Critical Thinking and Active Learning

Active learning is participatory and interactive. An active instruction session involves the students in the process, forcing them to interact with the material in such a way to reinforce learning. Grassian and Kaplowitz date this kind of learning back to the Socratic method in which a teacher asks a question, the students respond, and learning takes place and new ideas are formed through this back and forth (2009, p. 94.) Today, we see active learning in small group discussions during classes, in quizzes in online tutorials, and more.

Juliette Gordon Low

I use active learning techniques with my Girl Scouts, but one situation in particular comes to mind immediately. In 4th grade, for a badge requirement, we decided that we would present information on famous women in history. Of course, we needed sources of information on our heroines, so, instead of me bringing in encyclopedias and books, we held 2 meetings at our local public library. We started out with library mad libs, then had a brief online database tutorial. After the groups all chose a heroine to research, we went to the children’s section and learned how to use the library catalog, and where to locate the books we were interested in. We learned where to find biographies and reference books and how to choose the right book for the kind of information we needed. After our 2 library meeting, the girls presented their projects to their families.

Jane Goodall

For older students, like first year university or college students, introduction to the library courses are very useful. One method of introducing students to the library is through a scavenger hunt. The benefits of this are that it gets students out of their seats and moving around in the environment they are learning about and, if working in groups, introduces them to group work and allows them to meet the other students in the class. It could be a simple find these call numbers throughout the library and take a picture with whatever you find there. It could be more involved with having to use the online catalog and databases to find certain materials.
North Carolina State University uses a scavenger hunt to introduce students to the library. They use mobile devices (iPod Touch) to answer 15 questions within 25 minutes. With a fun, interactive experience like this, I imagine students get an anxiety-free (well, unless they’re super competitive) exploration of the library that prepares them well for using the library throughout their undergraduate career.

Grassian, E. S., & Kaplowitz, J. R. (2009). Information literacy instruction : theory and practice / Esther S.Grassian and Joan R. Kaplowitz. New York : Neal-Schuman Publishers, c2009.

NCSU libraries mobile scavenger hunt: Not your typical library orientation. (n.d.). Retrieved December 7, 2013, from

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