Category Archives: Learning

TIS Sandbox: Guide on the Side

A brainchild of Technology Integration Services (TIS)’s Jennifer Hecker, the experimental spirit of the online Sandbox has been brought to life by providing a time and place for their staff to meet and test out new technologies. Rather than a structured training session, an in-person Sandbox is an opportunity for all attendees to hang out and geek out while messing around with new tech. In last Friday’s TIS Sandbox, the department allowed Cindy Fisher and me (Grace Atkins, TLS GRA) to host a Sandbox for experimenting with Guide on the Side tutorial building software.

What is Guide on the Side?
It’s a software created by the University of Arizona Libraries that allows you to place a frame over almost any webpage or database. The frame is located on the side of the screen and contains a click through tutorial and/or quiz that guides the user through read-then-do activities. Guide on the Side tutorials can be created quickly and shared easily. These tutorials can provide librarians with another option for teaching users how to approach research and navigate complex databases. Guide on the Side or GotS has the potential to replace and/or reinforce step­by­step demonstrations, online video tutorials, or static text­based webpages.

How did the GotS Sandbox work?
Last Friday’s TIS Sandbox attendees extended beyond the TIS department to include librarians who instruct users about how to research (the RIOT and Lib-Instr mailing lists). We had 12 participants including subject specialists, reference librarians, instruction librarians, and TIS members. The Sandbox consisted of introductions, a brief presentation with background information on Guide on the Side and examples of tutorials made by other libraries, account creation for all participants, free time to create tutorials individually and as a group, and a short feedback session as a conclusion.

What did we learn about GotS after experimenting with it during the Sandbox?
Like all technology, there is a learning curve, but not a very steep one—everyone was able to create a tutorial during our session without having ever used the software before. We tested GotS on mobile devices, tablets, and laptops, where it seemed to function well across the board. We discovered that GotS doesn’t necessarily play nice with all databases and websites, and Aaron Choate explained how sites like Google are deliberately designed to not play nice with webframes. We discussed how read-then-do learners would enjoy the tutorials whereas other users may find the tutorials to be akin to annoying popups. Participants raised big questions about customization and curation: Could all tutorials automatically feature a UT Libraries logo? Where would the published tutorials live?

So what happens now with Guide on the Side?
The Sandbox experience was extremely helpful to Cindy and me as we move forward with exploring GotS as an option for UT-Libraries. As a GRA in my final semester at the iSchool, working with GotS is part of my capstone project, “Implementing Teaching Technology at UT Libraries.” If GotS proves to be a useful tool for UT librarians, Cindy, our Learning Technologies Librarian, will ensure its sustainability beyond the completion of my capstone project. Based on the enthusiasm we experienced in the Sandbox, you can expect a more structured training session for interested librarians this semester!

All in all, the TIS Sandbox was a fun, non-frustrating, collaborative way to try out new tech. A big thank you to TIS and I hope to see more Sandboxes in the future!

Would you like to try out Guide on the Side? Send me an email request at and I’ll set you up with a free account. Check out these links to get started!

GotS Sandbox Resources
University of Arizona help pages:
• Creators Guide (help):
• Style Guide (best practices):

GotS made by other libraries that we looked at during the Sandbox:

Individual account access
To login to your GotS account:

DISCUSSION: “Does Library Instruction Make You Smarter?”

Since we didn’t actually have Michele’s RIOT back in the summer, it was good to finally get to this topic. The busy start to the fall semester puts the assessment and instructional effectiveness on all of our minds. A lively discussion followed Michele’s presentation.

All were chagrined that the studies didn’t show any correlation between student success and library instruction (LI), and we wondered about what kinds of instruction interventions do show a correlation to student success. Real-world guest lecturers? Recitation? What?

The tendency for education researchers to work with giant datasets  instead of qualitative researcher leads to literature that doesn’t adequately characterize students’ motivation, an important part of student success. Assessing students’ research papers would show the effect of LI, but one first needs to think about the audience for this information. Creating a controlled teaching environment could help us know what’s effective, but that’s neither practicable or desirable. Besides, there are so many variables that it’s better to collect information on the perceived value of LI, and whether LI changes students’ behaviors.

From here the conversation shifted to library anxiety and creating a culture that takes away the imposter-syndrome discomfort students may feel when they ask for help. Outward-facing attitudes benefit LI, and outreach and campus partnerships can help to create a culture of comfortable help-seeking.


RIOT: Does Library Instruction Make You Smarter?

All across UT (and higher education in general), people are attempting to assess student learning and articulate the value of their programs to student success, measured by retention, on-time graduation, GPA, post-college success and more.  While we are successfully measuring the impact of our sessions on student learning, meaning we know they are achieving our learning outcomes in our sessions for at least some of our programs, we haven’t measured whether what they are learning translates to more general success in or after college.   Since Megan Oakleaf’s Value of Academic Libraries Review and Report in 2010, I have been wondering just what impact one-shot instruction sessions have on student success, whether that is defined as GPA, retention or on-time graduation.  I am clearly not the only one wondering this so I put together this post as an attempt to answer that question.

In 2007, Joseph Matthews published the book “Library Assessment in Higher Education” which I haven’t read yet but have read about many times.  He looked at studies up to 2007 and found that they are pretty evenly split between finding a correlation between library instruction, GPAs and retention and finding no correlation.   I found a few more articles published since 2007 that represent what has been happening since his book came out.  This list is by no means comprehensive but the articles illustrate the state of the research on the question and the ways people are approaching the question.

Vance, Jason M., Rachel Kirk, and Justin G. Gardner. “Measuring the Impact of Library Instruction on Freshman Success and Persistence: A Quantitate Analysis.” Communication in Information Literacy 6.1 (2012): 49–58.

Librarians from Middle Tennessee State University attempted to find out whether one-shots for freshmen impacted their GPAs and/or their likelihood of returning for a second year (retention).  To do so, they gathered information about the one-shot classes they were offering to freshmen over a two year period, noting that these were introductory rather than research intensive classes.  They also gathered information about high school GPA, family income, ACT scores, race, gender, and major (all variables that have been correlated with retention).  The results of the study were that they could not find a direct connection between library instruction and student retention, although library instruction does appear to have a “small measurable correlation with student performance” (which, in turn, is tied to success and persistence).  There were a lot of issues with the study that the authors themselves point out, including the fact that the students they included as having attended instruction sessions may not have – they were enrolled in the courses that came in but they may have skipped.

Wong, Shun Han Rebekah, and Dianne Cmor. “Measuring Association Between Library Instruction and Graduation GPA.” College & Research Libraries 72.5 (2011): 464–473.

Librarians from Hong Kong Baptist University looked at the correlation between GPA and library workshop attendance for 8,000+ students who graduated between 2007 and 2009.  The findings were that GPAs were positively correlated with increased workshop offerings.  In programs that offered 5 workshops, GPAs were highest.  In those that offered 3 or 4, GPAs were positively affected and in those that offered 1 or 2, there was no positive correlation.  Workshops, in this case, were a mix of required and voluntary, stand-alone and course integrated.  One issue with this (and many) study is that it is only about correlation, not causation.

Bowles-Terry, Melissa. “Library Instruction and Academic Success: A Mixed-Methods Assessment of a Library Instruction Program.” Evidence Based Library and Information Practice 7.1 (2012): 82–95.  

This study from the University of Wyoming used a mixed-methods approach, with qualitative data provided by focus groups with 15 graduating seniors and quantitative data provided by transcripts for about 4,500 students.  The interesting thing about this study is that it provided some evidence for the idea that scaffolded information literacy instruction is most effective for student success.  Students in the focus group said the ideal form of instruction was a session their freshmen year and then at least one more when they were farther along in their majors to focus more on doing research in their discipline.  Transcript analysis showed a correlation (not causation) between GPA at graduation and getting upper division library instruction.  Once again, the authors identified issues such as the fact that they didn’t know if students in the transcript analysis actually attended sessions or skipped that day, and the fact that the analysis only showed correlation.

So what is the answer to our question?  A definitive “we don’t know.”   And where does that leave us as we struggle to demonstrate our value to the teaching & learning mission of UT?  It is clear that researchers in libraries are attempting to answer the question of whether what we do in library instruction is transferrable and positively impacts student’s retention, graduation and academic success.  It is also clear that we can’t definitely say it does.  On the plus side, I didn’t find anything saying it harmed students.

Questions for discussion:

  • How do you articulate the value of library instruction to the students you work with?  To the faculty?
  • Is there something we could or should be doing here in the Libraries to attempt to answer the question?
  • Does the fact that we don’t know affect your plans for library instruction provision
  • Does the fact that we don’t know (beyond anecdotal evidence from our faculty) even matter?



Discussion: Want to Improve your Teaching? Be Organized.

AJ kicked off the meeting by discussing the article, “Teaching Clearly Can Be a Deceptively Simple Way to Improve Learning,” by Dan Berrett published in the November 22, 2013 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education.  The article discussed how teaching clearly is basic to improving student learning.  This conclusion was drawn from an analysis of 3 studies that looked at how organization and clarity of professors is connected to deeper student learning.

The group then talked about different strategies we use in our attempts to explain things clearly and be organized in our teaching.  The strategies included:

  • When you explain a concept, have the students reflect it back or explain it to you.  This not only serves as a check for student understanding, but improves the chances of students who initially didn’t understand now “getting it” since it has been explained in more than one way.
  • At the beginning of class, tell the students your plan and goals for the class.  Write the goals on the whiteboard or project them on the screen if possible.  Check back in along the way so they see how they are accomplishing those goals.
  • At the beginning of class, ask students to tell you what they need to know in order to do their assignment.  Structure the class around their stated needs.
  • Give yourself time markers when you plan the class so you know how long different sections and activities should take and you don’t end up rushing through parts.  Be sure to build in some flexibility, too, and be prepared to sacrifice some content if students end up needing more time on a concept than you intially planned.
  • Give students time markers.  For example, tell them how long they have for an active learning activity and then give them a 1 minute warning before the end of that activity so they can wrap-up.
  • Use a variety of examples and illustrations to explain a point, recognizing that students have different backgrounds and different approaches to learning.
  • One example of how to explain the difference between formats is to show them a journal article, magazine article, newspaper article, and blog post and ask them to tell you which is which, how they know and possibly when different types of information might be useful to their research.
  • Watch other people teach so you don’t get stale in your own teaching.  This is a way to find new ideas to organize your classes and explain difficult concepts.

We also discussed time constraints, which is a problem everyone faces with one-shots. It is hard to build in repetition (so that you explain the same concept in more than one way), formative assessment (to check on student understanding as you go) and even summative assessment (to check on understanding at the end of the class so you can follow-up later and change things next time) into one-shots because of this time constraint.  However, it isn’t impossible and we discussed some useful approaches such as asking students to post resources they find during active learning into a GoogleDoc you can review right away, or taking a few minutes at the end of class to have them write 3 things they learned or the muddiest point.  Krystal mentioned that LIS has a book called “Classroom Assessment Techniques” on our shelf that anyone is welcome to borrow and she is also available to consult with anyone who wants to build assessment into their class.

One outcome of this RIOT is that we decided to start each one with a 15 minute discussion of things we are doing in the classroom in order to learn from each other and get new ideas.  These will be captured in the blog posts and categorized as active learning, assessment and/or “in the classroom” so we can easily find them again.  In addition, people want to observe LIS teaching so we will make that happen in the spring.


RIOT: Want to improve your teaching? Be organized.

Today’s article:
Teaching Clearly Can Be a Deceptively Simple Way to Improve Learning
By Dan Berrett

I read this article a few weeks ago, and was drawn to the focus on the importance of basic teaching skills. The author cites three different studies presented at the Association for the Study of Higher Education, each of which focuses on students’ perceptions of how organized and clear their professors are in class. Each of these studies used data from the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education which looks at results of critical thinking tests, approaches to learning, student motivation, and student perceptions of their professors’ teaching, which is the focus of this article.

The first study looks at the relationship between student perceptions of organized teaching and gains in critical thinking skills between the beginning and end of student’s first years at college. It found that there was not a significant correlation overall between the two, for minority students who entered far behind white students in critical thinking skills, those with high perceptions of faculty teaching in an organized increased their critical thinking skills five times as much as non-minority students.

The second study found that when students perceived good teaching quality, their reflective learning skills greatly improved over four years.

The final study looked at ‘meaningful interactions with faculty members outside class, along with clear and organized teaching,’ correlated closely with positive effects on student motivation during their first year in college.

The message behind these studies is that one of the best ways to improve student learning, regardless of whether you are flipping the classroom, teaching in traditional ways or somewhere in-between, is to focus on your own organizational skills, make sure that you explain concepts and skills in a clear way, and prepare well for class.

The only real methods mentioned in the article for doing this was to either have someone else observe your class and provide feedback or to tape your own class and watch it. These are two of the most difficult (and rewarding) ways to improve your own teaching, but there are many other useful methods that can be helpful.

For discussion today, I would like to talk about different methods we can use, including the two mentioned above, that might help with organization and clarity in teaching. How could we go about doing this in an organized way in the coming semester?

Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning

Booth, Char. Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning: Instructional Literacy for Library Educators. Chicago: American Library Association, 2011. Print.

Hello there–I hope everyone is having a happy October! This is the month where school often takes off at full speed. Projects and papers are beginning to be due, midterms are just around the corner, and of course, you can’t forget the fall festivities and fabulous amounts of candy just waiting to be consumed!

Despite the fact that I will be caught up in all of this (as I am a graduate student as well), I am trying to take the time to “reflect” on my teaching practices in library instruction as I begin to observe and co-teach more classes this fall. In order to do this, I have begun reading Char Booth’s excellent book Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning. This is an ALA publication that (already, even though I have not finished reading it) I think everyone who is involved with library instruction should read or at least glance at from time to time. Booth, a former UT iSchool student, gives a very practical and customizable model for framing the life-cycle of successful library classes: from inception to assessment (xviii).

However, I’d like to focus on something that Booth states in the beginning of the book. This statement really struck a chord with me, and has made me think more about my interactions with students while teaching and observing in library classes. Booth asserts that “As librarians, we are nerds for knowledge. By making information more findable, usable, and interpretable, we help others in their quest for specialization. This makes us nerd enablers–and therefore more accurately described as uber- or meta-nerds” (4). I have always identified with “nerd” culture and as someone who has wanted to work either in education or higher education for a long time, I would even describe myself as someone who has a passion for sharing knowledge, indeed: a “knowledge nerd.” Booth recognizes that many librarians feel this way–this passion for sharing knowledge resources is why libraries exist in the first place (4). But as librarians, we must be careful to realize that library users and students don’t necessarily think the same way that we do. We want to enable someone with a passion to learn about what inspires them–but sometimes people (especially new students), haven’t figured out what that passion is and so have not reached an expert status or the “self-directed learner” (4) status that the library has been built to serve. If we reflect on this fact that libraries have really been designed for “knowledge nerds” as we are, I think we can see just how important library instruction is for our users and our students. It’s not just a way we can communicate our knowledge, it is also a way that users and students can engage with our resources for the first (or maybe the zillionth) time without feeling lost or hopeless if they haven’t achieved the level of self-directed learner.

I sincerely hope that everyone who is a library instructor or has some part in library instruction will take a look at Reflective Teaching. So far it has been very helpful to me as a new instructor–and I haven’t even completed the book!

Discussion: Threshold Concepts and Information Literacy – Discussion

We had an interesting conversation about threshold concepts at our RIOT meeting.  Meghan posed several questions about the articles she presented, which you can see in her post.  The question that sparked the most discussion was “what are the pieces of troublesome knowledge associated with research in the disciplines you support or the population you work with on campus?”  Here are a few of those potential threshold concepts in the disciplines.

Kristen on English Literature:  primary sources, which was something mentioned in the article, and contextual knowledge.  Kristen surveyed her faculty about what was working and what wasn’t working as well in terms of information literacy instruction and the contextual knowledge piece came up for graduate students.  For example, when students are researching a specific literary work, they will try to find everything about the work itself.  What they don’t understand is that they need to find sources about literary criticism, genres, etc. as well – sources that don’t necessarily mention the work but can be applied to the work and show what it means to practice literary analysis and criticism.

Carolyn on Psychology:  true experiments.  Students need to find these in library databases and in order to do so, they need to first know what they are.  (None of us knew what they were but Carolyn taught us!)  This video was created by a TA at the request of a psychology librarian to help students.

Marta on Architecture:  why you would use a discipline-specific databases like Avery rather than a broader search tool like Summon.  She tries to demonstrate and explain this by discussing how Avery uses the language of the discipline and allows for more focused searching.

Laura on Art History:  critical reception – students need to find out how a work was received when it was first performed/exhibited and students still tend to want to look for current articles, even if something was created a long time ago.

Michele on freshmen:  not all information exists – many students seem to think that if you have a question, the information exists to answer it (example from real life was to find statistics on how many illegal immigrants die in the desert between Mexico and Arizona when trying to cross over; or finding peer reviewed journal articles by terrorists).   Based on the conversation, it appears this isn’t limited to freshmen.

April on Business:  some information is private – or if it isn’t private (such as financials from the corner coffee shop), it costs a lot of money (such as $30K market research reports)

We also discussed “research solves problems.”  This seems to be an issue across the board and students may not understand why they are doing research, or, why they would have to do research in a particular way in a particular discipline.  Marta gave the example of a physics student thinking that architecture assignments that required students come into the library to use print sources were essentially busy work because he didn’t understand that much of the information in that discipline only exists in print.

Laura brought up that while some research is done to find evidence to support an argument, in other disciplines like the arts, “doing research is about inspiration.”  I think that was the quote of the morning.

We wrapped up by briefly talking about the question Meghan posed about how we can use threshold concepts in collaborating with faculty around assignment design and instruction.  We recognized that faculty have threshold concepts too when thinking about their students.  We didn’t get far in this conversation but began to touch on how faculty and grad student instructors don’t necessarily understand what their students do and don’t  know and what kinds of assignments would be effective (not scavenger hunts, for example).


RIOT: Threshold concepts and information literacy

Hofer, Amy R., Lori Townsend, and Korey Brunetti. 2012. “Troublesome Concepts and Information Literacy: Investigating Threshold Concepts for IL Instruction.” portal: Libraries and the Academy 12 (4): 387–405.

Townsend, Lori, Korey Brunetti, and Amy R. Hofer. 2011. “Threshold Concepts and Information Literacy.” portal: Libraries and the Academy 11 (3): 853–869. doi:10.1353/pla.2011.0030.

We’ve been discussing threshold concepts for information literacy in LIS recently and we wanted to expand our discussion to include the disciplinary perspectives of our colleagues.

Threshold concepts were first introduced into the literature by two researchers in the UK, Jan Meyer and Ray Land, in the early 2000s while considering how to transform undergraduate education in the UK.  They presented threshold concepts as one framework for considering how we think and practice within disciplines. Meyer and Land write, “A threshold concept can be considered as akin to a portal, opening up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something.”

They defined 5 criteria for threshold concepts:

Transformative: Once the concept is learned, it changes the way the learner thinks about the discipline and causes a shift in perspective.
Integrative: It brings together multiple learning objectives into one whole concept.
Irreversible: Once understood, it’s a lasting understanding.
Troublesome: It’s the place where learners usually get stuck.
Bounded: It may be a concept that’s unique to the discipline or that defines the boundaries of the discipline.

With these criteria in mind, Hofer, Townsend, and Brunetti have been exploring how defining threshold concepts for information literacy might help structure instruction that gets students past the troublesome knowledge associated with finding, evaluating, and using information.  In the 2012 portal article, they write, “As a theoretical frame, threshold concepts can help librarians devise targeted curricula by prioritizing trouble spots in a way that professional standards documents do not.”  The researchers surveyed information literacy instructors to compile a list of common stumbling blocks for students and then attempted to organize those things into seven broader areas that could be potential threshold concepts for information literacy.

• Metadata=findability
• Good searches use database structure
• Format is a process
• Authority is constructed and contextual
• “Primary source” is an exact and conditional category
• Information as a commodity
• Research solves problems

My initial reaction to the list, perhaps because so much of my work is with first-year students, is that it seems to represent the stumbling blocks for librarians in learning their discipline and not necessarily where we expect students to get stuck, often because we don’t expect them to reach these points in their thinking and learning. Similarly, the authors state, “While ‘information literacy’ may not be a discipline per se, the common way of thinking and practicing shared by information professionals constitutes a body of knowledge for which there are learning thresholds.”  But in the same way that an instructor in a biology class is trying to get students to think like a biologist, librarians are trying to get students to think like an information professional when approaching their research problems. Identifying the troublesome knowledge embedded in that process could help us reconsider our pedagogical approaches to those concepts.

A few questions for discussion when we meet:

-What are the pieces of troublesome knowledge associated with research in the disciplines you support or the population you work with on campus?

-How does the threshold concepts framework complement or complicate the use of the ACRL standards for information literacy?

-How might the library build instruction support and services to help learners move past the threshold in their disciplines and/or the thresholds for information literacy?

-I feel like the greatest advantage of the threshold concepts framework is that they provide a statement of difficult knowledge that can be used to represent the perspective of the novice learner when working with practitioners/faculty. How can we use threshold concepts in collaborating with faculty around assignment design and instruction?

Lesson + Study = Lesson Study! Researching learning in the college classroom

Sometimes you find a RIOT topic, and sometimes a RIOT topic finds you. I was jumping around from article to article last week when Michele sent out the latest issue of LOEX and this article caught my eye (perhaps because I was hungry): From Prix Fixe to A la Carte: Using Lesson Study to Collaborate with Faculty in Customizing Information Literacy. It describes using a research method called “lesson study” to collaboratively design and assess a one-shot information literacy session for a first year composition course at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. I ended up reading more about lesson study and found the concept really intriguing. This entry focuses on the above article, as well as one that informed it.

What is lesson study?
Lesson study originated in Japan, and is a way of systematically designing and assessing a lesson plan in a way that contributes to our knowledge on teaching and learning. In lesson study, a group of teachers works in a small team to plan, teach, observe, analyze, and refine individual lessons (Cerbin and Kopp). In Japan, the resulting lesson plans and studies are published and disseminated for other teachers to build from and use so that “in essence Japanese lesson study is a broad-based, teacher-led system for improvement of teaching and learning” (Cerbin and Kopp). The Cerbin and Kopp article I keep quoting proposes a model of using lesson study in the college classroom. Instructors at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (where Cerbin and Kopp teach) have actually been using the lesson study method since 2006, and have a really great site that documents the process and shares all of their results. This is the context through which the LOEX article I found originated, as the project has spread to multiple UW campuses and throughout departments.

To embark upon a lesson study, a small team of teachers comes together to select a course, topic, and goals for student learning. Often, these teams are composed of instructors teaching the same course but they can also be interdisciplinary teams (hello, librarians!) working toward common goals. In the Jennings et al. study, 4 librarians collaborated with 3 composition faculty. Their initial list of goals was huge, and they reported that the process of sitting down with faculty to discuss the meaning of their goals, how they could be taught and assessed, whether they could reasonably be taught in a one-shot, and how they fit into the overall curriculum was one of the most valuable aspects of the lesson study. Eventually, they whittled down to two outcomes, leaving the other concepts to be taught in preceding classroom activities or discussions.
The next step is to plan the lesson. One of the main goals of lesson study is to design lessons that make the process of student learning visible, so that it can be observed. Once the lesson is planned, teams must design the study of the lesson. This involves deciding what data they will collect to assess student learning and thinking, and what observation guidelines they will use when team members observe the lesson being taught. To me, this focus on how students learn is what makes lesson study different than other forms of assessment.

“…the primary focus of lesson study is not what students learn, but rather how students learn from the lesson. To investigate how students learn, teams focus on student thinking during the lesson, how they make sense of the material, what kinds of difficulties they have, how they answer questions, how their thinking changes during the lesson and so forth.” Cerbin and Kopp

Teaching and Observing
Once the lesson and study have both been planned, one team member teaches the lesson while the others observe and collect data. Data collection may involve field notes, checklists, rubrics, etc. Cerbin and Kopp note that lesson studies promote observation of students rather than the performance of the teacher, and that the collaboratively planned lesson (not the teacher or the students) is what is being judged.* This takes the heat off of individuals and “helps pave the way for public knowledge building.”

After the first go-round, the team debriefs to talk about their experiences, analyze data for evidence of student learning, and discuss possible changes based on what they found. The revised lesson can then be used in another class, continuing the cycle of evidence-based improvements.

Documentation and Sharing
The idea behind lesson studies is that they will produce valuable knowledge to be shared with others. Teams extensively document both the lesson portion and the study portion so that they can be disseminated and shared.

Why is it valuable?
Some of the reasons Cerbin and Kopp value lesson study include:

  • it encourages scaffolded, reflective design and assessment
  • it can help build a shared language for teaching and learning among instructors
  • it offers an evidence-based approach to teaching improvement
  • it provides a framework for investigating teaching and learning in the classroom

Jennings et al. reported that using lesson study to design the composition one-shot began a process of continual improvement and engendered a “culture of collaboration” among members of the lesson study team. It also led to further library involvement in the integration of information literacy into some curricular revision in the department. Eventually, it also led to similar studies in courses within other departments. They reported that in a science lesson study group, the process revealed that faculty assumed their students came to them with much more robust information literacy skills than they actually did. Through the process of planning the lesson study, “Faculty began to recognize and internalize the idea that if they wanted their students to use information in the sciences effectively and appropriately, it was incumbent upon them to integrate information literacy into the curriculum rather than assuming the students were gaining these students elsewhere” (Jennings et al.). Hooray!

I think this could be a great way to promote collaboration, and to work in some meaningful assessment work. It is difficult to assess the actual process of student learning, and I think this is one angle from which to approach it.

*Yes, this method requires IRB approval

Questions to think about:

  • Where might a lesson study fit in our teaching?
  • Who on campus might we partner with?
  • How would we share our findings?


Cerbin, W. & Kopp, B. (2006). Lesson Study as a Model for Building Pedagogical Knowledge and Improving Teaching. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 18(3).

Retrieved from

Jennings, E., Kishel, H., & Markgraf, J. (2012). From Prix Fixe to A la Carte: Using Lesson Study to Collaborate with Faculty in Customizing Information Literacy. LOEX Quarterly, 38(4).

Retrieved from

How Do Students Develop Mastery?

Ambrose, Susan A. Bridges, Michael W. DiPietro, Michele Lovett, Marsha C. Norman, Marie K. Mayer, Richard E. (2010). How Learning Works Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. The Jossey-Bass higher and adult education series (1st ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Chapter 4: How Do Students Develop Mastery?

We recently met with Michael Sweet from the CTL and he recommended this book as a tool to use with faculty when discussing best teaching practices.  Beyond the course transformation work that we’ve discussed previously, CTL is taking active steps to build community around teaching on campus, including the formation of a faculty mentoring initiative with learning communities structured around teaching topics. 

I wanted to take a look at one of the chapters from the book to help everyone around the table gain some familiarity with how the chapters are structured and what faculty might gain from reading it in pieces.  Plus, I figured I’d learn something to improve my teaching in the process.

Each chapter begins by presenting a few teaching scenarios that include problems with student learning problem, followed by a summary of the possible problems.  Then a discussion of the principle of learning that’s at work in these scenario is presented followed by a summary of the research on that principle.  The chapter that outlines teaching strategies suggested by the research, turning the research into practical help with examples.

The book contains a number of appendices that are referenced in the teaching strategies section and that are intended to guide broader teaching strategies, like building effective assessments into a course and using rubrics.

I think I learned more from these 30 pages than I have from almost anything I’ve read in the last year.  The authors do an amazing job of presenting a classroom problem and proposing solutions based on research in clear and convincing language aided by multiple examples.  The chapter is a quick read, but is full of ideas that I’d like to discuss during the RIOT rather than write about here.  I’ll outline a some basic ideas here, but I’d like us to talk about how some of these strategies apply to the one-shot and assignment design consultations.

-Faculty often become frustrated when student performance is disappointing and the faculty member feels like the students should have the skills and knowledge needed to perform well.  The problem is usually that students either lack key component skills, lack experience integrating the use of key component skills that they’ve learned individually, and/or are unable to transfer the key component skills to a new context.

-All of this points to a failure to develop mastery.  The principle of learning for this chapter is stated as:

“To develop mastery, students must acquire component skills, practice integrating them, and know when to apply what they have learned.”

Research is highlighted in four areas:

Expertise  –
moving along a continuum from
unconscious competence (not knowing what you don’t know)
conscious incompetence (knowing you don’t know and what you need to learn)
conscious competence (knowing a lot, but still having to think about integrating your knowledge — think about driver’s ed)
unconscious competence (knowledge and skills become instinctive and you no longer consciously consider what you know or do)

Component Skills


and Application

I’ll outline more of this research and the related strategies when we meet, but please begin thinking about our role in helping students develop mastery in information literacy and research skills.  Are we effectively teaching students to integrate key component skills?  What are those key component skills? How often are we functioning at the unconscious competence level of expertise and failing to really identify the key component skills that our non-expert students need to learn to complete an assignment?  And perhaps the problem most unique to our teaching situations:  when those necessary skills fall both in our domain and the faculty member’s, how do we build stronger bridges for collaborating on the integration of those skills in assignments and activities?