RIOT: One-Shot Library Instruction, does it work?

Like most librarians, I would love to be able to integrate library instruction in to courses working collaboratively with faculty but the reality is that, for the most part, I only get to do single sessions for various courses so I was quite interested and encouraged by the findings of this article:

Spievak, E. R., & Hayes-Bohanan, P. (2013). Just Enough of a Good Thing: Indications of Long-Term Efficacy in One-Shot Library Instruction. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 39(6), 488-499.

The authors asked undergraduate students to evaluate the results of a Google search for genetically modified foods. “Participants were asked to consider the initial Google search page as well as the content, layout and usefulness of individual web pages in the context of a one of the following hypothetical situations: freshman-level writing assignment, upper-level research assignment, or personally relevant search.”  The researchers had an interesting approach to obtain unbiased responses by not explicitly indicating that they were trying to find out if library instruction was effective. Instead, they advertised the study “as an investigation of reactions to and attitudes about web pages.”

Spievak and Hayes-Bohanan found that students that had library instruction were significantly more likely:

  • to choose the US Government webpage as the best source and to choose Wikipedia as the worst source
  • to continue searching for more information for their project
  • engaged in more elaborative thinking about the sources and their choices was indicated by the open-ended request for suggestions for improvements to the presented materials
  • to be more efficient in evaluating sources and engaged in more complex information processing
  • to evaluate the sources critically
  • ask reference questions, and also more sophisticated questions

These results, not doubt, are encouraging: library instruction is an effective tool in building information literacy and critical thinking.  Here a few questions to start our discussion:

  • Are there particular strategies that we can incorporate in to single library sessions that can further encourage the development of these skills?
  • Can we create support materials (guides, tutorials, etc) that complement what is working in these sessions?
  • Are there significant information literacy concepts that we can see missing in the findings of this study?  And if so, how do address those gaps?

Aside from the content of the article, I also think the research methodology that the authors used is worth a closer look and can be a source for discussion:

  • Are there any issues with their methodology?
  • Can we incorporate assessment in less obvious ways?
  • Can this approach be scaled up to more complex research tasks?

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