Can We Flip the Library Classroom?

Recently there have been lots of articles in my feedreader about “flipping” the classroom. This pedagogical strategy aims to reverse the order of operations in traditional lecture-based classes. Instead of the professor lecturing during class and the students completing homework in between sessions, proponents of flipped classrooms move problem-solving into the classroom, and often assign video captures of lectures as homework. Students may be given the chance to work in groups as they complete their assignments, and the instructor can circulate throughout the class in “guide on the side” style, providing individual attention to each student and working through questions and uncertainties during class time.

As an instructor who is not a fan of teaching lecture classes, the flipped model sounds good to me. Much of the discussion I’ve seen lately has raised interesting points about the place of technology, pointing out that while lecture videos may be useful, they’re not necessarily a required component of a flipped pedagogy. I will admit to one big lingering question (also raised in the blog post mentioned above): how can the flipped model be applied to discussion classes? In those courses students are typically expected to have completed assigned readings before coming to class, and class time is used to discuss issues raised by the readings and to review any points of confusion. I’ve heard many faculty lament their difficulty in convincing students to do their readings, which is a challenge that I’m not sure flipping the class can solve.

Can we flip the library classroom? With the move toward active learning in library instruction classes and away from more traditional, lecture-like demonstrations of research tools and strategies, in some ways we already have. But what about asking students to do some work before they join us in the library classroom? I’m sure many of us ask students to come to their library instruction sessions with a research topic in mind, especially for one-shots. We could ask them to view or read tutorials or research guides about the library catalog and databases before their one-shot, so they can jump right in once they get to the library. But will they do it? And are there other ways that we can take advantage of the flipped model to help students get more out of library instruction?

With so much of our library instruction dependent on one-shots for a variety of reasons, it seems like anything we can do to help students get more out of that single session is worth a try. I’m interested to hear about what’s happening with the flipped classroom model at academic libraries — are you using any flipped techniques in your instruction?

Author: Maura Smale

Maura Smale is Chief Librarian at The Graduate Center, City University of New York.

6 thoughts on “Can We Flip the Library Classroom?”

  1. I use POGIL and PBL in one-shot information literacy sessions, which really is like flipping the classroom. I take your point about students (particularly in a one shot session) coming with a research topic already. For me, I can flip the classroom AND use a trigger to get the students working. For me, what the student brings to the classroom is their own pre-conceived ideas, notions and abilities, which I can then challenge in an active and meaningful way.

  2. With the cooperation of our English deportment, I am creating asynchronous assignments that will be integrated into the first year writing curriculum throughout the semester. This includes matching pairs of podcasts on IL topics and exercises that will encourage critical thinking. By the time students come in for a library session, they will have completed several of these modules and the session can be used as a workshop, applying the basic concepts to their specific project.

  3. Thanks so much for bringing up this subject! I have never asked students to think about the subjects before coming to the session but I agree that it would save time. In my classes at Berkeley College, I try to “flip” the classroom as part of my active learning experiences in the so that I’m not the only instructor in the class. Many times when I have taught about website evaluation and criteria for reliability, students are willing to contribute. When they feel they know the answer and respond to the project at hand, they take their knowledge and share it with others thus developing a more democratic and open. I feel that students find it liberating that this type of environment isn’t so hierarchical and constrained like the knowledge-banking model of education.

    I’ve also also found that by engaging in active and problem-based instruction in one-shot sessions we are constrained by time and what we can cover all that we want. However, working personally with groups or individuals, the act of being the “facilitator” of learning introduces students to the librarians in an informal way which may have them fear less of asking us questions when they visit the library.

  4. These are great ideas, thanks everyone! Sara, I’m particularly intrigued by your asynchronous assignments — that might work well at my college, as we don’t typically have the time to accommodate more than one library session/intro English Comp class. Give us a shout and let us know how it turns out!

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