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10 Selecting Instructional Strategies and Creating Lesson Plans


In stage three of Backward Design we plan instructional strategies, or the specific activities we will use to present content and engage our students, ranging from more traditional methods, such as lecture, to the active learning techniques discussed in Chapter 4.  This part of instructional planning can be exciting as we start to think about how we will interact with learners. But, for the same reason, it can also be a little scary. How do we choose among all the possible activities and strategies? Which activities will allow us to achieve the learning goals and keep our students interested?

This chapter addresses these questions by delving into the various instructional strategies available to us. The chapter begins with an overview of some general best practices that apply across teaching strategies, followed by a review of a variety of specific strategies and suggestions on how to implement them. The final section discusses how to pull the three stages of Backward Design together into a lesson plan.

Instructional Strategies: Best Practices

Regardless of which instructional strategies we employ, a few general best practices should guide us. These practices facilitate student learning and increase engagement and motivation, and they apply equally well to both online and face-to-face modalities.

Active Learning

The premise of active learning is that students learn better and are more engaged when they interact directly with material than when they sit passively and only watch or listen. As instructors, we can find myriad ways to integrate active learning into our sessions. Active learning was covered in depth in Chapter 4, but it is such a popular topic and so highly recommended that it bears repeating here as a best practice.


Scaffolding acknowledges the role that prior experience and prerequisite knowledge play in learning and can be understood through the lens of Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), discussed in Chapter 3. According to Vygotsky’s theory, there are three zones of development. The first zone represents tasks and activities that learners can accomplish on their own without help. The third zone represents tasks and activities which the learner cannot yet accomplish, even with guidance. The second area, the ZPD, represents the area of optimal learning. This area represents the tasks and activities that learners can accomplish with some guidance from instructors or more experienced peers. Students should find the work in this zone appropriately challenging; it is not so easy as to be boring nor so hard as to be overwhelming. In the ZPD, students are drawing on prior learning and adding new information in order to move to a different level of knowledge.

Scaffolding learning means to consciously present information in a sequence so that students are introduced to, and have time to become competent with, foundational knowledge or simpler skills before progressing to more complex information and skills. Beyond just sequencing material appropriately, scaffolding involves providing support to learners as they progress through the various stages. As the students gain in competence, the supports are gradually removed, and the students assume more responsibility for their learning (Larkin, 2002). Ellis and Larkin (1998) suggest a framework of four steps for scaffolded learning:

  1. The teacher demonstrates a skill. For instance, an instructor might demonstrate how to conduct a search in the library catalog or download an ebook on an app.
  2. The class practices the skill as a large group. In a session on searching, the instructor might lead the search and ask students for suggestions of search terms or limiters to narrow results.
  3. Students continue their practice. Working in pairs or small groups, students practice the skills, offering each other help and feedback.
  4. Individual students practice the skill on their own. At this point, students should be ready to search for and find materials for their projects.

Instructors can also offer scaffolding by breaking larger projects or assignments into smaller pieces and offering feedback at each step. For instance, rather than just assigning a research paper due at the end of the semester, the instructor could have students identify their paper topic early in the semester and help them refine their focus by providing feedback if the topic is too broad or narrow. Next, the teacher might ask students to submit an annotated bibliography of the sources they intend to use, again providing feedback if the sources are not appropriate or need to be supplemented. Finally, the teacher might ask for an outline of the paper to see how students are structuring their argument. In this way, learners should have more confidence and skill by the time they write the full paper because they have had support and feedback along the way. See Activity 10.1 for a brief example and activity related to ZPD and scaffolding.


Activity 10.1: ZPD and Scaffolding

One of the book authors, Laura, recently took a 10-week painting class. When reviewing Laura’s canvas one night, the art teacher told her she needed to do some shading. The teacher had discussed color and composition, but she had never talked about shading, and while Laura had a sense of what shading was, she did not know how to do it. After a few frustrating attempts, Laura explained she did not know what to do, so the teacher took the brush and did it for her. Later, when Laura told the story to a friend with an art background, he asked Laura to think about how light and shadow impact what we see, used examples from around the room, demonstrated how to replicate that lighting with a quick sketch on scrap paper, and invited Laura to try on her own while he offered advice.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  1. How does this story reflect the Zones of Proximal Development and scaffolding, both with positive and negative examples?
  2. Think of some examples from your own experience as a learner. Have you had experiences where you were being asked to work beyond your ZPD? What feelings did you experience? What could the instructor have done to adjust the content or help you move to the next level?
  3. Have you had experiences where an instructor has provided the right level of support to help you move to a new level of understanding? What did that support look like?
  4. As you think about the learners or topics you anticipate teaching, how might you connect to prior learning or provide scaffolding in your own instruction sessions?

Drawing Connections to Existing Knowledge

According to several of the learning theories discussed in Chapter 3, including cognitivism and constructivism, learning occurs when students make connections between new information and existing knowledge. Cognitive scientists also argue that these connections between pieces of information improve memory, making it easier to recall facts and concepts. While students will make some of these connections on their own, instructors can facilitate the process by explicitly drawing on students’ own experiences or using metaphors and analogies to compare a new concept to something students already know. For example, if you are teaching a group how to use an ebook lending service like Overdrive, you could compare it to using an online retail site with which students might already be familiar, like Amazon. In both cases there are options to search and to browse, and users can narrow their search using different filters. An example of a metaphor would be saying that call numbers are the address of a book. As described in Chapter 7, we can use audience assessments to uncover students’ existing knowledge and prior experience to make connections to the current material. See Activity 10.2 for an exercise using metaphors.


Activity 10.2: Teaching through Metaphor

Metaphors and analogies can be great ways to help students connect ideas to each other and increase learning. For this activity, you will prepare a brief explanation of a library concept using an illustrative analogy or metaphor to connect new information to previous knowledge.

First, choose one term or phrase from the list below or choose a concept of your own, and then decide who your audience is (children, undergraduates, lawyers, etc.). Finally, develop an analogy, activity, or illustrative example that helps the audience understand what is being taught. Be sure that your language and examples are appropriate to the audience that you have selected.

  • Subject headings
  • Online catalog
  • Peer review
  • Bibliography
  • Plagiarism
  • ereserves
  • Interlibrary loan
  • Search string
  • Boolean operators
  • Truncation
  • Database
  • Primary source

Pair up with a classmate and share analogies.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  1. Does your classmate’s analogy help clarify the concept they are describing? Can you see the connections between the two ideas?
  2. Does the analogy seem appropriate to the intended audience? Why or why not?

(Used with permission from a class assignment designed by Vivienne Piroli.)

Using a Variety of Instructional Strategies

Another important practice is to vary our instructional approaches by presenting material in different formats and offering a variety of activities for learning and hands-on practice. We often hear advice for varying strategies tied to the idea of learning styles, or the belief that individuals have a preferred mode of learning or acquiring new information. Based on the theory that some students learn best through text, others through audio, and so on, instructors have been advised to present information in multiple formats to match these learning styles. The concept has been extremely influential, but multiple reviews have demonstrated a lack of scientific evidence to support the theory of learning styles (Coffield et al., 2004; Kaufmann, 2018), leading one research team to conclude “there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning styles assessments into general educational practice. Thus, limited education resources would better be devoted to adopting other educational practices” (Pashler et al., 2008, p. 105). Others have argued that the idea of learning styles is actually harmful, as it suggests that some students cannot learn in certain formats and can lead to fixed mindset thinking that interferes with learning and decreases motivation (Kaufmann, 2018).

Rather than trying to match instruction to perceived learning styles, instructors should reflect on what strategies are best aligned with their content (Willingham, 2005). For instance, visual approaches might align well with subjects that deal with spatial relationships like geometry, architecture, and drafting. We should also recognize that multiple approaches align with the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles introduced in Chapter 6 by ensuring that learners can access and engage regardless of their background and ability. If we offer these approaches as choices, we can integrate some of the humanistic and democratic elements of self-directed learning discussed in Chapter 3.

Instructional Strategies and Learning Activities

The number of learning activities available to us is enormous, from the more instructor-centered approaches like lecture and demonstration to the more active and student-centered approaches like discussion and inquiry learning. This section provides a brief overview of several methods, keeping the emphasis on those most likely to be used in a library setting. Some of these strategies are also discussed in Chapter 4 and Chapter 9 as examples of active learning and assessment techniques, but they are included here because of their popularity and utility as general instructional strategies.


With all the emphasis on active learning, instructors often view lectures negatively. Lectures are invariably used as examples of passive learning and teacher-centered (as opposed to student-centered) classrooms. As a result, teachers often get the impression that all lecturing is bad, but lectures actually offer some important advantages. First, they are more efficient than active learning activities, making them valuable when we have a significant amount of content and/or a short time frame with which to work (Harrington & Zakrajsek, 2017). In addition, lectures can be effective tools for providing overviews of a topic, structuring and clarifying complex materials, or modeling a thought process (Brookfield, 2006). Because teachers are in control of the material in a lecture, they can be sure that the information is being communicated accurately, which can be especially important for learners who are new to a topic (Harrington & Zakrajsek, 2017). When done well, lectures can be engaging and even inspiring. So, how can we use lectures effectively in our teaching?

The first step is to be conscious about why we are choosing a lecture over (or in addition to) other formats. We should not lecture simply because it is the easiest or most comfortable method but because it makes sense for our learning outcomes, material, and audience. We can also share the reason for our decision with learners, which can help them understand our choices and expectations. Lectures can be good scaffolding tools to establish background knowledge, either by reviewing previous content or providing an overview of a new topic. They can also be helpful when tackling difficult or complex concepts, as the instructor can use examples and analogies to explain ideas (Brookfield, 2006). We might also use lectures to present more current information than can be found in the literature, synthesize information from different sources or different activities in class, and make content more relevant to students by connecting it to their experiences and points of reference (McKeachie & Svinicki, 2006).

Lectures should be carefully organized to present information in a logical sequence. The specific organization will depend on the content but likely will move from simpler to more complex ideas. Importantly, the lecture should not just reiterate content from the readings but should add value by introducing new ideas, making relevant connections to current events and learners’ experiences, and posing new questions. We should be careful to use clear language and to either avoid jargon or define jargon when we introduce it. Some instructors, especially newer ones, find it helpful to script their full lecture, but virtually anyone would benefit from having a solid outline and some brief notes. We should also decide if we will integrate any supporting materials. Chapter 11 provides more detail about instructional materials, such as slides, lecture outlines, and graphic organizers.

Next, we need to consider our presentation and delivery of the lecture. Undoubtedly, all of us have had the experience of sitting through classes where instructors read their notes or PowerPoint slides to us, delivered the entire lecture in a monotone, and never stepped away from the podium or whiteboard. Regardless of how good the content of such lectures might be, most of us have a hard time paying attention in those situations. How do we make our lectures dynamic and engaging? Chapter 12 provides more specifics on presentation skills, so this section will mention only a few important points. Even if we fully script out a lecture, we should be thoroughly familiar with the content and use notes for reference, rather than reading a script word for word. Similarly, slides should be used to reinforce points or provide visual aids, not to reiterate the whole lecture. We should avoid standing behind a desk or podium throughout a lecture but rather move around the classroom as we talk. This movement adds some energy to the lecture and helps us engage students beyond the first row of seats.

If a lecture will take more than 10 to 15 minutes to deliver, we should plan to “chunk” the lecture, or break it down into smaller parts. Brookfield suggests breaking lectures into 12- to 15-minute chunks and using “bridging activities” between them (2006, p. 105). Bridging activities could include a short pause to allow students to take notes, questions to prompt reflection or discussion, or a short demonstration or illustration of a point. Some instructors will also use cartoons or jokes to break up their lectures, although these should be linked to the content.

Chunking is at least as important for online lectures and videos as it is for face-to-face classes, and, in fact, advice for online sessions recommends even shorter chunks. Some researchers suggest keeping online lecture videos to under 10 minutes, as student attention seems to peak around six minutes and fall off drastically after 10 minutes (Gou, 2013). Research on instructional videos, which tend to demonstrate specific tasks or skills such as how to request an interlibrary loan, suggests an optimal length of 30 seconds to two minutes (Bowles-Terry et al., 2010).

Harrington and Zakrajsek (2017) provide a number of approaches to increase learner engagement with lectures. Some of these examples might be familiar. Demonstration lectures, which involve walking the class through a process or task while explaining the steps, are popular in library classrooms. Visually enhanced lectures are supported by visual tools, such as slides, images, infographics, or brief videos.

Storytelling can enliven lectures (Harrington & Zakrajsek, 2017), and presenters of the some of the most popular TED Talks recommend weaving stories into your presentation to capture listeners’ attention (Gallo, 2014). Stories can make information come to life and elucidate a point more convincingly than a direct statement can. A good story can capture listeners’ attention and help them see connections among pieces of information; research suggests that listeners remember information presented as a story better than information presented as discrete facts (Callahan, 2015).

Of course, you want learners to remember a story because of the information it conveys, not just because it was entertaining. To be effective, the story must relate to the lesson and should expand on a point, illustrate a skill or process, or elucidate connections within the material. As an example, many students consider themselves excellent searchers, so if a search of a database returns no relevant results, they assume that nothing has been written on their topic. In college classes, one of the textbook authors, Laura, often tells the following story:

I was a graduate student in a Master of Arts in Teaching program. For a final paper for one of my classes, I decided to write about the impact of service learning on students. I set myself up at a search terminal at the library and ran a few searches, all with no results. I tried a few different word combinations, but I knew nothing about subject searching, and I kept getting no results. Finally, I turned to one of my friends at a nearby terminal and told her that there was nothing on service learning and I was going to have to find a new topic. As it happened, a librarian sitting nearby overheard my conversation and came over to ask if he could help. Assuming that I knew what I was doing, I thanked him but told him I had already looked, and there was definitely nothing on service learning; then I turned back to the terminal and started searching for a new topic. A few minutes later, the librarian returned with a printed list of at least a dozen citations of articles on service learning and offered them to me. I was amazed! How could he have found all of these when I had already searched so thoroughly? He sat down with me to show me how he had done the searches, and I was able to write my paper on service learning after all.

Because so many students have had the same experience of changing topics because they cannot find relevant information, they seem to relate to this story much more than if the instructor simply told them that they are probably just executing poor searches when they find no results, or explained the difference between subject and keyword searching without the context of the story. The story also conveys that librarians are eager to help and can subtly encourage students to seek that help. Finally, the listeners get a little chuckle at the instructor’s hubris, which can lighten the mood, and alleviate any embarrassment that students might feel if they have had a similar experience. See Activity 10.3 for a short exercise on telling stories.


Activity 10.3: Storytelling in the Classroom

Following are several common issues, beliefs, or challenges of library patrons. Read through them, and then answer the questions that follow.

  • Everything is on the Internet. If I cannot find it on Google, it does not exist.
  • I do not need copyright permission to use images in my school presentation.
  • Everybody is biased. The information in The New York Times is not any better than what I find in my Facebook feed.
  • You should never use Wikipedia for your research because anyone can edit it, so the information is not trustworthy.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  1. Try to think of some experiences or stories relevant to any of these scenarios. You do not have to limit yourself to your own experiences but can think of examples from family, friends, and work as well.
  2. How could you use that story in an instruction session to engage your learners? What details would you include, and why?
  3. What larger points or connections does this story make?

Pair up with a classmate and share your stories with each other; then provide each other with some feedback.

  1. Does your classmate’s story seem relevant to the scenario? How so?
  2. Can you intuit the larger points that your classmate intended to make with their story?
  3. Are there any details you would cut from or add to the story? Why?


Lectures do not have to be entirely teacher-centered; we can integrate activities to encourage interaction and engagement. The lecture pause, introduced in Chapter 4, is a simple technique that can be easily integrated into any lecture. In this technique, the instructor stops the lecture and gives students a few minutes to reflect on what they have heard. We can suggest that students jot down notes about what they have learned or provide them with a question about the material for reflection. We can let students work individually or ask them to share their thoughts with a peer. Either way, this technique requires only a couple of minutes and can be used even in very large classes. If we have already chunked our lecture, we will have natural breaking points to insert a pause.

We can also invite some learner participation by integrating questions throughout the lecture. Questions could be fact-based, asking students to recall information or provide definitions, or they could be discussion-based, asking students to interpret information, expand on concepts, or share their own experiences. If questions are posed to the entire class, only a few students might have a chance to answer, especially if the class is large. To give more learners a chance to join the discussion, we can break students into pairs or small groups and give them a few minutes to talk amongst themselves before having a few people share with the entire class. Another technique is to provide students with graphic organizers or partial outlines of the lecture (discussed in more depth later in the chapter) to encourage them to take notes.


Demonstrations allow instructors to model skills and processes by walking learners through the steps in a task. Demonstrations are very common in information settings, where instructors use them to illustrate a wide range of skills and activities, such as how to create effective search strings, search specific databases, use technology tools, or request an interlibrary loan. Such demonstrations might be delivered live in the classroom or recorded as a screencast video. In either case, we must be careful to narrate each step in the process. We must remember that for many of our learners, this information is new and potentially confusing. We might find it helpful to script out a demonstration in advance to be sure we do not skip or gloss over any steps in our explanation. Demonstrations are often grouped together with lectures as teacher-centered activities but, like lectures, they can be made interactive. We can use polls to determine how familiar our audience members are with the process we are about to demonstrate; ask for their input on aspects of the demonstration, such as having them suggest topics to search; and invite learners to demonstrate some of the steps for the class. If we are in a computer classroom or learners have access to their own devices, we can encourage them to follow along with our demonstration as an opportunity for hands-on practice and engagement. We can also pose questions throughout the process to check for comprehension or encourage reflection.


Discussions are a popular way of integrating active learning, but they take some planning and skill to manage effectively. All of us have probably been part of class discussions that seemed strained or have flopped. All too often, instructors ask discussion questions only to be met with silence and blank stares. At other times, the class might engage in some discussion, and it might even be lively, but, ultimately, only a handful of students will have contributed to the conversation. In fact, often only about five to eight people will make up more than three-quarters of the class discussion, regardless of the size of the class (Howard, 2019). And even when a robust discussion does occur, at least some students are likely to leave the class without having taken notes, unsure of what aspects of the discussion were important or what the main takeaways were. While these issues are frustrating, with planning we can successfully integrate discussion into our classrooms. Several strategies can help us facilitate better discussions:

Set Expectations and Explain Why

One reason learners might not be eager join discussions is that they have been enculturated to believe their role in the classroom is one of “civil attention” (Howard, 2019). The notion of civil attention is linked to the “banking” model of education, in which the teacher transmits information and the students’ role is simply to engage in behaviors that signal they are paying attention, such as taking notes, laughing at jokes, and making eye contact with the instructor. Civil attention does not require any active engagement on the part of the student because by appearing to pay attention, students are fulfilling their role.

Instructors can disrupt this pattern by explaining that they expect learners to actively engage and participate in the class (Howard, 2019). School and academic librarians teaching credit-bearing courses could reinforce that expectation by making participation part of the course grade. Instructors can also signal their expectation for participation through their own behaviors. For instance, many instructors will begin class by introducing themselves, going over the agenda, and discussing learning outcomes. While this is important content, it means that the instructor does most of the talking for the first part of the class, replicating the model of civil attention. Imagine, instead, if the instructor opened the class with a question, so that students were immediately drawn into an active role.

Instructors should tell learners why their participation is important. If your teaching philosophy draws on constructivist and social-constructivist theories, you could share that with students, letting them know that you believe participation will help them construct new knowledge and deepen their learning. You could also share research demonstrating that active learning, including discussion, leads to better learning outcomes (Howard, 2019). These steps help learners understand that your use of discussion was a conscious decision based in best practice, not a sign of laziness or a way of evading your responsibility as a teacher.

Match Discussion to Outcomes

We tend to use the word “discussion” as though it refers to a single, well-defined entity. However, discussions can be implemented in different ways, and many different activities fall within the broad category of discussion. Herman and Nilson (2018) note that discussions can serve several different purposes, including motivating learners to prepare for class, increasing overall participation, encouraging active listening, and assessing learning. They recommend aligning discussion activities with the intended outcome. For instance, a “fishbowl discussion,” in which one group of students engages in a discussion while another group observes, takes notes, and then summarizes the main points, can help promote active listening, while activities like think-pair-share can increase participation by ensuring each student talks with at least one peer.

Ask Better Questions

Not all discussion questions are created equal. Closed-ended questions, which require only a yes-or-no answer, and fact-based questions with a single correct answer, such as who won the presidential election in 2008, do not lend themselves well to discussion. While these questions can be good for exploring learners’ knowledge, once the answer is given, there is little room left for discussion. Other problematic discussion questions are those that are overly broad or vague, such as “What did you think of the reading?” as students might not be clear about what is really being asked.

Fruitful discussion questions fall into a range of areas, including (Eberly Center, n.d.):

  • Challenge: Reflect on or interrogate assumptions, conclusions, or interpretations.
    • Example: “What makes this article a good choice for your paper?”
  • Diagnostic: Probe the motives or causes behind actions, incidents, or declarations.
    • Example: “Why might certain members of the community have wanted to ban this book?”
  • Action: Ask for a conclusion or solution.
    • Example: “What steps could we take to improve our online security?”
  • Cause-and-effect: Probe the relationship between ideas or events.
    • Example: “How might the repeal of net neutrality impact online access?”
  • Hypothetical: Reflect on an imagined scenario.
    • Example: “How might social media change if people had to pay to use platforms like Facebook and Twitter?”
  • Summary: Synthesize ideas or main points.
    • Example: “What are some of the main takeaways from today’s discussion?”

While open-ended questions are typically best suited for discussion, Wiggins and McTighe (2005) point out that some closed-ended questions can be good entry points for discussion, especially if a broad question is likely to be overwhelming for the audience. For instance, a yes-or-no question like “Is this a trustworthy website?” could be followed by a question like “How do we know?”

Be Comfortable with Silence

Any instructor who has asked what they believe is an engaging discussion question only to be met with a wall of silence knows how nerve-wracking such silence can be. However, we also need to understand that some silence is expected and can even be productive. Learners often need a few moments to gather their thoughts before they volunteer to speak, and good discussion questions are meant to be thought provoking, so we should anticipate some time for students to process the question. Unfortunately, many instructors are uncomfortable with silence, often misinterpreting it as a lack of engagement or understanding and rushing to rephrase the question or provide the answer themselves. Such actions actually discourage discussion, suggesting that the instructor is not really interested in hearing from students and signaling that if students just wait, the instructor will give them the answer.

Herman and Nilson (2018) suggest that most learners need at least 15 seconds to gather their thoughts before joining a discussion, and they point out that English language learners, neurodiverse students, and students with learning disabilities might appreciate even more time. The authors suggest alerting students that you will pause for 15 or 30 seconds after asking the question, so they understand that the pause is intentional. Announcing the pause might also relieve anxiety for those students who need the time to think. Even just a few extra seconds of waiting after posing a question can increase the overall number of students who participate.

Create a Safe Climate

Discussion is a higher-risk activity than passive listening or watching, and learners might be reluctant to participate in discussions for fear of embarrassing themselves. They might be concerned that they will give an incorrect answer or that they will be criticized by the instructor or their peers (McKeachie & Svinicki, 2006). We can help mitigate these fears by creating a safe classroom climate that encourages learners to participate. One step to ensuring a safe environment is to establish some ground rules for the discussion, which should include active listening and respectful dialogue. Instructors can outline these guidelines at the beginning of class, or they can hold a “discussion about discussions” in which the class works together to determine its own guidelines (Howard, 2019). This approach models the democratic classroom favored by humanists and provides learners with some feeling of ownership and stake in the process.

We can also model active listening and respectful participation ourselves by providing supportive and constructive feedback to students during the discussion. Even if a student’s answer is off topic or includes inaccurate or misleading information, we can usually find a way to acknowledge the contribution even as we redirect the conversation or correct the inaccuracies. Usually we can build on some part of the response, while we respectfully challenge another part, perhaps saying something like, “I am really glad that you brought up this point, but I wonder if there are other ways to look at it?”

Finally, we can find alternative ways for students to participate beyond having to share their own thoughts in front of a large group. For instance, we could end a think-pair-share activity by asking the class, “Whose partner had a great answer or interesting idea?” This question invites learners to share their partner’s idea rather than their own, which might be easier and feel less risky for some students. Another option is to allow students to participate in online discussions. Some learners prefer online discussion because it gives them more time to organize their thoughts and craft their answers, and it removes the public-speaking aspect. One of the book authors creates an online discussion board she calls “continued conversations” for her face-to-face classes. At the beginning of the semester, she lets students know that the discussion board is optional, but any posts will count toward their participation grade. For many learners, these options will be first steps, and, as they gain confidence, they will be able to participate more easily in regular in-class discussions.

Manage Dominant Talkers

The flip side to quiet learners who are reluctant to participate are those who volunteer immediately to answer questions, interrupt others, or otherwise dominate the discussion. While these students might be well meaning and eager, they reduce opportunities for others to participate. One strategy for dealing with dominant talkers is to avoid immediately calling on the first people to raise their hands, but use the conscious pause described earlier to give more people a chance to volunteer. If some students have already talked quite a bit, we can thank them for their contributions but say that we would like to hear from some other voices as well.

McKeachie and Svinicki (2006) suggest assigning dominant talkers to be “observers” with the responsibility to listen to the discussion and summarize key points at the end. We can establish a guideline that once a person participates, that person cannot speak again until two other voices have been heard, or we can give each student three chips at the beginning of class and ask that they deposit one in a jar each time they speak (Herman & Nilson, 2018). Once learners are out of chips, they cannot participate any more. Herman and Nilson warn instructors to notice if students are asking questions that are off topic or of very narrow interest and, if so, to invite them to meet after class in order not to waste other students’ time.

Managing Challenging Comments

Some discussions will center on sensitive or controversial topics that might be challenging to navigate, and occasionally learners might make problematic statements or assertions. As discussed in Chapter 5, instructors must acknowledge and respond to such statements but should also “realize that rarely is a student’s intent harmful, so avoid an accusatory approach” (Herman & Nilson, 2018, p. 47). The exact response will depend on the context, but Herman and Nilson (2018) offer helpful strategies. For instance, if a student uses outdated terminology, the instructor should note that different language is preferred. If learners’ remarks are provocative or disrespectful, the instructor can remind them of the discussion guidelines established at the beginning of the session. If a statement is relevant to the course, the instructor could open it up for further discussion but must be sure that only the underlying ideas are being challenged, not the student who made them. If the discussion becomes heated or emotional, the instructor should step in to calm the situation, perhaps by asking learners to take a short break to reflect on and even write down their thoughts.

Summarize the Learning and Takeaways

Some students are resistant to discussions because they do not see value in them (Herman & Nilson, 2018; McKeachie & Svinicki, 2006). They might resent time spent listening to their peers when they believe the teacher has the knowledge and the “right” answers, and they might also view the discussion as a test to see if they can guess the answer the instructor wants, rather than seeing it as a true exchange of ideas. In addition to explaining the purpose and learning goals of the discussion at the outset, we can demonstrate the value of discussion and surface the learning that takes place by periodically summarizing the discussion and identifying the key takeaways. These summaries help make the learning visible and give the instructor an opportunity to fill in any gaps, correct inaccuracies, and answer lingering questions.

Despite some challenges, discussions can be effective and engaging activities. We can generally overcome any barriers by anticipating them and planning for discussion just as we would any other instructional activity. See Activity 10.4 for a brief exercise related to discussions.


Activity 10.4: Building Better Discussions

Below are three brief scenarios. Read each one and respond to the reflection questions.

Scenario 1: Lisa is an academic librarian who has been asked to guest lecture to sophomore-level psychology students preparing to write a research paper. Lisa is determined to make her presentation engaging, and she begins by asking the class if anyone would like to share a research topic so she can use it as an example for her search demonstration. A young man in the front row speaks up immediately. Lisa writes his topic on the board and then asks the class to suggest key words related to the topic. Later, she asks the students to suggest ways to combine the keywords and asks them which databases they think she should search. Before long, Lisa realizes that the same young man is answering all her questions. Occasionally, another student will raise a hand but, even if Lisa calls on others, the young man tends to jump in and talk over them. After giving the students time to search on their own, Lisa asks for volunteers to demonstrate their search for the class. The young man is the only volunteer.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  1. What strategies could Lisa use to manage the young man’s participation?
  2. Why do you think other students were slow to respond?
  3. Lisa is frustrated that the young man is the only one to volunteer to demonstrate his search. How might she handle the situation?

Scenario 2: Mike is a high school librarian. Mr. Smith has assigned a research paper to his 12th-grade history class and asked Mike to lead a session on plagiarism and show the students how to prepare bibliographies. Mike starts the class by reading from the student honor code and explaining that students can fail the assignment and face suspension if they plagiarize material. He then asks the class if anyone can explain what plagiarism is. One student timidly raises a hand and says, “Lying?” Mike shakes his head. “No,” he says, looking around the room again. “Anyone else?” No one else volunteers, so Mike defines plagiarism for them.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  1. Why might students have been reluctant to answer Mike’s question?
  2. Imagine you were a colleague observing Mike’s class. What advice might you give him?

Scenario 3: Angela is leading a workshop on evaluating health information. During the workshop, an older man raises his hand and says that he is afraid to get the flu shot because he has heard shots are not safe. Before Angela can answer, a woman near the front of the room complains that “anti-vaxxers” are making other people sick and tells the older man that the CDC recommends the flu vaccine and says it is safe. The man responds by saying it is “crazy” to trust government sites like the CDC. Angela can feel the tension in the room growing.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  1. How might Angela respond to the two patrons in her workshop?
  2. How can she calm the tension in the room?

Flipped Classrooms

A flipped classroom is one in which content is delivered outside of class time so that the instruction session can focus on hands-on practice and activities to apply the learning. This model “flips” the traditional classroom approach in which instructors deliver content during class, often through lecture and demonstration, and students apply the learning outside of class through assignments and projects. Learners gain background knowledge or “first-exposure” information (Walvoord & Anderson, 2010, p. 81) before class begins so class time can be spent on higher-order thinking skills and processes, such as evaluating, synthesizing, and creating. Further, because application is happening in the classroom, the instructor is available at the point of practice, where students are more likely to have questions, and where instructors can provide immediate feedback and guidance.

The flipped classroom can be implemented in different ways. Often, instructors will use video lectures and readings to deliver content before the class meeting. Of course, for the classroom activities to work effectively, students must have completed the pre-work. Walvoord and Anderson (2010) suggest incorporating exercises or other assignments into the pre-work to hold learners accountable. For instance, instructors could assign a brief questionnaire about the lecture and reading or ask students to write down the main points. In addition to holding students accountable, these checks can work as assessments, showing the instructors if there are misunderstandings or gaps in knowledge so they can be addressed before launching into activities.

In class, instructors can use any combination of active learning techniques to engage learners with the material. Students in a science class might conduct experiments, history students might examine primary source documents, and media students might use specialized equipment to create presentations. Library instructors can have students conduct their own searches and evaluate the materials, explore different technology platforms and applications, create projects in a makerspace, complete a scavenger hunt or play a game based on the content presented in the pre-work, or engage in peer instruction.

Librarians outside of a K-12 setting might face some challenges implementing a flipped model. The flipped model depends on learners completing some out-of-class work prior to the session, but academic and public librarians delivering one-shot sessions might find it challenging to assign pre-work, and learners in these sessions might not feel obligated to complete the assignments. Despite challenges, many librarians have successfully used the flipped model in their classrooms (see, e.g., Datig & Ruswick, 2013; Coan, 2016; Loo et al., 2016; Tingle, 2018). Some academic librarians have collaborated with faculty to integrate pre-work for a one-shot session into the larger course (Berg, 2018; Pannabecker et al., 2014). Faculty will include library tutorials or readings as an assignment and might offer students credit for completing the work. Datig and Ruswick (2013) assigned tutorials they had already developed for asynchronous and self-paced learning as pre-work for face-to-face sessions, thus getting more use from those materials. They found the flipped classroom more engaging for both the learners and the librarians, who had been experiencing “lecture fatigue.”

Some public libraries have implemented flipped classrooms by asking patrons to complete some work prior to the session. Public librarians in Georgia implemented a flipped-classroom model for some of their programs, providing content through videos and other formats ahead of sessions (Logan & Hadzhieva, 2018), while those at the Twinsburg Public Library in Ohio (2020) promote flipped English as a Second or Other Language courses, where learners watch videos and complete tutorials outside of class time. The Skokie Public Library in Illinois created a Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) on HTML and web design for its patrons using a flipped classroom model (Coan, 2016). Pre-work should be clearly described in the promotional or registration materials for a workshop and made easily available.

Problem-Based Learning

In problem-based learning the instructor presents a messy, fuzzy, or ill-defined problem which the class works to solve, often in small groups. Rather than listening to lectures or following step-by-step experiments or demonstrations, learners must use their knowledge, engage in research, and test ideas to develop a solution or answer to the problem (Kretchmar, 2019). To be effective, the problems presented to students need to be complex, should not have a single right answer or a single path to a solution, and should be based in the real world. For instance, a library instructor could ask students how to combat the spread of disinformation or “fake news” on social media.

Problem-based learning is student-centered, and the instructor acts as a guide or facilitator rather than as an expert directing the learning. The instructor will present the problem, and then step back and let student groups devise not only a solution but a plan for engaging in whatever research and exploration they need to arrive at the solution. The instructor is on hand to offer guidance as needed but typically will not provide direct answers to questions, instead coaching students to think through the problem and find the answer for themselves. The process of investigating the issue and developing a solution is part of the learning, meaning that the process is as important as the content (Kretchmar, 2019). While the research suggests that overall levels of learning are similar in problem-based and traditional classrooms, students in problem-based classrooms report being more satisfied and have more positive attitudes toward the learning (Kretchmar, 2019).

True problem-based learning is very time-consuming, so it is unlikely that library instructors would be able to integrate it into a one-shot session or workshop. However, we can certainly integrate elements of this approach. For instance, rather than presenting students with a checklist of criteria for evaluating information, we could begin a class by posing a question, such as “How do we know which information to trust online?” We could then give students different news stories or resources and ask them to work together to decide if they would trust a certain source and why. As students report on their work, we can develop a list of criteria that will largely mirror the one we would have presented; however, with this approach, learners will have discovered those criteria on their own.


Games are a fun way to engage learners, and they can be used at any age level and in any setting. Games generally incorporate an element of competition, either between individuals or groups or with single learners challenging themselves, but a game’s purpose is to impart information or develop skills. A lot of writing on game-based learning focuses on online learning objects that function like video games. For instance, Liberation: Referencing is an online tutorial on citation styles that challenges the player to order components and identify proper formatting and punctuation, all while keeping a cat named Harvey alive. Analog games can be just as fun and usually take fewer resources to create. A scavenger hunt can get learners into different parts of the library and introduce them to the library layout and classification system. Instructors can adapt popular game shows for the classroom. For instance, in library Jeopardy, instructors present library terms, services, or concepts, and students volunteer answers—in the form of a question, of course.

Peer Instruction

As discussed in Chapter 4, a different way of flipping the normal classroom is to give learners responsibility for the instruction. Peer instruction gives students a chance to share their knowledge and expertise with one another, and learners are often particularly engaged by their peers. Peer instruction is not only engaging, it can lead to deeper learning by requiring students to put concepts in their own words and reinforce skills through practice. During peer instruction, the instructor should stay engaged and offer feedback or redirect if the peer instructors are providing inaccurate information.


Also discussed in Chapter 4, think-pair-share is one of the most popular active learning techniques and can be used in classes of all sizes, with all different ages. Because it incorporates time for learners to gather their thoughts before responding and requires students to interact only with one other person, think-pair-share is relatively low risk even for introverted or anxious students. Depending on the size of the class, the instructor might have each student share their thoughts with the class or ask for a few volunteers to sum up their discussion for the whole group.


Polls are a relatively simple and quick way to add some interaction to the class. Poll questions can be content-based questions of fact, or they could be scaled questions asking learners their level of familiarity with a concept or confidence in a task. Polls can be done by a show of hands or with polling software like Poll Everywhere or AnswerGarden. Many learning management systems and conferencing tools like Zoom have polling software embedded.

Writing Exercises

The process of putting concepts into writing requires learners to reflect on what they have learned, recall bits of information, and translate the ideas into their own words, all of which help reinforce and deepen learning. These exercises are flexible; we can focus them on almost any aspect of the content, and we can devote as much or as little time to them as we want. Some writing reflections require only one to two minutes of class time, making it easy to adopt them even in short workshops and one-shot sessions.

However, just as some students are less comfortable joining discussions or speaking in front of a group, other students find it difficult to articulate their thoughts in writing. In library classrooms, we will encounter learners with a wide range of literacy, language, and writing abilities. English language learners, younger patrons, and patrons with low literacy, among others, might find writing exercises particularly challenging.

Several best practices can make these exercises more effective, even for patrons who are less comfortable with writing. We can emphasize the low-stakes nature of the activity by explaining that the purpose is not to critique learners’ writing but to give them an opportunity to reflect. We might even say that writing “does not count,” or that we will not be paying attention to grammar or spelling. Often, librarians are not giving learners grades on their activities anyway, and this helps to keep the exercises low stakes. When appropriate, we might also offer learners different options for reflection, such as drawing a picture or providing a demonstration of a task, rather than writing out the steps.

This section provides a brief overview of some sample writing exercises. You can find many more examples online.


Pre-writing is a form of brainstorming or capturing ideas before delving more deeply into a lesson. For instance, instructors might ask students to brainstorm paper topics or keywords and synonyms for their topics before beginning a lesson on searching. Learners could jot ideas down on paper, organize their thoughts into a concept map or list, or use a graphic organizer.

Minute Paper

The minute paper is meant to be very brief, typically just two or three questions. While we can ask any type of question, minute papers usually pose reflective questions, asking students to think about what they have learned and whether they still have questions. Common minute-paper questions include: What are one or two new things you learned from this lesson? Can you describe one or two ways you can use what you learned? What remains unclear from the lesson? What questions do you have about today’s lesson? Instructors can respond to students’ questions in writing or leave enough time to flip through the responses and answer questions at the end of the class. Minute papers can be left anonymous to keep the exercise low stakes, but in that case, we should take time to answer outstanding questions at the end of class, since we will not be able to follow up with individual students.

Graphic Organizers/Lecture Outlines

Graphic organizers and lecture outlines are a form of guided notetaking; they provide students with a framework for the lesson, drawing their attention to important points. As their name implies, graphic organizers are generally visual tools, such as figures or infographics, with space for learners to take notes or label parts of the figure. For example, during an orientation, librarians could provide patrons with a blank map of the library and encourage them to label the spaces on the map as they move through the tour. As another example, Chapter 3 provided you with a blank table to track learning theories, including the names of the theorists and the key points of each theory. Similarly, instructors can provide learners with a partial outline of a lecture, leaving spaces for students to fill in the missing information. Many learners, especially those who are new to a topic, can have trouble picking out the essential information from a long lecture or discussion. As a result, they either try to write down every word or leave with no notes at all. Tools like lecture outlines and graphic organizers can make lessons more engaging, and the prompts can help students identify the important points. Example 10.1 shows a sample lecture outline.


Example 10.1: Lecture Outline

Below is an excerpt of a lecture outline for a library instruction session on plagiarism and citations. The session starts with a brief lecture on plagiarism, including a definition and examples of when citations are needed. Next, the librarian explains the purpose of citations and demonstrates how to format citations according to APA guidelines by showing learners an example of a book citation and walking them through each element. Learners are encouraged to fill out the outline as they listen.

Plagiarism 101

Plagiarism is using someone else’s _________ or ___________ without giving them credit.

I should cite a source when:




Following is a book citation in APA format. Label the author, title, publication date, publisher.

Riordan, R. (2008). Percy Jackson and the lightning thief. Disney Hyperion Books.

Group Work

According to the constructivist and social constructivist learning theories introduced in Chapter 3, human beings create meaning and new knowledge in part through their interactions with other people. Group work provides learners with opportunities for peer interaction to facilitate that process. Small groups can give everyone a chance to participate, even in larger classes, and many learners will find it less intimidating to talk and share ideas in a smaller group.

Several best practices apply specifically to group work. First, we need to be clear about the purpose, expectations, and tasks involved. Without clear directions, groups will be unsure of how to engage and are likely to end the activity feeling they have not been productive. Before starting any group activity, we should lay out the goals and provide directions, including any guiding questions or specific tasks. We should also be clear about the outcomes and any deliverables. Are groups expected to produce something tangible, like a concept map? Should the group take notes and be prepared to discuss its activities with the class? Providing a handout or displaying a slide with the directions can help the group stay on track.

Since group work tends to be more self-directed than other strategies, some instructors are unsure of their role and might disengage from the class. Even while groups work independently, we should be active in the classroom. Circulating throughout the room helps ensure groups stay on task and provides opportunities to respond to questions or concerns. We should be careful to allot an appropriate amount of time for the tasks. Too little time can be frustrating and leave groups feeling dissatisfied with their level of discussion, but extra time will probably lead to unrelated conversations. Circulating through the room and checking on progress also give us a chance to gauge the time and decide when to wrap up the activity.

Dozens of small group activities exist, and many instructional activities can be adapted for groups. For instance, scavenger hunts could be done in teams, or students could work in groups to complete worksheets or graphic organizers.

This section offers a few examples, and you can find many more online.

Guided Discussion

Provide learners with a question, scenario, case study, or similar prompt, and have them discuss their answers in small groups.


Break the class into groups and give each group an aspect of a topic to research or discuss. These groups develop expertise on their aspect of the topic. After a set amount of time, shuffle the groups so each new group has one representative from each original group. As students share their research from the original group, the new group will develop a full picture of the topic.

Circle of Voices

Break students into small groups and ask them to sit in a circle. Each student gets two to three minutes to speak without interruption in response to a question or prompt. Once everyone in the group has had a turn, the group can have a more general discussion on the topic. Students should try to build on their peers’ responses, rather than offering only their own ideas.


Discussions can be structured to examine different perspectives on a question or the merits of different strategies. For instance, we could ask groups to debate the merits of using primary versus secondary sources when researching a historical topic or create a list of the pros and cons of different online browsers.

Combining Strategies

Teaching guides like this textbook tend to describe each instructional strategy separately. While this approach is useful for providing in-depth overviews of each approach, it can give the false impression that the strategies are mutually exclusive. In fact, few instructors will use only one instructional strategy in a lesson. For instance, flipped classrooms generally incorporate lecture; the difference is that those lectures are delivered outside of class time. Even in a problem-based classroom exercise, instructors often use lecture to provide background information or demonstrate methods students might use to research the problem and develop solutions. In other words, we can mix and match instructional strategies in any classroom. Brookfield asserts that we should think of strategies such as lecture, discussion, and other active learning techniques as “symbiotic” (2006, p. 98).  We simply want to make conscious decisions about which strategies we are using and consider why those strategies are appropriate.

Lesson Plans

Our instructional design decisions should culminate in a written lesson plan or detailed outline of the session. Some instructors might question whether a written plan is necessary, but putting the plan into writing ensures that we are addressing all the necessary details and thinking carefully through each decision. It also creates a record of the lesson, which can aid us in reflecting on the session later and implementing lessons consistently over time. Also, a written plan can be shared with colleagues, which can also ensure consistency when multiple people are teaching the same lesson.

Different models and templates for lesson plans exist, but most lesson plans start with the learning outcomes to set the purpose and expectations for the session. Including brief notes about the intended audience, length of the session, and any materials or equipment that will be necessary to carry out the lesson can also be helpful.

The bulk of the plan outlines the content, instructional strategies, and assessments for the lesson. The lesson plan should provide a step-by-step overview of each section or “chunk” of the session, with a brief explanation of what will take place during that section, including the instructional strategies and any assessments that will be employed. The plan should include enough detail that a colleague could envision or re-create the lesson but should not be a word-for-word transcript. Include only the major points of lecture content or the basic directions for an activity.

Each segment should include a time stamp, or a note about how much time is allotted for that section or activity. Instructors can find it challenging in the beginning to gauge the time needed for different activities, but the authors’ experience has been that new instructors often underestimate how much time they need, and, as a result, rush to fit all their material into the session. To be safe, you might allot more time than you initially think you need for each segment but have additional examples or backup activities that you can use if you have extra time at the end of the session. Conversely, you can note activities or examples to cut if you run out of time. Example 10.2 offers a sample lesson plan for a public library workshop on “fake news.” See Appendix B for additional sample lesson plans on different topics for a variety of information settings and audiences.


Example 10.2: Lesson Plan for an Instructional Session on Fake News

Fighting “Fake News”


This session takes place at the Anytown Public Library and is geared toward a general adult audience. The session will run on a weeknight and midday on a weekend to reach various segments of the audience.

Running Time: 60 minutes


  • Laptop and screen projector
  • Flip chart or whiteboard
  • “Sample News Stories” handout

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this session, participants will be able to:

  • Apply criteria for evaluating news stories.
  • Discuss strategies for responsible sharing of news.


I. Welcome (5 minutes)

  • Introductions and overview of learning outcomes

II. Lecture (10 minutes)

  • Instructor will start by asking participants:
    • What is the impact of fake news?
    • What sources do you trust for your news?
  • Instructor will provide a brief overview of fake news, drawing on participant answers as appropriate.
    • Historical examples
    • Current landscape
    • Definitions

III. Activity (25 minutes)

  • The instructor will share two brief excerpts of current news stories from sources of varying reliability. Participants will have 5 minutes to read the excerpts individually; then, working in pairs, they will have 10 minutes to answer the following questions:
    • Does this story seem trustworthy? Why or why not? List as many reasons as you can.
    • What additional information about the source or the details of the story would help you evaluate this story? How could you find that additional information?
  • The group will engage in a 10-minute debrief discussion. The instructor will call on pairs to share their discussion. As participants explain what made them trust or not trust each news story, the instructor will create a list of evaluation criteria on the flip chart.

IV. Debrief (10 minutes)

  • The instructor will review the list of criteria and discuss how they can be applied, filling in any gaps in the list. The instructor will share another short news excerpt and ask the group as a whole to evaluate the story, making explicit connections to the list of criteria. Participants will discuss which stories they would share stories based on those criteria.

V. Wrap-up (5 minutes)

  • Instructor will return to learning outcomes and highlight main takeaways.

VI. Reflection (5 minutes)

  • Instructor will pass out a “minute paper” sheet asking participants to list two things they learned and any questions they have.
  • Instructor will review the papers and answer outstanding questions.


In the final stage of Backward Design, we select the strategies we will use to interact with students and deliver the content of our lessons. For many instructors, this stage is the most fun because it centers on that part of teaching with which we all have experience as students—what happens in the classroom. The main points to keep in mind during this stage of instructional design are as follows:

  • Best practices include focusing on active learning techniques to keep students directly engaged with content, scaffolding material to support students’ journey from simpler to more complex knowledge and tasks, making explicit connections between new information and prior learning, and selecting strategies that are appropriate for our audience, content, and time frame.
  • Lectures have received some negative attention in recent years, but as an instructional strategy they have some advantages. We can take steps to make lectures interactive and engaging.
  • Good discussions take planning and management, but they are an effective way to engage students and bring active learning to the classroom.
  • We can choose from an array of active learning techniques, including those that can be completed by groups and those that can be done by individuals, those that take substantial class time and those designed to take only a few minutes. Regardless of the size of the class or the amount of time we have, we virtually always can find a way to incorporate some active learning.
  • Our Backward Design should culminate in a lesson plan that lists the learning outcomes; identifies our topic, audience, and materials; and outlines the instructional strategies and assessments we will use.

Suggested Readings

ACRL Framework for Information Literacy sandbox. (n.d.).

The Association of College and Resource Libraries has compiled this open access collection of lesson plans focused on The Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. Users can search for lesson plans and activities, along with a host of other materials, and can limit by frame or discipline. All materials are licensed through Creative Commons and can be reused and adapted with limited restrictions. The materials are designed for a college audience, but many could be adapted for other audiences.

Barkley, E.F. (2010). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. Jossey-Bass.

This book offers a wealth of information and advice on how to engage students. The first section provides background and theoretical information on student engagement, while the second section offers tips for motivating and challenging students and implementing active learning. The third section outlines 50 “student engagement techniques” or active learning activities. Each section describes the “essential characteristics” of the activity, its description and purpose, directions for implementing the activity, and concrete examples of the activity. Barkley also offers ideas for varying the activities and adapting them to an online environment.

Denver Public Library. (n.d.). Technology classes and workshops.

The Denver Public Library provides free access to high-quality lesson plans and related materials for its technology workshops and classes. From the events page, click on a workshop title, and follow the link for class materials, all of which are licensed through Creative Commons.

Green, L. S. (2019). Flipped learning environments: An introduction for librarians who design and teach. Library Technology Reports, 55(5), 11-16.

In this brief paper, Green offers librarians straightforward guidance on how to implement a flipped classroom, with some attention to the theory and the pros and cons of the approach.

Harrington, C., & Zakrajsek, T. (2017). Dynamic lecturing: Research-based strategies to enhance lecture effectiveness. Stylus Publishing.

In this volume, authors Harrington and Zakrajsek make the case that lectures can be active and engaging. The authors offer clear, research-based advice on how to plan, structure, and deliver a lecture that engages students and incorporates activity and reflection.

Herman, J. H., & Nilson, L. B. (2018). Creating engaging discussions: Strategies for ‘avoiding crickets’ in any size classroom and online. Stylus Publishing.

This excellent text offers a clear and thorough guide to implementing discussion successfully. The authors offer 12 principles for good class discussion, as well as advice on addressing common issues, such as learners who talk too much or too little, students who are not paying attention, microaggressions, and controversial topics. The second half of the book is a series of case studies that present specific strategies or activities for successful student engagement.

Marcotte, A. (2019). Tech trends: Library tech leaders recommend their favorite tips and tools. American Libraries, 50(3/4), 5-7.

The author shares detailed overviews of a range of teaching technologies with an emphasis on free and open access tools. While geared toward the flipped classroom, these tools could facilitate active learning in many formats.

McKeachie, W. J., & Svinicki, M. (2006). McKeachie’s teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers. Houghton Mifflin.

This handy volume provides clear and concise advice on a range of pedagogical topics. Chapters are brief and to the point, and integrate concrete examples and supplementary readings. Topics include effective lectures, facilitating discussions, active learning, problem-based learning, teaching culturally diverse students, and motivating students.


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Bolkan, S., & Griffin, D.J. (2017). Students’ use of cell phones for off-task behaviors: The indirect impact of instructors’ teaching behaviors through boredom and students’ attitudes. Communication Education, 66(3), 313-329.

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Brookfield, S.D. (2006). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom. Jossey-Bass.

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Gallo, C. (2014, March 4). 9 public speaking lessons from the world’s greatest TED Talks. Forbes.

Gou, P. (2013, November 33). Optimal video length for student engagement. edX Blog.

Green, L. S. (2019). Flipped learning environments: An introduction for librarians who design and teach. Library Technology Reports, 55(5), 11-16.

Harrington, C., & Zakrajsek, T. (2017). Dynamic lecturing: Research-based strategies to enhance lecture effectiveness. Stylus Publishing.

Herman, J. H., & Nilson, L. B. (2018). Creating engaging discussions: Strategies for ‘avoiding crickets’ in any size classroom and online. Stylus Publishing.

Howard, J. (2019, May 23). How to hold a better class discussion: Advice guide. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Kaufmann, S. B. (2018, December 8). Enough with the “learning styles” already! New research adds skepticism surrounding the adoption of learning styles in education. Beautiful Minds..

Kretchmar, J. (2019). Problem-based learning. Salem Press Encyclopedia. EBSCO.

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Logan, A., & Hadzhieva, Y. (2018, October 24). Flipped classroom: Turning traditional library programs upside down [Webinar]. Georgia Library Association.

Loo, J. L., Eifler, D., Smith, E., Pendse, L., He, J., Sholinbeck, M., Tanasse, G., Nelson, J. K., & Dupuis, E. A. (2016). Flipped instruction for information literacy: Five instructional cases of academic librarians. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 42(3), 273-280.

Marcotte, A. (2019). Tech trends: Library tech leaders recommend their favorite tips and tools. American Libraries, 50(3/4), 5-7.

McKeachie, W. J., & Svinicki, M. (2006). McKeachie’s teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers. Houghton Mifflin.

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Pannabecker, V., Barroso, C. S., & Lehmann, J. (2014). The flipped classroom: Student-driven library research sessions for nutrition education. Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 19(3/4), 139-162.

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