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Librarians' Instruction Toolkit: Planning a Class

Resources to use before, during, and after your library instruction sessions, including lesson planning tools, classroom assessment techniques (CATs), and follow-up surveys

Collaborating With Faculty

After a faculty member has contacted you to request library instruction, first request a copy of their relevant course materials, such as a course syllabus, assignment handouts, and a list of student research topics. For requests where the faculty member is uncertain about what kinds of instruction you can provide or else is interested in brainstorming new assignment ideas, you might propose a face-to-face consultation with the instructor. Before you start planning for the library instruction session on your own, make sure you have a solid grasp of the faculty member's overall objectives for the lesson. Then begin to identify the student learning outcomes, as discussed in the next section.

Planning Your Lesson

Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)

Student learning outcomes (SLO) anchor your lesson and clearly identify a knowledge, behavior, or attitude that students will demonstrate at the end of the lesson. The verb wheel is very useful for connecting cognitive abilities like comprehension, analysis, and synthesis to clear actions like describing, comparing, and composing. The wheel also includes products (e.g., a diagram, an outline, a game) that students can create once they achieve the necessary knowledge and skills. Moss and Cubbage emphasize that all SLOs should be "specific, action-oriented, measurable". See Northwestern's libguide for more details on ways to write SLOs. 

As you begin to identify SLOs for your lesson, consider not only the faculty member's course or project objectives, but also any existing content standards or learning outcomes that might be relevant such as the threshold concepts in the Framework. In their book Classroom Assessment Techniques for Librarians (2015), Bowles-Terry and Kvenild list common SLOs related to library instruction, such as:  

  • Articulating a researchable topic
  • Using subject-specific databases to find sources
  • Explain why sources are cited (p. xv)

In transitioning from the skills-based information literacy (IL) standards to the Framework's threshold concepts, there is potential for increasing the amount of class activities that involve higher-level thinking, as identified in the revised Bloom's taxonomy. For lesson plans based on the Framework's six threshold concepts, refer to the book Teaching Information Literacy Threshold Concepts: Lesson Plans for Librarians (2015) by Bravender, McClure, and Schaub. 

Backward Design

The instructional approach known as backward design involves planning assessment upfront at the same time as you identify SLOsWiggins and McTighe put forth this systematic approach to instruction in their definitive book called Understanding by Design (2005) and outline the following three steps in planning instruction:

  • Identify desired results (SLOs): What will students know or do?
  • Determine acceptable evidence of student learning (assessment method): How will I know that students know or can do it?
  • Plan learning experiences and instruction (active learning): How will I help students reach the outcome?

In his brief discussion of understanding by design (UbD), McTighe states that backward design is labor-intensive and advises instructors to start small when learning this approach.