Posted by: Maria | October 29, 2008

continued explorations in non-demo teaching: the high school edition

Today I did my New Thing again, for the second time, only this time my students were high schoolers.  My library offers instruction to area high school classes upon request, and since we are the university on this side of the river, various high school teachers in southern Indiana like to bring their students here for a library research instruction day.

Because this was a high school group, I was a little uncertain about trying this activity with them today, but after googlechatting with Emily about it, I decided to give it a shot anyway.  This particular group of high school seniors are at a private school taking college-level first year composition for college credit.  I’ve worked with students from this school before, and I felt that their skills were not that different from the typical first year student I see in the library.

Here is the worksheet I used.

Some observations:

These students were really good at doing their presentation and needed very little nudging.  One student sat at the computer and demonstrated the search while another student stood at the front of the room and narrated their search process.  When I asked them, “So, what do you have to show us?”, the computer-student showed us and the talking-student told us, and the talking-student addressed every one of the “Features to explore and share with the class” questions in order.  And not only were they very good at organizing and delivering and instructional presentation, they also seemed much more eager to present than my previous group.  True, no one volunteered to present, but once I called on a group and asked them to present, they had a good attitude about it and required no prodding.

During a demonstration of PsycARTICLES, one pair said that they had had difficulty with their first search:  “body image media.”   I had explained to the class about using and to combine keywords, but old habits die hard, because this is maybe the most common problem I see when students are learning how to conduct an successful search.   I asked these students how they addressed this problem, thinking they’d say, “We remembered that we have to use and to combine our keywords.”  But no, instead they reported that they selected “Find all my search terms” under “Search Options” in the EBSCO interface.  Well, how about that.  I hadn’t even noticed or paid much attention to that particular option before, so I was pleased that when this student pair hit a snag, they looked around on the page for a solution to their problem.  I tell students over and over again that there is stuff on these pages that can tell them things, but sometimes it’s like pulling teeth to get them to read the information on the page–they are students of a generation where the internet has dramatically changed the way they read and absorb information on a computer screen.

I am excited to give this new activity a try again in another regular class, a first year seminar session I’m teaching next week.  Each time I’ve tried it I’ve learned something new about how this exercise works, and I’m eager to continue learning.



  1. I like that your handout mentions that they may be called upon, but that you might not have time for all of the groups to report back. I’ve been wanting to do a non-demo class tomorrow, but didn’t want everyone searching the same database, or feeling frustrated by not having report time.

  2. It’s so hard to tell what a class ‘mood’ will be. I did the same set of exercises today as I did in the biology class on Monday. In the bio class, they worked like gangbusters. In this class, they were kinda a dud. But this class was also strange in that 22 were registered but only 9 showed up, and three of those students just *walked out* in the middle of the session. I mean, I don’t even know what to do about that. I have to figure it wasn’t all about me–I’m just the librarian, right?

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