Instructors often describe teaching as an art, and once we step into the classroom, our work does resemble something of a performance. Our delivery can have a substantial impact on our learners’ engagement and the overall effectiveness of the lesson. Dynamic teachers who seem excited about their work and appear to care about their learners will spark a lot more interest than those who seem bored or condescending. This chapter begins with an exploration of teaching styles, provides an overview of the presentation skills necessary for developing a compelling classroom presence, and discusses strategies for common concerns, such as overcoming anxiety, managing classrooms, and handling questions.
Lesson planning largely focuses on the content of your session, but before entering the classroom, you should also consider how you will deliver the lesson. Instructors’ teaching styles are an expression of how they view their role in the classroom and their relationship to their learners. All of us have encountered a variety of teaching styles as students, and each style has probably evoked a different response or influenced our overall learning experience. Research suggests that a teacher’s teaching style can impact student learning and motivation (Bolkan & Griffin, 2017; De Meyer et al., 2014). Activity 12.1 contains an exercise to help you reflect on teaching styles and their impacts.
Activity 12.1: Reflecting on Teaching Styles
One way to get a sense of an instructor’s teaching style is to consider how they start a class or course. For Laura, one of the textbook authors, an example sticks out from one of her first undergraduate English classes. As the class start time neared, most of the students had already arrived and found seats; some were chatting with each other. At the exact minute that class was scheduled to begin, the professor walked into the room. Without introducing himself or saying a word, he began handing out a stack of papers titled “The Sheet of 27.” This sheet listed 27 automatic deductions on assignments including, for instance, a nine-point deduction for splitting an infinitive. As the sheets made their way around the classroom, people stopped chatting, and by the time everyone had a sheet in hand, the room was silent. Still without introducing himself, the professor began lecturing.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion:
- What sort of tone did this instructor set for the classroom?
- How do you imagine students felt as the class began?
- Why might an instructor choose to begin a class this way?
- Think back to some of the first days of class that you have experienced. What are some of the different ways your teachers have chosen to start class? Do most teachers begin by going over the syllabus and assignments? How often have teachers had everyone in the class introduce themselves? Has anyone ever started class with a joke? Have you had teachers ask the class to work together to create ground rules or norms of behavior for class interactions?
- Which of the approaches have you found most and least engaging?
- In general, have you found that the approach teachers use for starting the class is reflective of how they teach throughout the course or session?
- At this point, how do you imagine yourself beginning a class or workshop session? What approach do you think you would find most comfortable?
[Note: Eventually this professor became one of Laura’s favorite teachers, something she did not expect from that early experience!]
Teaching styles can encompass general behavior and demeanor, such as whether instructors are friendly or stern, as well as their preferred instructional strategies, such as whether they are more inclined to lecture or use active learning techniques. Teaching style is more than just personality; it seems to be related to instructors’ philosophy of teaching (Atasoy et al., 2018; Saritas, 2016) and might also be influenced by their own confidence or feelings of self-efficacy in the classroom (González et al., 2018; Zhang et al., 2019).
While several descriptions and inventories of teaching styles exist, Grasha’s (1994) model is perhaps the most well-known and detailed. Grasha proposed five teaching styles: expert, formal authority, personal model, facilitator, and delegator. These styles, including their pros and cons, are explored in more depth in the following sections.
The expert approach is teacher-centered and assumes that instructors hold the knowledge and expertise on a topic; their role is to help learners gain competence or mastery of the topic by imparting this knowledge to the students. While the teacher’s level of knowledge is an asset, some learners might be overwhelmed or daunted by a show of expertise. Some instructors are preoccupied with maintaining their status as an expert and do not encourage questions or debate. Also, if the expert instructor’s focus is on transmitting only facts and knowledge, they might not fully expose learners to the underlying processes that lead to that knowledge.
Some instructors criticize the expert teaching style because of its teacher-centeredness and reliance on “passive” instructional strategies like lectures. However, the expert style can be both engaging and dynamic when done well. TED Talks are an excellent example; these presentations are delivered as lectures by experts, generally with little, if any, audience interaction, and yet they are usually exciting, inspiring, and entertaining. As discussed in Chapter 10, several strategies exist to make lectures dynamic and interactive. Further, lectures can be efficient when we have a lot of material to cover in a brief time, or when we want to provide background knowledge before a more interactive lesson. With this in mind, we should not dismiss the expert style out of hand but consider when and how to use it to its best advantage.
- Formal Authority
Similar to experts, the instructors in the role of formal authority hold status due to their education, background, and position. Formal authorities tend to focus on enculturating students into a field or discipline by teaching them the “right way” to do things, using feedback to guide learners. One advantage of the formal authority approach is that the teacher tends to establish clear goals and expectations. However, this approach can also result in “rigid, standardized ways of managing students and their concerns” (Grasha, 1994, p. 143).
- Personal Model
Instructors who use the personal model tend to lead by example and model behavior. While experts and formal authorities might be more likely to lecture, personal models will demonstrate skills and processes, and guide students through hands-on activities. These instructors tend to draw on personal experiences and stories as examples.
The facilitator acts more as a coach or guide than an expert instructor. Facilitators are focused on developing learners’ independence and assist learners in that quest by “asking questions, exploring options, suggesting alternatives, and encouraging them to develop criteria to make informed choices” (Grasha, 1994, p. 143), along with providing meaningful feedback. The facilitator approach is more learner-centered than the expert, formal authority, or personal model. However, Grasha warns that this approach takes more time and can be inefficient if the instructor has a great deal of content to share.
The delegator is perhaps the most student-centered approach. The delegator’s ultimate goal is to empower students to be independent, often taking a discovery or problem-based approach to learning. Delegators may give students projects or problems to tackle on their own or in self-directing groups, intervening only at the students’ request. This approach can be very engaging and hands on, but it can also make some learners anxious if they are not ready for such autonomy.
These teaching styles are not prescriptive or exhaustive, and they are not meant to be restrictive either. Just as we would be unlikely to strictly adhere to a single learning theory in our instruction, no instructor embodies just a single style of teaching. But it can be helpful to be aware of these different styles and how they play out in the classroom. For instance, the expert and formal authority approaches are most associated with lecture, while the personal model approach tends to incorporate some demonstration. When adopting facilitator and delegator styles, teachers employ more active learning techniques. The delegator style can be used with individual students but tends to involve a lot of group projects (Gill, 2013) and may be more appropriate for credit courses than single-session workshops. Most likely we will find ourselves combining styles, even within the same lesson. For instance, in a high school class focused on research papers, we could start the lesson with a combination of the expert and personal model styles by giving a brief lecture and demonstration on how to search using keywords and subjects, and how to combine search terms with Boolean operators. Next, as we give the students time to try their own searches, we would adopt a facilitator role as we circulate through the class and coach them on their strategies.
The two main points to remember with teaching styles is to match the style to the content and audience, and to do what feels authentic. Students often need some prerequisite knowledge before they can begin a new topic. Even if we are committed to acting as facilitators in our teaching, an expert lecture can be an efficient way to deliver an overview of a new topic or to recap previous information relatively quickly. The expert style can also work well for sharing factual information. On the other hand, if the lesson involves learning a new skill, a lecture might be too passive and abstract an approach. In that case, a demonstration, followed by hands-on practice, is probably most effective. Beginning teachers might feel more comfortable in an expert role where they have a little more control over the classroom and the flow of information. Over time, as they gain confidence, they will feel ready to give learners more autonomy and step into a facilitator or delegator role. See Activity 12.2 for a brief exercise on discovering your teaching style.
Activity 12.2: Discovering Your Teaching Style
Determining your preferred teaching style can help you select instructional strategies, think about how you approach activities, and analyze the steps you take to manage the classroom. Use the questions below to reflect on which teaching style most resonates with you. Remember that you are never tied to a single style and that your preferences may change over time or in different circumstances.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion:
- Which of the styles outlined in this chapter most resonate with you? Why do you think that is?
- Are there any styles that you feel would not suit you right now? Why might that be?
- You could think of the style that resonates with you as your preferred, or comfort, style and the one that does not suit you as your stretch style. What are the advantages of your comfort style? What steps could you take to gain more confidence with your stretch style?
- Think about some of the good and not-so-good instructors you have had. Which styles best describe them? Do you think their personal teaching style impacted your perception of them or of the content? How so?
- Think about an information setting, group of learners, or information literacy standard that you would like to work with. Would that setting, audience, or standard impact your choice of teaching style? How so?
- Imagine you are preparing a lesson on searching the library catalog, a database, or an archival finding aid for an audience of your choice. Choose two of the teaching styles, and describe how you would deliver the lesson in each of those styles. Was one style easier for you to describe? If so, why might that be?
Basic Presentation Skills
If you think about some of the best (or worst) presentations you have seen, you can probably recognize the fundamental aspects that distinguish an engaging delivery from a less engaging one. These can be summed up as presentation or public-speaking skills, and include the presenters’ speaking voice and body language, how they move around the space, and their overall demeanor.
As each of these skills is discussed in more detail, keep in mind that the advice and tips must be understood within the logistical context of the instruction session. Library instructors are more likely to be presenting to a group of 10 workshop attendees or a classroom of 20 or 30 students than to an auditorium of hundreds. Similarly, teaching tends to involve more interaction between the instructor and student than, say, a keynote address, which typically is delivered as a lecture or monologue. While we rely on many of the same techniques, our delivery will be different in each situation. In a workshop or classroom, we can move around the room and make direct eye contact with learners but will probably have to rely on our natural voice projection to be heard. During a large lecture we might have a microphone to ensure we can be heard, but we might also have to stand behind a podium to access the microphone. The key is to be aware of your space, make use of its opportunities, and adapt to its limitations.
One of the most important steps we can take as presenters is to ensure that our audience can hear us. Projection refers to the strength or volume of a voice. The more we project, the louder and clearer our voice is. In order to be heard comfortably in a classroom setting, nearly all people need to project their voice more than they would for a normal conversation. However, some people tend to drop their voice almost to a whisper when they are nervous. If this happens to you, you will need to make an extra effort to project. One technique to help with projecting is to make eye contact with a listener in the back of the room or choose a spot on the back wall and imagine you are speaking directly to that person or space (Oppelt, 2015).
Importantly, projection is not the same as yelling. If your voice is tired and strained after a session, you may not be projecting your voice correctly. See the exercise in Activity 12.3 and the Lecturing without Tiring and Losing Your Voice (Brown, 2012) videos in the Suggested Readings to learn more about correct breathing and projection.
Activity 12.3: Projecting Your Voice: Breathing from the Diaphragm
Projection involves breathing from the diaphragm, rather than the chest, and puts less stress on your vocal cords. Babies naturally breathe from their diaphragms, but as adults we tend to shift our breathing into our chests. To test if you are breathing correctly, lie on your back and put an object like a book on your lower abdomen. If you are breathing from your diaphragm, the book will rise and fall with your breath, but if you are breathing from your chest, the book will remain still.
If the book is not moving as you breathe, practice until you can feel the air drawing into your diaphragm. Once you get used to the feeling, try to notice throughout the day whether your breathing has shifted back to your chest, and take a moment to reset. You will find you can speak more audibly and longer if you practice diaphragm breathing. Singers rely on diaphragm breathing for performance, so if you want more practice, you could explore singing lessons.
Regardless of how loud you believe you are, do not assume that everyone can hear you. Learners might be reluctant to say if they are unable to hear, so be sure to check early in the lesson that everyone can hear you comfortably. If you are offered a microphone, especially in a large auditorium, use it. Many of us are uncomfortable with microphones if we are not accustomed to them, and we might be tempted to avoid them. Remember that the microphone is not about you; it is about the comfort and engagement of your audience and can be especially important for audience members with hearing disabilities.
In addition to ensuring that we are loud enough to be heard, we should address the following issues when speaking:
Be sure to clearly enunciate each word. This is especially important when our learners include non-native English speakers and those with hearing disabilities, and when we are using unfamiliar vocabulary.
Slowing down our pace is often key to better diction and can make it easier for our learners to hear and understand us. Many of us speak more quickly when we are nervous, and we will tend to rush if we are running out of time to address all the material we have planned. Remember that even if we cover everything, learners are not likely to understand or remember material that was rushed. When we rush, we often take shallow breaths. The deep breathing exercises that help us project our voice can also help us slow our pace. If you use written notes or an outline, you can include reminders to pause.
Tone and Pitch
Learners will pick up on your enthusiasm for the session and the material—or lack thereof. Varying the tone and pitch of your voice to avoid a monotone can convey energy and help hold the audience’s interest.
Verbal Tics and Fillers
Try to avoid fillers or meaningless interjections like “um,” “like,” and “you know.” While these fillers are distracting for the listener, the speaker is often unaware of using them. You might need to videotape yourself or ask a peer to observe you to know if you overuse them. Of course, some occurrence of these fillers is natural and can make your tone more conversational, so do not worry if they slip in occasionally.
A substantial amount of information is communicated through body language. Good instructors must be aware of their physical presence as well as their voice. Open body language (such as keeping your hands at your sides rather than crossed or in your pockets), making eye contact, and smiling can improve your presence and make your lesson more engaging. Posture, gestures, and use of space are all integral to effective body language.
Eye contact signals that we are speaking directly to an individual and can make our learners feel more involved in the lesson and encourage them to pay attention. Try to make eye contact with different individuals throughout the lesson. When answering questions, do not look only at the individual who posed the question, but move your gaze around the group to indicate that the information is relevant to everyone. If the group is very large, you might not be able to make eye contact with each audience member but be sure to look at different sections of the audience as you speak.
Some presenters, especially those who are inexperienced and nervous, might find making eye contact difficult. If engaging in direct eye contact makes you uncomfortable, try focusing on a person’s nose or between the eyebrows; to that person, it will seem as if you are looking in their eyes. As you gain experience speaking in class, you will probably find eye contact becomes easier.
The way you stand conveys a message to the audience. A person who stands up straight looks more confident and engaged than one who is hunched over. Interestingly, some research suggests that good posture can actually increase your confidence (Ohio State University, 2009), so while slouching might be a natural reaction to nervousness, standing up straight might help overcome some of that nervousness. Try to keep your shoulders square and your back straight as you speak. As an added bonus, good posture enables better breathing, which can help you project your voice more effectively, as discussed earlier (Dalton, 2018).
Gestures should flow naturally and be an organic part of your speech. For instance, if you are describing something on screen, you will most likely point to the relevant part of the screen. If you are counting out a number of points or steps in a process, you might hold up the same number of fingers to reinforce your point. Do not be afraid of big gestures, especially if you are in a large room; people should be able to see your gestures just as they should be able to hear your voice. At the same time, be aware of distracting gestures, like fiddling with jewelry or hair.
Smiling is another signal of interest and engagement. People often associate a smile with warmth and competence in the speaker (Selig, 2016). Further, smiling releases dopamine and elevates your mood, which can help counteract the stress some people feel when speaking in public (Riggio, 2012).
Use of Space
Moving around the room as you speak can convey energy and help hold listeners’ attention. As you walk around, you can make eye contact with more people and help those who are not in the front and center of the room feel involved. Brookfield (2013, p.14) suggests occasionally standing in the back of the classroom, or “lecturing from Siberia,” to connect with learners in the last rows. While moving around the room can be engaging, pacing is distracting. Make your movements purposeful and spend a little time in different spots.
It might seem obvious, but as you move around the room, be sure that you are facing the audience when you are speaking. If you need to write on the board, pause to do that and then resume talking once you have turned back to the room. If you are pointing things out on a screen, stand next to the screen, rather than turning toward it.
Humor can be a great way to engage our listeners, and a well-chosen joke can illustrate a point or make a connection that learners might otherwise miss. Humor can also alleviate library anxiety, or the stress many of our patrons feel using the library for research (Walker, 2006), and some research suggests that humor can increase learning (Trefts & Blakeslee, 2000). However, some library instructors are reluctant to use humor, perhaps feeling shy or worrying that it will make them appear less professional. Also, humor can be hard to do well. Not all people find the same things funny, and some jokes incorporate offensive tropes. But when it is done well, the benefits of humor generally outweigh the negatives. Following are some strategies for successfully integrating humor into our sessions:
- Learn to tell a joke. Learning to tell a joke is a skill that can serve you well even if you never use humor in the classroom. Good comedy is all about the delivery—the pace of the story, effective pauses, even the tone of voice—and these skills are relevant to any presentation or public speaking. Even if you do not feel comfortable incorporating jokes into your teaching, practice telling jokes to your friends to learn how to use pace, timing, and pauses effectively.
- Choose humor carefully. Not all people find humor in the same places. When choosing a joke or story, be sure to avoid anything that relies on stereotypes for humor. Likewise, be cautious of sarcasm and dry humor, as these are more easily misunderstood and can sound negative or offensive. We should also be cautious with jokes that rely heavily on cultural knowledge, including pop culture references, as not all learners will have the same points of reference.
- Make it relevant. Brief jokes and comic asides can be a nice way to break up a lecture or reinvigorate the class if attention is lagging. However, jokes, cartoons, and other uses of humor should be relevant to the session.
- Be aware of copyright. Showing a comic strip or humorous video clip can be an easy way to inject some humor into our classes. Just remember that most of what you find online is likely protected by copyright. Be sure to credit the original source and follow any relevant licensing agreements.
Instructors, especially new instructors, share a number of questions and concerns about delivering instruction. This section addresses some of the most common concerns.
If the thought of standing in front of a classroom to lead an instruction session fills you with dread, you are not alone. More than one-quarter of Americans report anxiety at public speaking, making it one of the most common fears (Wilkinson College, 2018). The fact that this fear is so common means that your listeners are likely to understand and be sympathetic if you are a little nervous.
Preparation and practice are two of the best tools to overcome this anxiety (Sawchuck, 2017). If you have followed the instructional planning steps outlined in this book, you should be well prepared with a clear set of learning outcomes, carefully chosen instructional strategies, and a detailed lesson plan. While it is difficult to re-create an authentic classroom environment, you should try to practice your lesson ahead of time. If possible, recruit some colleagues to act as the audience, and encourage them to ask questions and offer feedback. If you are unable to assemble an audience, you can practice a lecture in front of a mirror or even an obliging pet. What is most important is running through the words out loud to get comfortable with them.
Preparation and practice take place well ahead of the session, but other relaxation techniques can help you calm down just before entering a classroom. The deep-breathing exercises for vocal projection, described earlier in this chapter, can also be used to reduce anxiety. Some people benefit from visualizing a successful presentation, imagining themselves providing a confident and engaging session to a receptive audience (Sawchuck, 2017). Others find listening to music, a favorite podcast, or a comedy routine helps them relax.
Remember that anxiety can lead us to exaggerate problems (Career Press, 1993; Sawchuck, 2017). We can challenge our fears by identifying what we are afraid of, asking ourselves whether our fears are rational, and then considering how we could handle the situation if our fears came to pass. For instance, if we are afraid that we will forget content, we can ensure that we have notes with us. If we are afraid that people will laugh at us, we can remind ourselves that our audience is likely to be interested and supportive. Sawchuck (2017) recommends focusing on positive outcomes over negative ones.
While even experienced speakers sometimes feel anxiety, most people find that the more presentations they do, the less nervous they feel. In other words, one of the best steps for overcoming your fear is to take every opportunity to speak in public. You can be creative in looking for opportunities. For instance, you might deliver a report at a staff or community meeting; take a public-speaking class; volunteer to speak at your local school’s career day; join service organizations, like Kiwanis or Rotary clubs, that offer speaking opportunities; or find a local Toastmasters club, an organization that focuses on building public-speaking skills (Fasano, 2017).
Amount of Content
One common concern is how to plan an appropriate amount of content; instructors worry about having too much material and running out of time or having too little material and ending up with extra time to fill. While both of these situations are stressful, having too much material is a more common problem. Including time stamps in the lesson plan, or estimates of the time needed for each section, can help in planning, but these estimates are hard to calculate, especially for new teachers. Instructors, especially those with less experience, often underestimate how much time they will need to devote to various topics and activities. As a result, they allot too little time to each section of the lesson plan, include too much material and too many activities, and find themselves rushing to include everything.
LaGuardia and Oka (2000, p. 59) suggest following a two-step process to right-size curriculum content. First, they recommend that instructors cut half of the content from their original lesson plan. Then, working with the new, reduced outline, the researchers suggest cutting an additional third from the outline, resulting in a final lesson plan that is one-third the size of the original. LaGuardia and Oka acknowledge that this is a difficult process, but the resulting outline will reflect a much more realistic amount of content for the given time frame. Making these cuts will feel challenging because all of the material tends to seem valuable and important. Review the discussion on big ideas and essential knowledge in Chapter 8 to help you determine what material is really necessary, and what would just be nice to know but not essential. If you are still worried about having too little material, plan some backup activities or demonstrations to fill in any extra time. Just be sure that the extra material is related to and reinforces the existing content.
Occasionally we will have learners who are disruptive or uncooperative. Our exact response will depend on the nature of the disruption, but several general classroom management strategies can be useful across a variety of situations. Begin class by setting clear expectations, including for behavior. Remind learners to be respectful in all of their interactions, and model that behavior for them. In public libraries, learners have chosen to attend sessions, so they are likely to be motivated and engaged. In school and academic libraries, on the other hand, students might not have a choice about whether to attend a session and might resent the use of their time, especially if they do not see the value in the material. You can remind learners what they are gaining from the session in terms of new skills and knowledge, which might encourage them to pay attention.
If the group is just too lively or the conversation is getting off track, you can gently redirect by saying something like, “This is a great conversation, but I want to make the most of our time, so I’d like to bring us back to today’s topic.” If, however, individuals are being rude to their peers or to you as the instructor, you should remind them of the behavioral expectations. Keep your tone positive and focus on the behavior rather than the person. If the behavior continues, as a last resort you could ask the individual to leave the classroom. Again, try to keep the focus on the actions rather than the individual. For instance, you might say, “That behavior is distracting, and your peers are trying to learn. If you cannot stop, please leave so we can continue the lesson.”
Having to answer questions on the fly is something that causes many speakers and instructors anxiety. Keep in mind that learners’ questions are a sign they are engaged in the session’s content and trust you to be able to assist in their learning. Looked at this way, questions are a sign of successful instruction!
One of the best ways to be prepared for questions is to be thoroughly familiar with your topic and materials. Following are a few additional strategies:
- Be confident. Remember that you are an information expert and that you have spent a lot of time preparing your class; you can feel confident about your skills and knowledge.
- Ask the learner to repeat the question, if necessary. You cannot answer a question well if you do not understand it. Do not be afraid to ask the student to repeat the question if you did not hear it clearly or are not sure you understood it. Another strategy is to paraphrase the question back to the student and ask them if you understood it correctly.
- Anticipate questions. Some material is more challenging and some tasks more complex than others. If we have taken the time to get to know our audience, we might anticipate the parts of the lesson that will be most challenging and the kinds of questions that might arise, which will allow us to prepare our answers.
- Follow up with the student. Learners might be shy to ask a follow-up question, or to admit that they are still confused after hearing your answer. When you have finished your response, consider asking whether you have answered the question completely, or if anything is still unclear.
- Admit when you are unsure. No one has every answer, and it is perfectly acceptable to admit if you cannot fully answer a learner’s question. Rather than just saying you do not know, you might offer to help them search for the answer after class or offer to follow up with them at another time. Remember that admitting you do not know the answer but are willing to seek it out models curiosity and inquiry for learners and can be as engaging as a smooth, expert answer.
Everyone makes mistakes. While this knowledge is reassuring, when you have just made a mistake in front of a room full of people who expect to learn from you, it can feel devastating. Try to remember that any mistake you might make in a library instruction session is unlikely to be very high stakes or have terrible consequences (Melissa, one of the authors of this book, likes to remind herself that when she was a swim instructor, a moment of inattentiveness could have a truly fatal consequence; in comparison, library instruction is much less anxiety producing). Once you realize that you have made a mistake, take a deep breath, acknowledge the mistake, and correct it. Once you have corrected the mistake, try not to dwell on it. Repeated apologies or explanations only draw more attention to the problem and might confuse the learner.
You can also reframe mistakes as teachable moments (Tustin, 2017). Keep in mind that if you made a mistake as an information expert, learners probably find the same information or skills challenging. Take some time to unpack the mistake, figure out what the confusion or stumbling block might be, and work with the students to correct it. For instance, if you mix up the Boolean operators “and” and “or,” you can discuss with learners how this is a common mistake because outside of online searching, the word “and” usually signals a bigger set but in searching it is the opposite. By acknowledging and correcting your mistakes, you are also modeling a growth mindset for students and demonstrating that they can take risks in their learning process and learn from mistakes.
Our time in the classroom interacting with our students can be the most rewarding part of teaching, but for many of us it is also the most anxiety-inducing. Our presentation of the lesson we have so carefully crafted is part of the art of teaching, and many strategies exist to ensure an engaging delivery and overcome any anxiety we feel. The key takeaways from this chapter are summarized here:
- Different teaching styles will suit different instructors, audiences, and formats. We should explore various teaching styles to discover which style or combination of styles feels most authentic to us and allows us to engage with students with the most confidence.
- Even in discussion-based classes, instructors spend substantial amounts of time speaking. Proper breathing and good pace, tone, and diction lead to a clear and engaging presentation. We should also be aware of our posture, eye contact, and gestures, as a lot of information is conveyed through body language.
- Relevant stories and judicious use of humor make presentations livelier and can illustrate points and make connections for learners in an engaging way.
- It is natural to be nervous about public speaking. Many strategies exist for overcoming our anxiety, but preparation and practice are the most effective.
Artman, J., Sundquist, J., & Dechow, D. R. (2016). The craft of librarian instruction: Using acting techniques to create your teaching presence. Association of College & Research Libraries.
This engaging book draws on acting techniques to offer a wealth of tips for improving presentation styles. The authors share a number of physical and vocal warm-up exercises, along with sections on identity and reflection, and tips for handling challenges such as technology failures. All examples and strategies are framed around library instruction.
Berkun, S. (2010). Confessions of a public speaker. O’Reilly Media.
This book is written in an entertaining and conversational style and is full of great advice for crafting an interesting and engaging presentation and dealing with fear of public speaking. Although the focus is on lecture-style presentations such as keynote addresses, the strategies and techniques are relevant for teachers as well.
Brown, R. (2012). Lecturing without tiring or losing your voice [Videos]. Center for Instructional Innovation and Assessment.
Part 1 (Introduction): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ju5whpzA7bU
Part 2 (Warm-Up): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZOtZwVfbtk
Part 3 (Breath): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAo24z1p4_s&t=1s
Part 4 (Placement): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Tmls-lAi4s
Part 5 (Resonators): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2OxNnr0ZAE
This series of videos teaches proper breathing techniques to help you project your voice and protect your vocal cords.
Gallo, C. (2014, March 4). 9 public speaking lessons from the world’s greatest TED Talks. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/carminegallo/2014/03/04/9-public-speaking-lessons-from-the-worlds-greatest-ted-talks/#50d2328b4a9d
This article sums up public speaking advice from nine popular TED Talk speakers. The advice is distilled from Gallo’s book Talk Like TED published in 2014 by St. Martin’s Press, in which each speaker offers a full chapter outlining their advice.
Polkinghorne, S. (2015, September 9). Unpacking and overcoming “edutainment” in library instruction. In the Library with the Lead Pipe. http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2015/edutainment/
Polkinghorne examines and challenges calls to integrate theater and humor into library instruction simply for the sake of entertainment, suggesting it can undermine librarians’ role as teachers. Rather, she reframes the use of performance techniques like improv to make library instruction engaging while still maintaining a focus on learning and outcomes.
Trefts, K., & Blakeslee, S. (2000). Did you hear the one about the Boolean operators? Incorporating comedy into library instruction. Reference Services Review, 28(4), 369-378. https://doi.org/10.1108/00907320010359731
In this case study, the authors share their experience taking a comedy workshop and incorporating what they learned into their library instruction. The article includes practical advice for integrating various kinds of humor into the classroom, including jokes, videos, and cartoons.
Walker, B. E. (2006). Using humor in library instruction. Reference Services Review, 34(1), 117-128. https://doi.org/10.1108/00907320610648806
Walker offers a nice guide to incorporating humor into your teaching, providing a general overview of classroom humor techniques as well as some background on how humor can reduce learners’ anxiety. The article also explores different styles of humor and offers advice on cultivating a personal style.
Atasoy, E., Yangin, S., & Tolu, H. (2018). Relationship between math teachers’ instructional styles and their educational philosophical backgrounds. Journal of Education and Training Studies, 6(10), 54-68. https://doi.org/10.11114/jets.v6i10.3510
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