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Info Lit Tool Kit: Engagement & active learning

Active learning links

Creating Engagement

These can be used in both 'show and tells' and 'hands on' workshops

  • Provide a rationale of why you are teaching something

  • Use a ‘seed’ to get interest – engagement. E.g. image, clickers, a personal story

  • Acknowledge prior learning (e.g. some may have attended another workshop - what might they get out of the session?)

  • Work with a sense of agreement (What are students expectations?)

  • Invite own experiences

  • Include stories

  • Always look out for ways to elicit info out of class

  • Guide students in own investigations

  • Create opportunities to experience success

Our own favourites:

  • Using humour

  • Engaging attitude

  • Gauge your audience

  • Use learning objects e.g. Youtube clips

  • Provide practicality/relevance to the students

Large Groups

  • Pair/Group discussion with neighbour - and take 3-5 answers from audience/groups. This encourages eliciting information out of the students. e.g.:
    • Name 3 services the library provides
    • List 2 ways Google Scholar is different to Google
    • Why might you use information from Library Search/databases over that found in Google?
  • Videos & other media
  • Ask Questions
  • Give 'real life', practical scenarios as this heightens relevance
  • Incentives/rewards
  • Involving lecturers and tutors to comment, provide their recommendations. Invite the lecturer to comment during the session - give their insights
  • Humour
  • Use your voice as a tool - varying pitch
  • Invite students to come up later (if appropriate)
  • Quiz
  • RELEVANCE - key, get students to see what it means to them. What are they there for? What does it mean to them.
  • Pitch at the right level


A gripping statistic e.g. correlation between Library use and grades

A powerful image e.g. tip of the ice berg

Funny image e.g. meme

Standing 1-2-3 in pairs (ice breaker, or refresh moment) ( Lisa)

Boolean - ice cream demonstration (Sanya)

Dancing intro video (Melanie)

Mr Bean in mini/Rowan Atkinson racing metaphor - what you are now, what we can get you to (Elaine)

Mix & Match ( Melanie)

Sponge ball - throw to talker (Sanya)

New terminology memory game (Sanya)

Bring physical books, journals to pass around the class and help understand the difference (Lisa)




Active learning example techniques

  • Think - Pair - Share


Students first work on a problem individually (think). They then speak with the person next to them, and together the pair form a joint solution/response to share with the class


Having students explain their ideas to a peer helps them clarify their own thinking.

Students learn from each other.

Students are more willing to share an idea with the whole class after first sharing it with a peer.

  • the "minute paper"


    Students have one minute to write the answer to a question you pose to the class. (e.g. what is the most important thing you learned today?) They may then share the paper with you. This can be used when moving on to a new topic, or at the end of a class. For beginning a class - use KWL (below)


    Getting students to distill a presentation into a single statement or question helps them deepen their learning.

    If students share the reflections with the instructor, this can give that instructor a “snapshot” of what they are thinking, what they have learned, and what aspects of the topic are still unclear.

  • KWL

What I know / What I want to know / What I have learnt


Ask students to make a table with three columns:

K = what I know W = what I want to know L = what I have learnt

...and write what they know about the topic in the first column, and what they want to know in the second - this can be done at the beginning of class;

finally write what they have learnt in the third column.

They need only write one or two things per column, and they can do all of this at the end of class too.


This is a way for the student to reflect on the topic and why it is relevant to them.

It is a way for the teacher to assess the prior knowledge of students, and it is a way to assess student learning and understanding of the workshop content.

  • Jigsaw discussion


A topic is split into smaller parts (as pieces of a jigsaw puzzle). Each member of a group of students learns about a different part of the topic, and then all members report back to the group. That way, the group members put the jigsaw together, and teach each other about a topic.

e.g. This could be used in information literacy to investigate aspects of databases - for example each student could look at how to use one function of a database and report back to the group, so the group together learns how to use many functions in the database.


This activity helps students to build communication and teamwork skills. It means they are taking responsibility for a specifc task, and actively engaging in, their own learning.

More info

This means of learning (cooperative learning) was initially investigated by Aronson (1978) in a culturally diverse school classroom, and was found to be more effective than competitive learning (as cited by TeacherVision, n.d.). Other studies have also found cooperative learning to be useful in the tertiary environment (e.g. as noted in Kyndt et al, 2013).



Kyndt, E., Raes, E., Lismont, B., Timmers, F., Cascallar, E., & Dochy, F. (2013). A meta-analysis of the effects of face-to-face cooperative learning. Do recent studies falsify or verify earlier findings? Educational Research Review, 10, 133–149.

Lincoln University. (n.d.). Active Learning. Retrieved April 21, 2017, from

TeacherVision. (n.d.). Jigsaw Groups for Cooperative Learning: Teaching Strategy for Students (Grades K-12). Retrieved April 21, 2017, from

University of Waterloo. (2012, October 30). Active learning activities. Retrieved April 21, 2017, from


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