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Librarians' Instruction Toolkit: In the Classroom

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

Active Learning

The following WHERETO steps cited from the Understanding by Design Professional Development Workbook (2004) outline key elements of active learning:

W – Help students know Where the unit is going and What is expected. Help the teacher know Where the students are coming from (prior knowledge, interests).

HHook students and Hold their interest.

EEquip students and help them Experience the key ideas and Explore the issues.

R – Provide opportunities to Rethink their understanding and Revise their work.

E – Allow students to Evaluate their own work and its implications.

T – Be Tailored (personalized) to the different needs, interests, and abilities of learners.

O – Be Organized to maximize initial and sustained engagement as well as effective learning.

McTighe, J., & Wiggins, G. (2004). Understanding by design professional development workbook. Available from

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs)


Whether conducting assessment through a show of hands or with the latest tech tools, there are many classroom assessment techniques (CATs) that you can use to measure student learning and to inform your teaching strategies. By building different types of CATs into your lesson, you can test students' readiness, take the pulse of a classroom, and also verify whether students are achieving the learning outcomes set forth. Many CATs known as formative assessments are designed for quick delivery during class in order to assess student learning midway through a lesson and to provide immediate feedback to students. Other CATs known as summative assessments are used to test students' overall performance in a more formal way. The following three CATs were introduced along with many others in the book Classroom Assessment Techniques for Librarians (2015) by Bowles-Terry and Kvenild. 

Preconception Check

The preconception check is designed to elicit information upfront about students' preconceived notions, habits, and/or attitudes about a given topic. This CAT is useful for jump-starting an in-depth discussion, revealing trends among students' responses, "priming" students for the upcoming lesson, or facilitating recall of past knowledge that might apply to the current topic. "Questions can take many forms, including true/false/not sure, multiple-choice, or short-answer" (p. 6). You can administer a preconception check in different ways depending on class size, such as hand-raising, pen and paper, or a class response tool like PollEverywhere. 

Focused Listing

Focused listing is designed to reinforce student learning about a topic that was just covered in class. Working independently or in groups, students must quickly list the most significant aspects of a given topic, thus "recalling, explaining, and beginning to interpret class content" (11). Then, students report back to the entire class by writing their answers on a whiteboard. Note: It is important for the library instructor to create a master list in advance as a point of reference in case students omit certain important points during the activity. The shared list is a valuable reference for students, and the library instructor might also conduct a summative assessment by scoring students' listings as "incomplete," "mostly complete," and "complete" (12).

Categorizing Grid

In this activity, students sort information into categories laid out by the library instructor. For instance, s/he might provide the categories scholarly and popular sources along with a list of examples that students then organize into the respective categories. The library instructor can ask students to categorize information at the beginning of class in order to test their prior knowledge or to prime them for a more in-depth discussion. On the other hand, students can use a categorizing grid after a topic has been covered in order to assess their understanding and to encourage making their own connections. 

Bowles-Terry, M., & Kvenild, C. (2015). Classroom assessment techniques for librarians. Chicago: Association of College & Research Libraries.