Deepening the Conversation

thinking about questions of authority, technology, learning, and 2.0 in academic libraries

Is ten minutes of teaching enough?


So, Colleen’s to do list (which I am mighty impressed by) reminded me of the call for papers for the Library Instruction Cookbook. Which seems like a great idea, tons of active learning ideas! Also, something I would love to contribute to.

The ‘ingredient list’ kind of got under my skin though. Especially this part:

The lesson plan for the activity cannot involve more than 10 minutes of librarian talk. (Our second assumption is that you like to hear yourself talk more than students do. We’ll give you 10 minutes to introduce the activity.)

I do active learning (after all, I went to Immersion. We learn lots about active learning at Immersion!) And I’ll be the first to admit I struggle with content coverage and integrating active learning. But this criteria just rules me out completely! I was thinking this would be a great place for my call & response web page evaluation exercise, taking a completely different approach to teaching evaluating. It’s an exciting activity, and my favorite class to teach. It is very active, and the students are always more engaged here than any other session. They are so engaged that this semester I found I ran out of time due to student participation. Kind of awesome, but also worrisome — I don’t get to cover the rest ‘tomorrow’!

But I talk for more than 10 minutes. And I talk for more than just the very beginning of class. We interact. The whole hour.

Does that mean this isn’t good active learning? Is active learning defined only as introducing something and then turning students loose to do their thang, and then letting them debrief (because if I debriefed,  that would certainly exceed that magical mystery minute mark).

Plus, I have this concern. Am I really misunderstanding the whole nature of teaching, and information literacy, and the course-related one-shot in a non-integrated curriculum? Is it even possible for the students to get enough useful library information with 10 minutes of instruction?

I’m open to being shown how this can work, I really am. I’m also very curious if any of us has been so bold to take just 10 minutes for active teaching and leave the rest of the precious class time to active learning?  Convince me, cajole me,mock me, support me — where do you fall? what do you think?


7 thoughts on “Is ten minutes of teaching enough?

  1. I talk way more than 10 minutes during instruction. Like you, I ask a lot of questions, challenge a lot of the answers given, and provide context to students who think Google is the perfect research tool. Maybe I’m an outlier, but I normally talk less then 3 minutes at the start of instruction before I have them hands-on in the database. The majority of my talk time comes after they have been searching and evaluating for 20-25 minutes. I am circulating and redirect on the fly during those 20-25 minutes and most definitely talking to individuals and groups.

    I would recommend submitting your proposal to the LI cookbook and also sharing it on here.

  2. I am *so* glad I’m not the only one who thought that! It’s on my to-do list because I wanted to see if I could do it. It’s sort of a personal challenge to see if I can force myself into this whole ‘teach-by-not-teaching’ mode. But I spend a lot of time talking with (with, not ‘to’) the students about how to develop good keywords, run a good search, deal with results

    We do have a sort of ‘intro to the library’ activity that fits the not-much-speaking rule. My usual instruction classes would in no way work for me to submit. Which is sad, because you should *see* the sort of participation we get when I bring up studies about the G-spot.

    Also, I tend to talk *while* they’re hands-on in the database. I knwo other instructors who have kids search first and then circulate, but I always found it frustrating when teachers let me band around like an oaf when they could have been teaching me how to do it correctly. I’m admittedly biased by my own status as an eternal student. But we’re the experts and the teachers…what’s the use in our *not* talking? Having an instruction session where the librarian engages in dialogue with students is *useful* – corralling students in a lab, giving 10 minutes of instruction on complicated interfaces with options (like thesauri) they dont know how to use is just silly.

    I actually blogged about this back in January here. I don’t know why librarians are so afraid of being actual teachers.

    Ahem. I suppose this comment boils down to: no, 10 minutes is not enough. Unless it’s a class like our USTU101 library introduction, which isn’t actual instruction so much as it’s tricking them into having fun with an assignment that familiarizes them with the library, but isn’t at all related to research.

  3. I have to take a closer look at that call but I was wondering if they mean more than 10 minutes at a time. I don’t see how you could talk for less than that amount of time if you add in discussion during and after activities.

    I work at a community college and feel that I’m stuck in a rut as far as teaching goes although I incorporate active learning activities as much as I can. I’m excited to see what other people do for basic database orientation sessions.

  4. Hi folks.
    I’m one of the editors of the book… just to clarify… we certainly aren’t expecting that you would ONLY speak for 10 minutes and then stay silent for the rest of the session. 🙂

    Please submit a proposal… make us say no or yes. Do not assume you are discounted. 🙂

    Ryan L. Sittler
    Co-editor, The Library Instruction Cookbook

  5. I tried this last night… not sure if the comment didn’t go through or if it needed to be approved! 🙂

    But anyway, we certainly wouldn’t expect anyone to be “mum” during the session. We are just looking for activities that start with 10 minutes or less of “introduction.” I personally would like to see little or no use of librarianese (but that’s a personal preference… and part of why we have two editors. 🙂 )

    I invite everyone here to submit a proposal… no good idea will be turned away!
    Ryan L. Sittler
    Co-editor, The Library Instruction Cookbook

  6. Hey Ryan! Thanks for chiming in — and thanks for clearing up the 10 minutes issue.

    I am really looking forward to the cookbook — I left Immersion last summer inspired and wanting more, and this sounds like a great tool for getting inspired.

    My proposal will be in the mail 🙂

  7. Excellent! Thanks!

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