POST: Learning By Doing: Labs As Pedagogy 1

Cameron Blevins writes here about the challenges of teaching digital methods in a history classroom. Some of the experiences might ring true with librarians tasked with teaching information literacy, such as this:

My first lab, for instance, spelled out instructions in excruciating detail. Unfortunately, this led to exactly the kind of passive learning I wanted to avoid. I liken it to the “tutorial glaze” – focusing so much on getting through individual tasks that you lose track of how they all fit together or how you would apply them beyond the dataset at hand. The ability to teach early-stage technical skills involves a litany of pedagogical challenges that humanities instructors are simply not used to tackling.

How might librarians partner with faculty to avoid this scenario? What techniques have you discovered to help students from a variety of skill levels remain engaged throughout an instruction session?

dh+lib aggregated content

This post was produced through a collaboration involving Jessica Brangiel (Editor-at-Large for the week) and Roxanne Shirazi (Editor for the week), with editorial assistance from Zach Coble and Sarah Potvin. For further details on the dh+lib aggregation process, see:

One comment on “POST: Learning By Doing: Labs As Pedagogy

  1. Amanda Rust Feb 13,2013 4:40 pm

    I love the phrase “tutorial glaze”, having both given students tutorial glaze, and experienced it myself. Is there a distinction between “training” and “teaching” that comes into play here — is that a useful line to draw?

    I’ve honestly found this to be one of the toughest things to balance in library instruction. Students need some basic technical knowledge, but dumping that on people all at once is just torture. I’ve tried two things to liven up the process: first have students work in pairs or threes, so the more advanced teach the others, and second split up the demonstration portion into really tiny chunks, no more than five minutes. I demo a really small task, and then have the class do that task themselves. Is that tapping into higher order thinking? I don’t know, but it’s a little less boring (for me, at least).

    I primarily see students through one-shot library sessions, but in a semester-long class I wonder if you could also make your groups of students responsible for teaching some of the basic technical skills, having them lead an in-class tutorial section. That group at least would have to synthesize knowledge about the tool enough to teach — possibly more engaging?

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