Reflection on “Applying Active Learning Methods”

Katherine Strober Dabbour, “Applying Active Learning Methods to the Design of Library Instruction for a Freshman Seminar.”

We’ve obviously talked a good bit about active learning exercises and how they can be used in an information literacy instruction session, and this article went a bit more in-depth about how students respond to them. The author of this article conducted a survey of students attending information literacy sessions for “freshmen seminar” classes (which is different from what we are doing in that these students had no papers or assignments related to the sessions) that were predominantly based on active learning exercises. The survey found that students generally responded favorably to active learning (as opposed to textbook readings or, to some extent, classroom discussions).

Nothing about the article necessarily surprised me. I did think there were some issues with the methodology – specifically that there was no pre-test (although the author acknowledges that), and the fact that I think you always have to be kind of wary about student surveys, in that there’s always the chance that they’ll say what they think you want to hear (although the fact that they didn’t respond that favorably to the textbook readings helps the author’s case). But I do think students for the most part prefer active learning as opposed to passive learning, i.e. purely lecture-based learning, so it wasn’t surprising that the survey showed that they were most enthusiastic about those parts of the session. As for our classes, I think there has to be a mix of some lecture along with active learning exercises in order to get across as much information as possible, although even lecture parts of the sessions don’t have to be completely passive as we can try to get students involved in the discussion, even if they’re initially reluctant to answer questions.

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