A coworker and I met recently to plan an instruction session for a 101-level class. All we had to work with was the time constraint (the stereotypical 50 minutes) and a very vague assignment that required the students to write a research paper. We talked about our objectives. We talked about how to accomplish those objectives. The process was slightly complicated by the fact that we didn’t know exactly what their assignment was (despite asking the professor), nor did we know how much library instruction the students had already received.
After some discussion, we eventually decided to wing it. Using an idea from Designs for Active Learning: A Sourcebook of Classroom Strategies for Information Education, we decided to go to the class armed only with some index cards. Our plan was to put the students into groups, ask them what THEY thought they needed to know about using the library successfully, and create the lesson with their input.
We were both quite pleased with the results of the session. The students seemed engaged, and we covered many of the same topics we would have covered if we had come in with a script. In discussing the session later with another coworker, however, our coworker expressed concern that we hadn’t covered certain topics. In her opinion, we were failing the students by not preparing them for every possible scenario.
Sometimes instruction is more about what you leave off the lesson plan. No student will ever remember everything from a single instruction session, and our primary goal was to show the students that we were approachable, flexible, and willing to adapt to their needs. I felt that they left the classroom without that dazed look students get when we rapidly tick through a list of canned and planned scenarios. In my mind, that’s a success.