Episode 202: Instructional Design

Instructional design types - Hamdani

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Contents of this page:
  • Intro
  • Background
  • Basics of Instructional Design
    • Instruction theory
    • Setting objectives
    • Connect to students
    • Strategies for instruction
    • Outcomes
    • Doing assessment and evaluation
    • Connect back later to be sure learning worked
  • Books We are Reading
  • Conclusion
  • Other Resources



Hi, and welcome back to Linking Our Libraries

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This week we are talking about Instructional Design.

A big part of the work you do in any library is to provide instruction in all kinds of things to our patrons. We do this individually, we do this in small groups, in one-shot session or in classes lasting a week or a semester. This is where we see that no matter how broad and wonderfully diverse our profession is (we are! It’s what makes us special!), most of what we do is really similar.

No matter what kind of library, or archive, or museum, or history center you might work in – our fundamental mission is to serve our community. And one of the main ways we serve people is to instruct them in all kinds of stuff. The specifics of what the content of instruction will be in your library will depend on your materials and your community needs. But the basics of instruction are the same across all of us.




Basics of Instructional Design

  • Instruction theory
  • Setting objectives
  • Connect to students
  • Strategies for instruction
  • Outcomes
  • Doing assessment and evaluation
  • Connect back later to be sure learning worked

Instruction theory

  • These are theories that help people formulate their material to connect with learners. It can be a very large issue that takes a lot of time, in working to best build training that reaches out to people who will learn in all different kinds of ways.



Setting objectives

  • Talking to teachers/profs to find out their context for the learning
    • If you are connected with a school, or with another organization where people are providing instruction; be sure you are connecting with them to find out what they want to happen in the training
    • Find out what goals they have: is it an article? Is it a book report?  Something they find and bring back? Be sure your training session has an objective of getting what they need.


  • Assessment mapping for the organization
    • This is mainly for school libraries, but could be part of other organizations. In schools, there are standards set by the school (or state, or accreditors, or other groups), and each year students need to hit the standards to either move ahead to the next grade, or to graduate. So there is a big map of outcomes and skills the whole school needs to hit. The library is part of that process, and can work to be sure training they are providing matches up to the skills the students will need to hit their individual goals as part of that big set of skills.
    • This is a good general tip for libraries; be part of the work your parent organization is doing – and be very clear about how your work fits directly into the goals they are working to achieve. Mary chatted with a special library in a technology company, where the librarian had a set of interests of each of the engineers and researchers in the company. Every week she would collect articles and material relevant to those interests and distribute them – unasked. The library got a lot of positive feedback about this program, and it really helps the company to clearly see the value the library is providing to them!
    • This is something that happens in a lot of academic libraries and hospital as well, as more of them are setting up embedded library staffers in the departments where they can provide immediate information. We love to see that kind of connection to your community!


  • If you are setting up the training in your library as part of your program, then set objectives that make sense for your session
    • Will people use their new skills immediately? Or will the new skill be something they develop?
    • What do you want people to take home?
    • Think of some measurable goals – how can you tell that things were learned? You want the purpose to be very clear. If you are setting up an introduction to email class in a public library, you want people to leave class with an email address and sufficient understanding to be able to open a browser window and get back to that email again. If you are teaching a class in correct citation of organic chemistry resources, there will be an entirely different kind of specificity required. So be clear in how you will know whether your objectives have been met!
    • Just saying “they will be exposed to” whatever idea you are teaching probably means everyone’s time is being wasted. Be specific, and be sure they can leave with a definite skill!


Connect to students

  • Think about strategies for making things interesting
  • Work on some ideas for bringing materials that will be interesting {think about the deadly dull Library Introduction class many schools and academic libraries do – everyone is bored, talking, and learning nothing. Work on strategies to make that interesting to your patrons that makes sense to your people.
  • Speak to students at their level. You want everyone to feel comfortable in this learning experience, not sad and left behind – and not bored and wondering what the point was.
    • This means you, ideally, have some ideas about your students in the class before you get started. If the class is a bunch of strangers to you, at least try to spend a couple of minutes at the beginning of the session chatting with them to get some ideas of where they are and what their comfort level is with the material.
    • This is easier to accomplish if you are doing a one on one class, but you can get some good ideas even in a huge class!




Strategies for instruction

  • Online/In person: thinking about a format that will reach out to your patrons; in-person will be helpful to people who want to spend more time and ask questions.
    • Setting up an online class that your patrons can look at on their own schedules can be really helpful for them, but reduces the ability to ask questions as they work through it themselves, so you want to be sure everything is very clear and that you test it on non-library people before you make it available!
  • Gamification: Building game elements into the things you are doing help patrons learn can make what you are doing really stick for them!
    • Whether you are online or in person, these game elements can make the lessons you are working through stick for your patrons.
    • Games are not just for kids either – we encourage you to build gamification elements into any class or training you are designing for any level or subject!




  • These mirror your objectives. So if you had an objective of “each student will understand the process of setting up and using an email account” then your outcomes might be something like
    • Student has a Gmail account (Please, please do not waste time with AOL or Netscape or other off-brand emails! Help your patrons learn about Information Literacy by explaining how useful Gmail or Yahoo will be for them!)
    • Student has sent at least one email
    • Student can open a browser window and sign into their email account
  • Doing assessment and evaluation
    • Assess the outcomes
      • Figure out how to know if the students really got the information you wanted them to have.
      • So if your class is on proper citation for organic chemistry resources, and you are teaching a group of college sophomores, how do you know they learned this skill?
        • Have a short “quiz” at the end, where everyone must cite an article you email to them
        • Talk with the teacher of the class to see how their research papers went, and whether the citations were done correctly
        • Give students a self-evaluation sheet and ask them to talk about their comfort level with citation, and give them a contact name/email where they can go to ask questions later when they get stuck
        • Hand out a pre-test before you do any instruction, asking them to do a quick citation; then do the same at the end, and you can measure the post-test change. Hopefully, it is an improvement!
      • Assess how it impacts use of materials, databases, reference questions, etc.
        • This is one of the ways you can show the value of your library: look to see how patrons use of your stuff changes. Ideally, patrons who now know how to email will use your computers more often. Students who know how to do good citation of academic journals will use your databases more often.
        • Each of these groups may ask more questions – in person or in a chat reference session. It is always great if after you have done some good instruction, you can show that the students are now even more involved in your library and understand better how to use the great things you are providing!
      • Connect back later to be sure leaning worked
        • Ideally, you know who was in your class and you can send out a quick email a week or so later. Is everyone still doing okay? Are you using the skills you learned in class? Now that you are on your own, do you have new questions or more questions?
        • This is not only good instruction, but it helps your overall goal of encouraging people to come back and to keep using your library!! The more you can connect with your people – even in a quick form letter than you email out every single time you do that one-shot class in email instruction – the more they feel like the library is a lovely and wonderful place. They use your resources more often, they support funding requests – it’s good for everyone!



Books we are reading


The Last of August, by Brittany Cavallaro “In the second brilliant, action-packed book in the Charlotte Holmes trilogy, Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes are in a chase across Europe to untangle a web of shocking truths about the Holmes and Moriarty families.

Jamie and Charlotte are looking for a winter break reprieve in Sussex after a fall semester that almost got them killed. But nothing about their time off is proving simple, including Holmes and Watson’s growing feelings for each other. When Charlotte’s beloved Uncle Leander goes missing from the Holmes estate—after being oddly private about his latest assignment in a German art forgery ring—the game is afoot once again, and Charlotte throws herself into a search for answers.

So begins a dangerous race through the gritty underground scene in Berlin and glittering art houses in Prague, where Holmes and Watson discover that this complicated case might change everything they know about their families, themselves, and each other.”




Daddy Long Legs, by Jean Webster “Raised in a bleak orphanage without even a name from her parents, this modern girls’ fairy tale tells the story of Jerusha Abbott, a plucky young woman without ties and unsure of her future. After a visit from the trustees of the orphanage, Jerusha is told that one of the trustees sees in her the potential of a writer and wishes to be the patron of her college education. In exchange for tuition payment and a generous monthly allowance, Jerusha must write him a letter each month. She goes to an excellent women’s university and thrives, growing, learning, and having fun in an adventurous period of self-discovery. First published in 1912, Webster’s tale of an orphan and her unknown, shadowy benefactor is an enriching love story that unfolds in the countless pages of a cheerful young woman’s letters.”


No matter what kind of library, or archive, or museum, or history center you might work in – our fundamental mission is to serve our community. And one of the main ways we serve people is to instruct them in all kinds of stuff. The specifics of what the content of instruction will be in your library will depend on your materials and your community needs. But the basics of instruction are the same across all of us.

Next Week:  we talk about Grants!


Bonus Material: Check out some of these instructional materials!

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