A Fast-Food Lesson in Teaching Students to Use Library Resources

Should the Shake Shack restaurant chain open a location in College Station, Texas? Researching that question helped business students at Texas A&M University learn how to use library resources—and also taught Stacy Gilbert the value of using active learning techniques.

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Stacy, the business librarian at Texas A&M, was looking to replace the “sage on stage” approach to teaching students with something more effective. She decided to incorporate active learning techniques, which involve student participation, into two courses. In one course, she allowed students to select the databases they wanted to learn about, then demonstrated how to use them; in the other, she assembled the students into groups, explained the aforementioned research project, assigned a database to each group, gave each group a worksheet explaining how to use its assigned database, encouraged students within each group to “pair up” with other students in the group who were having trouble, and then required each group to demonstrate its database to the rest of the class.

Although the students in the first course voted on the databases, their involvement was equal parts active and passive, whereas the students in the second course were engaged from start to finish. Not surprisingly, the students in the second course retained more information about the databases than those in the first course.

“Having students work through the databases themselves rather than follow my demonstration allowed them to work at their own pace and helped maintain their attention level,” Stacy writes in the July-August issue of Information Outlook. “The active learning methods like think-pair-share and peer teaching worked well—the students seemed engaged with the database instructions and were eager to demonstrate the databases. While demonstrating the databases, the students explained nearly all the information I would have covered. Peer teaching made the students accountable for their learning and provided a way to assess what they learned from the worksheets.”

Stacy summarized the two course approaches and the lessons she learned from each in a poster she presented at the SLA 2016 Annual Conference. To learn more about her experiences with active learning techniques, read her article.

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