, if you find one good video from a particular institution, seek out others from their institutional channel.
- Common Craft
- Creating a Data Management Plan for Your Grant Application
- Info Skills from University of East London
- Instructional Video from Coastal
- Annette Lamb
- Mr. B's Library Skills TV
- TED Presentations
- YouTube Examples
- Arizona State University
- Audra Deemer's Library Instruction Links
- Cute Miffy
- Library of Congress
- New York Public Library
- Olin & Uris Libraries, Cornell University
- Sanford Media Center
- University of Florida Libraries
- UTSA Libraries
- Yavapai College Library
Explore a couple of the examples from the list above.
Do the videos makes use of the power of audio and motion?
Is the length effective for the topic covered?
Web-based tutorials provide information, examples, practice activities, assessment, and some type of feedback. Generally, these materials are provided with a mixture of static text and graphics. However animation, audio, and video can contribute significantly to this approach.
- Bare Bones 101: A Basic Tutorial on Searching the Web from USC Beaufort Library
- Bruin Success with Less Stress from UCLA
- Citing the Law
- EMPOWER from Wichita State University
- Freshman Seminar at Murphy Library
- Get Ready for University Study
- Health Online from Charles Darwin University
- How to Recognize Plagiarism from Indiana University Bloomington
- Internet for Archives
- Internet Detective
- Information Gathering Skills
- Information Literacy from NUI Galway, Trinity College Dublin, and The University of Dublin
- IRIS from Clark College
- iSkillsZone from the University of the West of England, Bristol
- iSkills from Leeds University Library
- InfoSkills from The University of NewCastle Australia
- Info Skills from University of East London
- JISC Digital Media
- JISC InfoNet from Northumbria University
- net.tutor from Ohio State University
- OASIS from San Francisco State University
- Online Tutorials from San Jose State University
- Paraphrasing Tutorial
- PILOT from Sacramento City College Library
- Plagiarism: The Crime of Intellectual Kidnapping
- Plagiarism Tutorial from SJSU
- Plagiarism from Rutgers
- Plagiarism Tutorial from Rutgers
- Referencing Guide from University of the West of England
- Research and Information Skills from The University of Sydney
- Research Paper Navigator from Tufts University
- Rutgers RIOT: Research Information Online Tutorial
- Search and Write from University of Bergen Library
- Study Smart from Queensland University of Technology
- Texas Information Literacy Tutorial
- TIP from University of Wyoming
- Tutorials from University of Minnesota
- Information Literacy Interactive Tutorial (designed for social services professionals)
- Road to Research Tutorial from UCLA (enter as guest)
- Safari from The Open University
- What makes a journal scholarly? from Rutgers
Try the Let's Search for the Skunk Ape: An Information Literacy Tutorial from Florida Gulf Coast University. This tutorial uses the a fun theme as the basis for learning information skills.
Does this tutorial provide information, examples, practice activities, assessment, and some type of feedback? Is it effective, efficient, and appealing? Why or why not?
Now, compare this tutorial with another from the list above. How do they compare?
WebQuests are a web-based approach to inquiry-based learning. Popular in the 1990s, many educators have continued to use the approach for developing engaging online learning experiences for their students. For lots of examples, go to WebQuest.org and do a search. Or, try QuestGarden. Explore information literacy examples for K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Adult/College.
- Internet Detective is a WebQuest that takes students through process of solving a case.
- Study Skills takes students through the process of improving study skills.
Library Learning Starting Points
Many libraries provide an information literacy, help, and/or training page that links to a variety of resources including tutorials, videos, and toolkits.
Benjes-Small, Dorner, and Schroeder (2009) studied the use of a menu approach for library instruction requests. They provided the following suggestions for those involved with establishing library websites:
- Look at examples of library instruction menus.
- Involve all librarians who take part in the library instruction program.
- Start small and simple.
- Revise often.
- Stress the menu's flexibility and remember its limitations.
- Publicize it.
- Leeds University Library
- Liberty University
- San Jose State University
- University at Albany
- University of Illinois
- University of Leicester Library
- Western Oregon University (uses LibGuides)
Explore one of the library instruction starting points.
Imagine that you're a student using this library.
Do you think adequate information is provided for independent learning? Why or why not?
Research and Subject Guides
Research and subject guides often provide subject-area information instruction. LibGuides is a popular tools for creating guides. This subscription service is popular with all library types. If you're looking for examples in other settings, you can do a search in LibGuides.
Examine two of the guides within the university sites above.
How do they incorporate instructional into the subject guides?
What other instructional materials would be useful as part of these guides?
It's useful for materials to be tailored for specific disciplines. In some cases, content-specific examples help provide students with a context for learning. In other instances, instruction is focused on resources geared to a particular audience.
- Research and Information Skills - organized by subjects
- Virtual Training Suite - tutorials for each content area
- Information Literacy Tutorial from Rutgers
- Why Google? AccessSurgery, Micromedex Videos from Cornell Medical Library
- Law Online from Charles Darwin University
- Learnmore: A Collection of Multimedia Law Tutorials from Lawbore
- Engage in Research: The Interactive Resource for Bioscience Students from University of Reading
Each discipline has unique needs associated with information skills.
Examine one of the examples above.
How does this learning resource address information skills within the particular content area?
Most of the materials you find online for free were developed by librarians and educators. However you'll also find free materials provided by professional organizations and companies that specialize in library products.
Examine one of the learning materials above.
Does the resource try to "sell" the product?
Does the instructional approach and skills focus generalize to other informational situations or is it specific to the product?
Benjes-Small, Candice, Dorner, Jennifer L, Schroeder, Robert (2009). Surveying libraries to identify best practices for a menu approach for library instruction requests. Communications in Information Literacy, 3(1), 31-44.
Gilton, Donna L. (2012). Lifelong Learning in Public Libraries. Scarecrow Press.
Harvey, Phyllis J., & Goodell, Karen J. (Spring 2008). Development and evolution of an information literacy course for a doctor of chiropractic program. Communications in Information Literacy, 2(1), 52-61.
Kirton, Jennifer & Barham, Lyn (2005). Information literacy in the workplace. Australian Library Journal., 54(4).
McAdoo, Monty L. (2012). Fundamentals of Library Instruction. ALA Editions.
Osborne, Antony (July 2011). The Value of Information Literacy: Conceptions of BSs Nursing Students at a UK University. Available: http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/14577/1/A_Osborne_final_thesis.pdf
Sagar, H. (1995). Implications for bibliographic instruction. In G. Pitkin, Impact of Emerging Technologies on Reference Service and Bibliographic Instruction. Greenwood.
Thompson, Nadine, Lewis, Sarah, Brennan, Patrick, and Robinson, John (June 2009). European Journal of Radiography, 1(2), 43047.