Revising The Cephalonian Method

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to test out the Cephalonian Method in one of my library orientation sessions. The Cephalonian Method is an active learning technique developed by librarians at Cardiff University in 2002. The technique has been written about in several articles, which are listed on Cardiff’s “Official Cephalonian Method Page.” Allegedly, this is a technique used in Cefalonia, Greece in the tourism industry to keep tourists interested and engaged. I was introduced to the Cephalonian Method last year at the Music Library Association meeting at a presentation by Andrea Beckendorf from Luther College (my alma mater).

At the beginning of each session, students are given index cards containing a prepared question that they ask when the instructor requests it. At Cardiff, the librarians group their index cards by color (for example, blue is for basic introductory information) and each index card has a corresponding PowerPoint slide, which is revealed after the question is asked. Many of the questions and slides contain humor that helps to keep the students attentive, engaged, and will hopefully encourage them to remember the information later on. In addition, music is played at specific times before, during, and after the session to keep the environment feeling fun and relaxed.

My use of the Cephalonian Method was much simpler than Cardiff’s. My library orientation session was for 50 or so music majors (mostly first-year students) enrolled in a music history survey. In the past, the professor and I split this class into three different sections since that’s the only way we can fit everyone into our library classrooms. But this time, I got the opportunity to do one general library orientation during class time and then work with them in small groups the following week.

For the library orientation, I didn’t play any music because I was going to a classroom with technology I was unfamiliar with. Also, I didn’t use PowerPoint because I thought it would be too labor-intensive and I knew that I wanted to demonstrate a lot of database searching. I wrote questions on 15 or so index cards. I used three different colors for the index cards—one for each “scenario” that I cover:

  • Scenario I: Using the library catalog to find a score, CD, and book.
  • Scenario II: Finding background information and scholarly articles on a specific composer.
  • Scenario III: Finding online streaming music and downloadable scores when you’re away from the library.

I numbered each colored card and I would call out “Blue number three” and the person with the blue card that had the number three would recite their question. I incorporated a lot of quirky questions that I thought music majors would enjoy, such as “I really enjoy listening to Shostakovich symphonies at 3 am because they put me right to sleep. Are there any streaming music resources other than Pandora or Spotify that I can use?“ But I tried to ensure that none of the questions could potentially embarrass anyone.

While I didn’t get a chance to do a formal assessment of the Cephalonian Method, I think it was a huge success. The time flew by and the students asked really great questions at the end of the session. If I do this next time, I would like to make the questions even more humorous. But all in all, it was very quick and easy to pull off–plus it was a fun way to spice up my teaching!

Have you used the Cephalonian Method?

7 thoughts on “Revising The Cephalonian Method”

  1. We’ve been using a variant of the Cephalonian method during the sessions we offer our first-year experience students for several years, and then adapting it to work with other populations, such as transfer students and members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. It’s a great way to engage your audience from the start, setting the tone for both the session and their future use of the library.

    We’ve gotten great feedback from students and instructors regarding the format, and in many cases, we’ve had students ask unscripted questions as a result of the basic tenor of the session.

    I presented with my colleague Mary MacDonald on our use at LOEX in 2012, and you can see our handout at .

    Amanda Izenstark
    amanda [at] uri [dot] edu

  2. Yes, yes, yes!!! Veronica, I am a huge fan of this method. And I use it on a regular basis. It does help to spice up the library instruction, to wake the students up and to get their attention. It is one of the easiest way to bring activity to a direct type of instruction (when we mostly lecture and demonstrate). And I agree, A LOT depends on how the questions are phrased. Humor is a big friend here. The questions should be as less formal as possible, in my opinion. I would use it not only with my students, but with my colleagues, as well. We also like fun ways to discuss serious things!!!!! Thank you for this post!!!!!

  3. Thanks for the shout-out Veronica, great blog post! I’m so happy that this was a successful teaching experience for you, and (we hope) a successful learning experience for the students. Student engagement was the primary reason I started doing something similar to the Cephalonian method (before I knew it existed) and have continued to revise and refine what I do based on experience and other presentations (LOEX). Since I have been doing my “Intro to Music Research” at the sophomore level for a number of years, I’m seeing better prepared, more experienced student researchers by the time they are seniors.

    The investment that it takes to move to an active learning methodology like this is worth it when students begin to go “off script” by asking their own questions during the session and when most of the comments run along the lines of “Thanks!!! I didn’t know research could be so much fun!!!” (and I’m not exaggerating on the exclamation points).

  4. This is a great post with great ideas! I’m leading a 3 hour library session for a group of senior citizens in our lifelong learning organization and I think I’m going to try this out on them. I also want to incorporate this into some of our student sessions in the fall, especially the ones that have non-freshman.

  5. Hi! I love this active learning/instruction method and am excited to hear about everyone’s success. I work at a public library and will be giving a presentation before our network’s membership committee in a few months. They will be seeing a long list of other presentations that same day and I think the Cephalonian method might be a good way to keep everyone energized and engaged. From your experiences, do you think this could be adapted to work for a group of professional librarians and library directors? Thanks for your input!

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