Interactive teaching skills – HLG workshop

Teaching is something that I do a lot of and really enjoy. It’s a big part of many health librarians’ roles, but unlike in the academic sector there often is not much training available to improve our pedagogy. I was lucky enough to be able to do a teaching qualification in a previous role, and I thought I would share some of the theory and practice that I picked up there with my fellow health librarians at the HLG conference this year.

I made the workshop as interactive as I could! My main objective was to enable participants to write effective learning outcomes and tailor activities to suit these. I drew on the Library Juice academy training I had in Observational Assessment Techniques for the One-Shot Instruction Session as well as on the EDMAP1 module I completed at the University of Reading. I demonstrated a number of different types of activities; the slides and handout text are given below.

Before this session I was very anxious about lots of things. It was my first presentation at a national conference, there were lots of different activities and I was worried about time management, and I was worried that I would be teaching grandmothers to suck eggs. Luckily for me however, participants were lovely (librarians are, usually!) and willing to get stuck in! There was some really positive feedback left for me on post-it notes afterwards; I do hope some attendees will take back some new tools into their teaching practice.

Slides for Interactive information skills teaching HLG presentation

Interactive teaching activities: some ideas (Handout)

Sorting cards

This activity is suitable for 2-6 people. Good for checking if students have understood a concept and for encouraging discussion. Options include:

  • Matching words to their definitions
  • Sorting cards into categories
  • Placing cards on a scale (least reliable evidence to most reliable evidence, for example)

Print-out games

These activities are suitable for smaller groups and can be good as an ice-breaker, but they do take a little more classroom time. They encourage interactivity and there is an element of competition as well which can make it more fun. With the Seek! Card game it is possible to create your own questions and answers as well.

Online quizzes

There are a range of websites that you can use to create interactive online quizzes. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses so it is worth exploring your options.

  • Kahoot (Interactive quiz but requires good internet connection)
  • Mentimeter (Also for presenting, but you only get 2 questions with a free account)
  • Poll Everywhere, Slido, Socrative are other options (I’m not so familiar with these so can’t comment!)

Online feedback walls

Padlet is a free online ‘noticeboard’. Useful because it doesn’t require a login and can be kept private. This was also the website that was used by Emma Shaw for her ‘flipped classroom’ approach to teaching literature searching.

Students as teachers

Asking students to correct a piece of work that has deliberate, commonly seen mistakes in it can be a really effective method of teaching. I’ve used this to teach referencing and literature searching but I’m sure it could be adapted to other topics too.

Creating a poster

This is an activity that takes a little more time but is a great way to get students to really explore a subject. Divide the class into groups of around 5-6. Each group should get a different topic to write a poster about. I usually provide them with a ‘resource pack’ to inspire their thinking and stimulate conversations. After about 10-15 minutes the groups are asked to explain their posters to the rest of the class. Example topics could be ‘What makes good quality evidence?’, ‘Where do you look for good quality evidence?’. I have also used this to teach critical appraisal.

Thought bombs

I found out about this activity from a blog post by Emily Wheeler, a librarian at the University of Leeds.  This one involves preparing three different options (e.g. different evidence sources), and asking students to debate which one they would choose. Every minute or so you provide a ‘thought bomb’, which is a new piece of information about one of the options, which reframes the discussion and disrupts their thinking. Quite time consuming to prepare but generates lively discussion.

Interactive stories

You can create free interactive choose-your-own-adventure stories using a website called Twine Try if you want to see some possibilities of Twine. Possibilities include creating a ‘Your research adventure’ story.


Further reading on educational theories

  • Adams, N. E. (2015). Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive learning objectives. Journal of the Medical Library Association: JMLA, 103(3), 152.
  • Aubrey, K. and Riley, A. (2016) Understanding and using educational theories. London: Sage.
  • Giustini, D. (2014). Utilizing learning theories in the digital age: from theory to practice. Journal of the Canadian Health Libraries Association, 30(1), 19-25.

Useful resources




CPD25 event: Introduction to Marketing within Academic Libraries

The Weiner Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide is a fascinating place – such a treasure trove of unique material, although both physically and emotionally daunting, I think. Anyway, that’s where the CPD25 event I attended last week was held, in a room that was definitely too small to accommodate the number of participants attending!

The session was two hours long and there was a lot of material covered during this time. Samantha Halford, who facilitated the session, has put together a helpful storify outlining the key points we discussed.

We began with an icebreaker activity in which we were asked to match celebrities to the brands/products that they endorsed. There were some really obscure ones there, which sort of undermined the point that ‘we subconsciously absorb marketing information all the time’ because clearly in these cases… we hadn’t! It was fun, however, and it’s certainly a useful activity to bear in mind if ever I run a session on marketing…

We then ran through a quick overview of what marketing actually is (building relationships with users), and what it isn’t (just promotion, advertising, or branding). I feel like I already have a good grounding in this area thanks to a session on this topic during my MA in Librarianship at Sheffield. However, it was good to go over the basics; remembering to focus on the reasons why you are running a particular marketing activity was my main takeaway point from this first half of the session. Ned Potter’s book was also plugged during the session; I’ve found it a really useful and accessible introduction to library marketing and would highly recommend it for anyone interested in this topic.

Mam Tor, in Yorkshire

Mam Tor, in Yorkshire

There was then an interesting group activity in which we discussed the different ways in which we would target different user groups within our libraries. This has been echoed somewhat with a session I’ve just had today at my EDMAP1 teaching day, on how ‘minorities’ are now the ‘majority’ of our users, and how we need to think about the ways in which we communicate with and cater to the unique needs of our heterogeneous user base.

The most useful part of the session was, for me, Jacqui Gaul’s top 7 tips for marketing in academic libraries. These were really practical:

  1. work with a marketing department if you have one
  2. create a visual identity for your service
  3. use a planner to map out your activities throughout the year
  4. always remember what the purpose is underlying your marketing initiatives and keep this at the forefront at all times – don’t just do something because it seems like a good idea!
  5. highlight benefits, not features
  6. think like a user
  7. use ‘AIDCA’ to underpin your messages

Looking at my own current practice at my organisation I can see that there is plenty that we can do to improve the ways in which we build relationships with our users. To some extent I do feel limited because I am in a junior role within my organisation with few opportunities to really make any decisions; however, I still think within my own departments I certainly will be able to put some of the tips explored into practice.

I think that over the next few months, I will use these marketing tips to try and improve my relationship with the MLES department, which as I mentioned awhile ago is one of those that I have had little engagement with (in terms of with the student body; the staff are great!). I will particularly work on the planner idea, trying to match my communications with students so that they are timely and in sync with what’s going on in their academic lives. I will also try to improve the email communications that I send out to them by highlighting benefits and using AIDCA, while putting on a ‘user’ hat to ensure that any confusing terminology or presumed knowledge is left out.

Here’s hoping this will help increase the number of enquiries/interactions I have with students – one of the few KPIs that I have at my disposal!