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University of Texas University of Texas Libraries

Teaching Tips and Resources for Librarians

Active Learning

What is Active Learning?

Active learning is the process of doing or practicing what is being taught during a class or instructional session. Structuring hands-on activities that are tied to your learning outcomes helps to promote student engagement and retention of the material. These activities help to break up lecture time; encourage the integration of new material with prior knowledge; and activate higher-level and critical thinking skills. For the teacher, seeing how students engage with the material can provide real-time feedback on how the class is progressing and what areas may need further explanation.

Strategies and Tips

  • To get started, think about your learning outcomes. What simple activities would help reinforce these concepts? It is not necessary to design an activity for every learning outcome.
  • Assume students have minimal library knowledge unless you know otherwise.
  • Try to tie activities to the course syllabus and upcoming assignments.
  • Tell students the goal or objective of the activity beforehand.
  • Repeat directions multiple times and provide them in writing as well, if possible.
  • Allow time to review and discuss the activity with your students. This will give you an opportunity to evaluate student learning and the success of the activity.
  • Consider using a worksheet or Google Doc that will provide evidence of student learning to use in assessment.

Sample Activities

Here are a few simple active learning exercises to try in your classes.

  • Case study: Give students a scenario or case study to problem solve in groups. Then have groups share out and debrief the activity. Use this discussion time to address core concepts or research processes, rather than introducing them first.
    • Example: In five minutes, find two authoritative websites on adopting a vegan diet.
    • Learning Outcome: Students will be able to evaluate websites for authority.
  • Think-pair-share: Give students a question or problem to think about on their own, then have them discuss their answers or results with a partner. 
    • Example: Have students brainstorm keywords for their individual topics, then share their lists with their partners for feedback or to generate some additional keywords through discussion.
    • Learning Outcome: Students will be able to develop a keyword strategy for a research topic.
  • Concept maps: Creating concept maps is an activity that can be adapted to many different lessons and can be done individually or in groups. Have students make concept maps on paper, whiteboards, or using a tool like padlet or bubbl.us.
    • Example: Have students create concept maps to help them narrow or explore research topics or generate more keywords.
    • Learning Outcome: Students will be able to articulate research questions and keyword banks.

Discussion Starters and Other Materials

This infographic from the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) is a great resource to share and prompt discussions about evaluating sources, media literacy, and fake news.

Infographic titled How to Spot Fake News

This infographic highlighting the costs of journal subscriptions can inform discussions about Open Access and Open Educational Resources.

Infographic titled Sticker Shock showing the costs of journal subscriptions

A fun video to help talk about a serious subject.

A short and helpful video explaining library databases.

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