Section 4 Lesson Formats

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Section 4 Lesson Formats

    Section Four: Lesson Formats Section 4: Lesson Formats


    Different lesson formats are discussed and planning tips are given for each. This

    section includes:

    ? Planning a lecture (pp. 33-34)

    ? Planning a workshop, including small group discussions (pp. 34-37)

    ? Planning one-to-one teaching (pp. 37-38). Planning a lecture

    Circumstances may require you to deliver a session to a large number of students in

    a lecture hall, offering you little choice of teaching method. The lecture format is

    popular and widely used but it can be a challenge to retain interest and enable

    learning. When starting to plan a lecture ask yourself:

    ? Can I try a team approach? Short contributions by a number of lecturers

    can help sustain student interest.

    ? Am I using PowerPoint effectively?

    o Ensure the slides are supporting your lecture rather than leading it.

    Decide on content first and then create your slides.

    o For tips on designing slides see Section 5: Teaching Technologies, pp.


    ? How should I pace my lecture? Try and change pace frequently. Don’t

    dwell too long on drier sections and insert something light-hearted from time

    to time. Another way of changing pace is to move from talking to showing a

    video, or from demonstrating a database to playing an audio clip.

    ? How can I make the lecture more interactive? Techniques such as quiz

    formats can be used to involve learners (see Case Study 4, p. 34). Other

    techniques include getting students to discuss something in pairs followed by

    feedback to the group or asking them individually to write down a question

    related to the content of the lecture. You could then respond to these

    questions. Consider adopting these approaches for orientation sessions (see

    Section 2: Library Orientation, pp. 9-17).

    ? How should I plan the timing of my lecture? If your slot is 50 minutes, plan

    for 40 minutes of content. Remember that it will take a while for a large

    cohort to file in and out of the lecture hall.

     Handbook for Information Literacy Teaching: July 2009


Section Four: Lesson Formats

    ? How can I maintain interest right to the end of the lecture?

    o Plan to end with an activity rather than inviting questions, which can

    be a cue for students to start packing up. Try to incorporate

    opportunities for questions throughout your lecture.

    o The closing activity could involve asking each student to write down

    the three most important points from the lecture and then share them

    with their neighbour. This helps students reflect on what they have


    Structuring a lecture in a quiz format Case study 4

    This is a simple and effective method of introducing variety and interaction into this

    traditionally passive format. Students are handed an engaging multiple choice quiz

    sheet at the start (see Example 17, pp. 146-147) and have a few minutes to complete

    this. About eight or nine questions are sufficient. The lecture is structured in such a

    way that the answers are revealed at appropriate points and act as catalysts for the

    presentation of related material.

    In the accompanying PowerPoint presentation (see Example 17, pp. 148-149) the

    correct response to the question “How important is it to use the World Wide Web for your academic research?” is C. When the answer is revealed (a few PowerPoint tricks can be used to increase suspense!) the lecturer can move on to explore quality

    issues on the web and evaluation criteria. This format is great for providing

    opportunities to interact with the audience (“which option did you go for?” or “why did

    you choose that answer?”). Also, students can tot up their score at the end to gauge their success a fun way to finish!

    Nigel Morgan, Science Library

    Planning a workshop

    Small-group teaching commonly takes place in IT training rooms. This offers greater

    opportunity for incorporating ‘hands-on’ activities, peer learning and discussions than a lecture. When starting to plan a workshop ask yourself:

    ? How can I engage learners from the start? Consider planning an activity

    for the beginning of the session rather than starting with a conventional

    introduction. For example, try asking students to make a list of resources

    which they normally use when searching for information and then to discuss

    these with their neighbour.

    ? How do I ensure students find the session relevant? Where possible, link

    the research topic to a forthcoming assignment, see Example 11, p. 127-133.

34 Handbook for Information Literacy Teaching: July 2009

    Section Four: Lesson Formats ? How should I allocate PCs? The allocation of PCs can affect the dynamics

    of a session. Generally, students prefer working at their own PC. However,

    you can encourage discussion and interaction by getting pairs of students to

    share a machine. Example 9, pp. 121-122 is a worksheet used by groups of

    2 or 3 students who had explored a particular database together whilst

    sharing a PC.

    ? When teaching a particular resource, how much teacher input do

    students need before getting ‘hands-on’ practice?

    o Try getting students to tackle databases with little prior instruction.

    Students will experiment with different approaches and learn in a way

    that is authentic and transferable to tackling new databases in the

    future. You could then follow this with a demonstration to consolidate

    their learning.

    o A more conventional (though often less effective) method is to set a

    structured exercise prefaced by a five minute introduction /


    HILT Pick Describing keywords

     Put this in the context of students’ day-to-day lives by

    asking the whole group to shout out keywords which

    describe, say, a can of coke. Use this as a warm-up before

    asking them to tackle keywords for their essay topic.

    (Courtesy of Sarah Faye Cohen, Janet R. Cottrell and Cinse

    Bonino, Champlain College, Vermont, USA).

It is a challenge to keep learners engaged. Remember that evidence suggests that a

    student’s attention span drops markedly after twenty minutes so ensure you plan a

    session which incorporates a good range of learning experiences. Two useful

    methods of engaging learners within workshops are mind maps and small group

    discussions (see overleaf).

     Handbook for Information Literacy Teaching: July 2009 35

Section Four: Lesson Formats

    Mind mapping Case study 5

    Mind maps can be a very visual way of illustrating links between keywords and

    topics. A concept is put in the middle of a piece of paper, then lines radiate out and

    related keywords, ideas or even pictures can be added. Links can then be drawn to

    show relationships between keywords and to suggest how they could be combined.

    Mind mapping can work as an individual or group activity. To encourage

    collaboration and brainstorming you could divide a class into groups of four, each

    being given an essay question and some guidelines on how to produce a mind map,

    using a flipchart and coloured pens.

    I have found that, by using mind maps, students tend to produce a wider range of

    keywords than if they’d made a quick list and gone straight to a database. Working

    in this way also encourages more reticent students to contribute to the discussion.

    Mind mapping doesn’t have to be a large component of a session as it doesn’t suit

    everyone. However, students haven’t necessarily seen it before and it can be a good

    exercise away from computers. One of my students said he was going to use this

    method to plan out other essays!

    Ruth Thornton, Trevithick Library

    For more information about mind maps see:

    Buzan, T. 2005. The ultimate book of mind maps: unlock your creativity, boost your

    memory, change your life. London: Thorsons.

    Planning small group discussions

    Discussions can be a useful way of getting learners to communicate with each other

    and to explore ideas. When starting to plan a discussion ask yourself:

    ? Will a whole-group discussion be possible? The size of your group will

    affect the success of the discussion. Numbers may be determined by the

    School, but if you have the option of choosing, the following table will assist in

    determining the most appropriate group size for the session:

    3-6 people everyone speaks

    7-10 people almost everyone speaks. Quieter people say less.

    One or two may not speak at all.

    11-18 people 5 or 6 speak a lot, 3 or 4 join in occasionally

    19-30 people 3 or 4 people dominate

    30+ people difficult to have a whole-group discussion

36 Handbook for Information Literacy Teaching: July 2009

    Section Four: Lesson Formats

    ? Should I split my class into smaller groups?

    o The conventional approach is to split the class into pairs or groups of

    three or four and ask each group to discuss a topic before feeding

    back to the whole class. See Example 13, pp. 139-140.

    o Consider ‘snowballing’ or ‘pyramiding’. Students begin by working

    individually on a simple task such as making a list. They then join in

    pairs to prioritise the list. Then, working in small groups they complete

    the complex task of producing a set of guidelines from the list and are

    required to feed back to the whole group.

    Small group activity of this kind encourages active and collaborative learning.

    Socratic dialogue in class discussions Case study 6

    This technique consists of the tutor asking a question, getting a response from one

    audience member and then if the answer is perhaps not absolutely correct, bouncing

    the answer back to the audience in the form of a question: ‘Mm, what is your view of

    that?’ ‘Do you think that is right?’ Move the topic forward by asking questions and getting the audience to think about whether the answers given are right or wrong.

    Note the tutor merely asks questions and bounces the replies back to the group to

    consider. It is best if the tutor comments as little as possible.

    Use the technique sparingly do not toss every answer back, but use it only where the answer opens up possibilities to challenge the group’s understanding of the topic.

    It can help if the tutor poses a question which suggests the wrong answer; a very

    simple example would be: ‘Is Hansard a summary of what happens in Parliament?’

    This technique works especially well with mature students or people who have some

    grasp of the topic area. It may not work so well with first year undergraduates. The

    method is suited to small groups of no more than 12 students.

    Peter Clinch, Law Library

    Planning one-to-one teaching

    Although the emphasis in academic institutions is on group teaching, you will

    inevitably be asked to provide one-to-one sessions. These could be requested by:

    ? Undergraduates who missed a group session

    ? New researchers / lecturers

    ? Lecturers wanting a refresher course or to learn a new resource

    ? Clinicians needing information for patient care.

You may be able to book a time, or you may have to respond to an immediate

    request. In either case, you will need to ensure that you identify the needs of the

    learner and tailor the session accordingly. The case study below illustrates a

    thorough and practical approach to delivering one-to-one training.

     Handbook for Information Literacy Teaching: July 2009 37

Section Four: Lesson Formats

    One-to-one teaching Case study 7

    I offer one-to-one teaching in my hospital-based library, where it is particularly appreciated by learners whose experience of electronic resources is negligible, or rusty. Our learners are mainly training grade doctors, nurses taking courses, or other health professionals. They can book a time for their session, but I am also happy to teach on demand, which is convenient for busy clinicians.

    I start by establishing the learner’s level of knowledge and the reason for their search

    (patient care, course work, general refresher). Then I will ask for a topic we can use, which will usually guide us to the most suitable resource. I will demonstrate the resource and then prompt the learner while they practice.

    As the session progresses, I can establish a rapport with the learner, set a pace comfortable for them, encourage questions, and gauge how well they grasp the resource. The session can easily be tailored to their exact needs. Towards the end, I ask if they have learnt what they wanted or if they would like to repeat anything, and remind them that they are welcome to come back for further help.

    For me, this type of teaching is particularly rewarding as I can get to know the students and they are usually very appreciative. It also enhances our reputation as a helpful library service!

    Rosemary Soper, Archie Cochrane Library

38 Handbook for Information Literacy Teaching: July 2009

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