Section Four: Lesson Formats Section 4: Lesson Formats
Different lesson formats are discussed and planning tips are given for each. This
? 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
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