Monday, August 3, 2009

Problem-Based Learning Article by Barbara Ferrer Kenney

Have you ever wondered how to get out of a teaching rut? Many librarians continue to offer demonstrations on databases and library catalogs, which include a lot of talking. In many cases students do not get engaged and do not retain the information, nor do they develop information-literacy skills. Barbara Ferrer Kenney wrote an article which was published a year ago titled: "Revitalizing the One-Shot Instruction Session Using Problem-Based Learning (PBL)."

Kenney cites the Department of Chemical Engineering at McMaster University when she defines problem-based learning in the following terms: "any learning environment where the problem drives the learning" (386). Essentially, students must become owners of their own learning and actively participate in answering questions, solving problems, and working together in groups. Kenney affirms that "PBL is 'worth the effort' because of the similarities between the goals of PBL and information literacy instrction" (386). The hands-on component requires that they pick up on skills and knowledge along the way as they work to solve the problem presented them.

For instructors, Kenney acknowledges that it can be difficult and scary to relinquish some authority and control in the classroom, but the results of this kind of instruction apparently surpass that of basic instruction. Students develop critical thinking skills, abilities to find, evaluate, and use information while collaborating in groups. The group work fosters their communication skills. to the degree that they engage in the problem-based activity they increase their skills and interest levels in ways that will likely lead to life-long learning.

Instructors need to remember that their work in the classroom may not be as intensive; however, their preparations before the class begins may require more time and collaboration with the faculty member. Kenney emphasizes the importance of creating an outline "that relies on defined goals and objectives based on a problem that captures student interest" (387). Matching a session's objectives with the ACRL Information Literacy Standards takes time.

The article discusses how to develop the problem, how to create the outline, how to deal with some of the challenges, and how to follow up and assess the experience. Overall, this article provided solid reasons for adapting this teaching methodology, while also offering enough useful ideas on how to implement this change effectively. Certainly, a radical change like this requires a bit of courage as Kenney states here: "While the process may require librarians to step out of their comfort zone in the delivery of the session, it does provide the opportunity for students and faculty to experience library instruction in a new and dynamic way" (391).

Consider problem-based learning as a viable option for your library instruction. Students may come away having learned more and gained a greater interest in their research. This active approach thrusts students into a learning mode that forces them to think and act more than they would in a demonstration where they would passively receive information, which would not be retained as readily.

Kenney, Barbara Ferrer. "Revitalizing the One-Shot Instruction Session Using Problem-Based Learning." Reference & User Services Quarterly 47.4 (2008): 386-91.

No comments: