Gaining Practical Experience for the Real World

Amanda Heathby Amanda Heath

As students, gaining experience while working on the MLIS is a priority for many of us.  We participate in internships or volunteer in settings that allow us to practice putting our theoretical knowledge to work, only to discover at times that the task of doing so is not so easy.  Another way to gain best practices in the “real world” is to attend conferences and workshops of professional organizations.  Workshops designed for the working librarian professional and presented by librarians in the field can provide you with “in the trenches” knowledge, allowing you to succeed at your first professional experiences.

As a student with an interest in working in an academic library, I know that it is highly likely that I will be called upon to teach library instruction.  I know from classes in information literacy and instruction that I need to develop concrete learning objectives, look for faculty collaboration, include active learning activities, and gather session feedback.  Yet from a practical standpoint I am left wondering how one teaches search strategies, content evaluation, appropriate citation, and the relevant tools in 50 minutes. Is it ok to leave something out?

With these and other questions in mind I sought out SCIL (Southern California Instruction Librarians) an interest group formed within California Academic and Research Libraries (CARL). Through the interest group I was able to attend the SCIL Works 2012 workshop Back to Basics: The Ubiquitous One Shot.  The workshop was designed by instruction librarians for instruction librarians as a way to share practices that are actually working in the classroom.

Through the workshop I learned a few practical techniques to optimize the 50 minutes you have in front of the classroom.

More Is Not Necessarily Better

As librarians we often think in terms of “more”. We provide more search terms, more search strategies, and more resources.  In information instruction we often find ourselves thinking that we can squeeze in just one more helpful piece of information.  In the one-shot instruction session, the tendency of providing more can actually be detrimental to an effective lesson plan as a result of the session’s inherent time limitations. The goal should be to target the most important learning outcomes for the instruction period.  Which means yes, you may leave some material out.  The goal when there is simply not enough time is to create an open door policy for further one-on-one assistance if it is needed.

Targeting Learning Outcomes

Successful information literacy programs take considerable planning and include faculty collaboration.  One way to get the conversation started with faculty is through the creation and use of mutually understood rubrics for learning outcomes.  Rubrics create a framework for the lesson plan and provide an effective assessment tool.  Even if you are unable to get the level of collaboration you are looking for from faculty, a rubric can still be extremely useful in creating your own student learning outcomes and assessing whether or not those outcomes are being met.


Feedback is important.  It lets you know what is working and highlights areas that need improvement. Sometimes gathering feedback can be overlooked because we often think it involves the use of surveys or interviews.  However, immediate feedback can be gained by using the “What Stuck Game” as presented by Joan Kaplowitz.  In groups, students are asked to write down as many things as possible about what “stuck” with them about the session.  The lists are reviewed and the group with the most items wins. This immediate feedback lets you know what topics made an impact to the students and lets the students summarize key concepts in an active learning session. Additionally, the game appeals to the competitive learner, whose learning style is often overlooked in library instruction sessions.

As a student, the idea of attending professional conferences can be a bit intimidating. However, the knowledge I gained from attending the event has given me the confidence I need to take my first steps in creating beneficial and effective lesson plans for one-shot instruction sessions.

Information about SCIL Works 2012 and presentation details can be found on the SCIL Works 2012 page.

About Southern California Instruction Librarians (SCIL)

SCIL is an interest group formed within California Academic and Research Libraries (CARL) that is dedicated to providing information literacy and instruction-related professional development applicable to all types of institutions.  SCIL offers meetings, half-day workshops, and full day conferences.  Information about SCIL can be found at their website.


Amanda is currently enrolled part-time in the SLIS program and has an expected graduation date of May 2013.  Professional interests include reference services, information literacy instruction, and emerging technologies. 

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Michelle Holschuh Simmons

    Thanks, Amanda, for your useful tips about effective information literacy instruction!


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