A Series on Teaching Strategies for Librarians: Instructional Design

This post is part one of a fourteen part series, Teaching Strategies, that is based on a series of education workshops. I’m documenting the content for myself, but hopefully it will also be useful to (1) librarians looking for more theoretical background for their own teaching and (2) for librarians looking to better understand education models as they look for new ways to support and participate in the educational missions of their institutions.

This is the first in a series of posts that I’m writing that outline the Teaching Teaching/Strategies workshops I’ve conducted in the past at Wake. This fall we’re looking forward towards a new professional development model, and I wanted to attempt to gather my materials and notes on the sessions while they are still somewhat fresh in my mind. Hence, the post you are now reading.

The structure of the workshops was based around an hour-long “course.” Each week any WFU librarian or library staff member (from the main, professional, or medical libraries) was invited to attend and we covered a wide array of instructional topics. I intentionally structured each class to cover content, but to also take advantage of the expertise in the room: there was plenty of time for discussion and for active learning exercises. I was under no delusion: the people “taking” the class, in some cases, had much more teaching experience than I had. What I brought to the table was the theoretical explanation and underpinning for why the things worked that worked, and a way of framing the discussion that would help us build on the examples people brought to the discussion. I also used a variety of active learning activities as part of the day-to-day experience so that by the end of the “course” everyone would have a toolkit of options at their disposal.

To kick off, I started with a discussion of what Instructional Design is. I started with a lecture that allowed for a conversation at a few specific points. This made very good sense at that point in the workshop: I was a relatively new ID Librarian in a new position in my library at an institution without any instructional designers on staff. With that for context, the information was both useful and provided an explanation of why I was the one leading the workshops and what I could offer our librarians. The lecture allowed people to get comfortable with the idea of the workshops before being asked to be more participatory.

My main objective for the first session was to set the stage for the class and get to know the dynamics of the group. As part of that I intentionally made the goals, outcomes, and intentions of this “course” clear, gave a broad overview of the topic, got a sense of what everyone hoped to get from the class, and noted group dynamics that would likely impact future sessions. That data was very helpful in helping making adjustments to the course in light of additional analysis.

Here were the slides from that first session:

What is Instructional Design?

And with that background, we discussed:

Frameworks for Instructional Design:

  • Reality
  • Process
  • System
  • Discipline
  • Science
  • Instructional Technology
The basic premise of this section was to frame ID as a field: we all do it in reality, any time we teach. Having a theoretical grounding in ID allows you to pinpoint various points in the process of planning/teaching/evaluating to strengthen or to focus on. A librarian would find ID useful when planing library instruction or developing the library’s website. A librarian might also find it useful to know about the process to determine the best time to contact a faculty member about incorporating library resources or instruction into their class.
ID is it’s own field and has degrees in its own right. It’s more of a systems field than many traditional disciplines. It evolved from training in the business world and has slowly been incorporated into traditional educational spaces. We often hear ID brought up in the realm of instructional technology, but that isn’t what defines it. It’s one of those “a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t necessarily a square” type of things. In many cases the introduction of instructional technology is what brought to light the need for ID, but ID is a field that isn’t driven by technology. (At least when it comes to good instructional designers.)

Who does it?

  • Teachers
  • Librarians
  • Distance Educators
  • Instructional Designers
  • Content Developers
  • For-profit Educators
  • Corporate Trainers
Instructional design happens anywhere teaching happens. Teachers do it, librarians do in both traditional and non-traditional ways, distance educators do it. In fact, it’s more common for ID to be part of the design process for distance education. I suspect that’s because it’s easy for most people to admit that support in the design of online education would be helpful, so it’s easier to create positions and support structures for that type of instructional design. There are also professional instructional designers (this was an important point in the context of Wake because we didn’t have any at the time) who do instructional design full time. Content developers who create modules or learning objects for classes utilize instructional design as part of their daily work. As mentioned before, ID as a field came out of corporate training, so of course we also see it in for-profit education and in the corporate training world.
This is all useful to know as librarians. Because in a  world where teachers, content creators, and librarians might all do some instructional design, there’s a clear role for the librarian in that picture, whether it’s in our own teaching, in creating tutorials, or in our library work. Further, understanding the role of other content creators, instructional designers, and other trainers on campus helps us see where we can plug in, and if we have the vocabulary of instructional design in our toolkit, we’re able to make better connections and communicate more meaningfully, hopefully positioning the library well in those conversations.

What does it do?

  • Needs assessment
  • Goals and objectives identification
  • Audience and setting analysis
  • Content development
  • Delivery development
  • Evaluation
  • Redesign
Later in the “course” there is a section on the actual process, but basically this part of the talk I just pointed out how ID can help with all areas of instruction: helping know what people need to learn, identifying what the instruction will do, gaining more information about the group that will be taught to help better inform the design, creating content and teaching it, evaluating it’s usefulness, and most importantly, using all that information in an agile way, both while teaching and when planning for the next time one teaches.

Where does it happen?

  • In your office
  • In the classroom
  • In your inbox
  • Wherever you get your evaluations

When does it occur?

  • All the time: before, during, and after the class
Instructional design, as a process, takes place before, during, and after you teach. As such, it takes place in your office (or wherever you work), in the classroom as you teach, “in your inbox” by which I meant wherever you get feedback: in email, in conversations, in office hours, etc, and finally whenever you get your evaluations and/or assessments as that documentation gives really valuable data for the next time you plan instruction.

Why does it happen?

  • To meet required objectives
  • To anticipate student needs
  • To meet the needs of unique audiences
  • To clarify your intention
  • To speed up the process
  • To demonstrate continued improvement
Finally, we covered why ID exists in the first place. If we’re all already doing it anytime we teach, why learn about the field?
  • ID, as a process, allows instructors to set clear learning outcomes, plan to meet them, and ensure that they were met. This is useful for our own teaching, but even more interestingly, if you know the learning outcomes of your department’s programs, you can see clearly where the library can fit and pitch instruction to those points.
  • ID allows you to anticipate student needs and meet the needs of unique audiences. We all know even the best instruction isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. ID allows you to think through and plan instruction that will be beneficial to the specific group you’re targeting, whether in person or online and asynchronously.
  • ID forces you to clarify your intent, which is useful to students to know why they’re learning the content in the first place, but also allows you to stay on message. We’ve all seen or taught a class where afterwards we realized that it was too much content for too little time. ID can help prevent that.
  • ID might seem to take extra time in the beginning. Who has time to slow down for all these steps? However, with time the process speeds up, and with really well designed instruction, you will find yourself able to reuse content again and again, saving time in the long run.
  • And finally, in this day of assessment, ID can allow you to demonstrate the value of your teaching and continued improvement in your work. Good on all counts.

A lot informs the instructional design process. In this “course” we discussed: instructional design models, taxonomies of learning, educational psychology, educational theorists, multiple intelligences, learning styles, teaching styles, learning theory, problem based learning, active learning, inquiry learning, classroom management, and assessment. And that’s what’s coming in the rest of the series.


7 thoughts on “A Series on Teaching Strategies for Librarians: Instructional Design

  1. This is so helpful. As a public librarian, I am expected to instruct classes at the library. This has been a challenge and I am trying to improve my skills. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge!!

Comments are closed.