Evidence-based teaching for academic librarians

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Mindmap for evidence-based teachers
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Last Update

This entry is out of date, and will not be updated, May 2017


See also ADDIE model | Adult learning theory (andragogy) | Evidence-based medicine library workshops | Instructional design models | Minecraft | Teaching library users new2.gif

"Evidence-based teaching is a growing international movement in education that encourages teachers and educators to seek out, appraise and apply the best evidence from the literature when confronted with decisions that affect learners digitally and in the classroom”
"...adult learners know their needs and, in a pragmatic way pursue knowledge according to their needs..." – Knowles, 2005
"...sapere aude is the Latin phrase meaning "Dare to know" or "dare to be wise"

"Evidence-based teaching" has some similarities to evidence-based medicine as it applies the same high standards of evidence to the classroom, students and the teaching methods chosen for those students (and the subject taught). EBT has much in common with the use of evidence in law, history and critical thinking. In an age of evidence-based practice, one trend that cuts across several disciplines and professions is the emphasis on fundamental key or research questions about how to teach, and the teacher's role as educator within knowledge-based organizations.

  • What are some of the key questions in approaching your teaching in an "evidence-based manner"?
  • How do you know that you are evidence-based and purposeful in building a teaching programme?
  • How can you apply experience to the design of learning environments and training?
  • Do you have knowledge of educational theories and trends in adult learning, and can you it to teaching various classes?
  • Finally, how can you engage learners interactively, and stimulate their learning? (Or, do you plan to deliver content to students as "passive recipients of knowledge"?)

The exploration of teaching and its role in your work should include discussions about your role in establishing an evidence-based culture within your organizations. If teaching is going to be successful, teachers need to develop better ways of understanding the shifting needs of our users in the digital age, and how much they are able to learn from us in short bursts of time. To brainstorm ideas, see The Evidence-Based Teaching Toolkit out of the United Kingdom, and the Best Evidence Encyclopedia (for primary school teachers).

What is evidence-based teaching (EBT)?

What is meant by the phrase, evidence-based teaching? In reviewing the available definitions of evidence-based approaches to teaching, Booth identifies some consensually based characteristics of evidence-based practices such as:

  • Context of day-to-day decision making
  • Quality of the professional practice within a field, and a willingness to improve it
  • Pragmatic focus on the best available evidence
  • Learner-focused a meaningful incorporation of the user perspective
  • Qualitative/quantitative acceptance of a broad range of quantitative and qualitative designs
  • Evidence' access, either first-hand or second-hand, to the (process of) evidence-based practice and its products (Booth, 2002, p. 54).

Key questions for EBT-minded librarians

  • Is your teaching supported by hard research, instead of anecdotal case studies or untested theories?
  • To use specific strategies, theories and approaches, do you look for evidence that shows a substantially higher effect on student results than other teaching strategies?
  • Do you teach the same for every class and every subject? Or are you constantly tailoring the class because of evidence, experience and student preferences?
  • How can you as an academic librarian position yourself as a key educator for the future? and, be empowered with educational credentials and competencies equal to that of our academic peers?
  • Academic librarians are often ill-equipped to be teacher-educators-training experts - why? what skills are needed (Peacock, 2001)?
  • Is your knowledge of educational theory and its practical application through course design; web 2.0 tools sufficient?
  • Have you developed your ability to write instructional goals and objectives? and formulate an evaluation of instructional sessions for continuous improvement?

EBT implementation & assessment

The implementation and assessment of evidence-based teaching (EBT) for academic librarians should include:

  • How can we design high-impact learning and teaching programs (HILT), and which are the most effective?
  • What types of evidence are needed to implement and assess our teaching?
  • How are educational theories used and applied in assessment?
  • Should academic librarians examine evidence within their own and others' practices to reconstruct theory (personal theories and other theories)?
  • Can we improve our teaching efforts when we apply the ideas of others?

The theories and practice that underpin the scholarship of learning and teaching are important factors in practicing EBT.

Key points

  • and "to prepare, update, and disseminate systematic reviews of high-quality evaluations of educational and training interventions aimed at improving education and learning."
  • The debates around EBT in medicine have been taking place in various journals such as Medical Education, Medical Teacher and Academic Medicine (and are on-going)
  • The literature reports include controlled evaluations, but others are descriptive studies, cases
  • The theoretical discussions of the principles, objectives and methods of medical education are also widely-available so what about LIS education?
  • Library training inevitably involves teaching and learning by adults
  • Review main principles of adult learning, how you can put them into practice in your library sessions and educational efforts
  • Consider available evidence of effectiveness of different teaching methods

Key videos

Adult learning principles

  • Academic librarians have enhanced their understanding of how adults learn by iterative teaching, reviewing the evidence, and studying adult learning theories
  • The constructivist school of learning is very popular as learners learn by active involvement in constructing their own knowledge, not by being passive recipients of information
  • Central to constructivism is problem-solving as learning occurs successfully when in context of actual problems; finding solutions to a 'tough' case
  • Durable knowledge is more memorable when contextualized; where experience renders meaning to events
  • Self-directed learning is often triggered by a teacher or fellow learner who provides scaffolding (Vygotsky, 1978)
  • Some constructivist metaphors include bridging, providing a zone for optimal learning, building self-efficacy, competencies, etc.
  • Key principles: learning takes place in democratic environments; structures that are egalitarian, non-hierarchic and non-authoritarian
  • John Dewey (1938) said "teaching and learning should involve the preparation of learners for their active participation as citizens"
  • Malcolm Knowles offers the adult learning or "androgogical model"; adult learning is driven by a need to know (purposive behaviours); learner's self-concept and experiences (what they bring to situations); an orientation to learning (problem-based learning)
  • When teaching millennials (Peacock, 2001), traditional talk and chalk doesn't work; she lists four elements in communicating such as be real, relevant and relational


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