Evidence-based teaching for academic librarians

The goal of the critically reflective teacher is to develop awareness of teaching from as many vantage points as possible. To this end, Brookfield proposes four lenses for teachers engaged in critical reflection: (1) the autobiographical (2) the students’ views (3) our colleagues’ views and (4) the theoretical and evidence-based literature.

In an age of evidence-based practice, a trend that cuts across disciplines and professions, librarians are asking some fundamental questions about their work as information professionals and their roles as educators within the academy….

  • Do I regularly get feedback about my classes or workshops from a master teacher?
  • Do I have a teaching mentor? Are we part of a community of practice of teachers?
  • What can I do to reflect back on my teaching? Should I conduct a self-assessment?
  • Do I reflect on what went right (or not)?
  • Do I ask ‘why X did not work so well?’ to identify what can be done differently?
  • Can I learn from previous workshops to improve on the next opportunity?
  • Should I better manage my teaching to avoid excuses for low attendance, interest or lack of success?
  • Finally, do you have a process to look back at your teaching over the past year – to identify areas for long-range remedial action?

Here are some examples of librarians ‘reflecting’ on their teaching.  One is ineffective and fails to see where the lack of learning success resides. Review and assess these reflections to see which one is probably more effective in improving one’s teaching:

 A health librarian reflects in two ways on a workshop with medical students

 Reflection 1:      “…the medical students really found that search activity difficult. I thought I’d explained it and since half the class got the concepts – clearly I was good. Group A however had a difficult time. I saw them chatting and they weren’t motivated to ‘get it’. They also seem not to remember anything I tell them; if they would only respect me and concentrate I could teach them.”

 Reflection 2:      “…some medical students found that search activity learnable but others not so much! Perhaps I could improve the introductory material?  The “bridging”? Perhaps I could break concepts down into easier to manage concepts. Could I get their attention by using an innovative teaching technique? I might use more questions and ask group A to comment in order to engage them. I could ask questions until they get it? I could leave them alone for a few minutes too.”


  • Biggs J. Teaching for quality learning in university. Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 2003.
  • Brettle A. Evaluating information skills training in health libraries: a systematic review. Health Info Libr J. 2007 Dec;24 Suppl 1:18-37.
  • Brookfield SD. Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass; 1995.
  • Harker E. Evaluation of teaching and training sessions for maximum impact. Health Information & Libraries Journal. 2009;26(3):252-4.
  • Hillier Y. Reflective teaching in further and adult education. London: Continuum; 2002.
  • Partridge H, Hallam G. Educating the Millenial generation for evidence based information practice. Library Hi Tech 2006;24(3):400-419.
  • Schön D. The reflective practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass; 1983.
  • Schön D. Educating the reflective practitioner: towards a new design for teaching and learning in the professions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass; 1987.

see also  Evidence-based teaching for librarians

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