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Designing Information Literacy Instruction: The Teaching Tripod Approach

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

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Overall, I believe that any new professional engaging in information literacy instruction should read this text. I greatly appreciate Kaplowitz’s workbook because of its clear and organized instruction. While the name ‘tripod approach’ may seem just another piece of jargon, the ideas, theory, and experience behind it are both sound and useful to information professionals today. 


The posting below is a review by Coco Zephir * of the book, Designing Information Literacy Instruction: The Teaching Tripod Approach, by Joan R. Kaplowitz. Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. 220 pp. ISBN-13: 9780810885844. The review is from Currents in Teaching and Learning, Vol.8, No. 2, September 2016.. Currents in Teaching and Learning is a peer-reviewed electronic journal that fosters exchanges among reflective teacher-scholars across the disciplines. It is a publication of the Center for Teaching and Learning of Worcester State University, Worcester, Massachusetts, U.S.A. Copyright © 2016 WSU, 486 Chandler Street, Worcester, MA 01602.  All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

*Coco Zephir, MLIS is an Instructional Services Librarian at the Fitchburg State University Amelia V. Gallucci-Cirio Library.


Rick Reis

UP NEXT: The Department 2.0: Reimagining Academic Departments for the Twenty-First Century


Tomorrow’s Teaching and Learning

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Designing Information Literacy Instruction: The Teaching Tripod Approach

Kaplowitz’s text joins a collection of recent literature that proposes new ways of approaching information literacy instruction (ILI). Her text has three points of focus: an introduction outlining the importance of instructional design, the outline of her ‘tripod approach’ to instruction, and lastly, the implementation of ILI instruction using her ‘tripod’ method. Her ‘tripod approach,’ based on outcomes, activities, and assessments, is heavily rooted in instructional design (ID) and practical application—two aspects that make her book, as she says, appeal to the “What’s in it for me?” in all of us.

ILI instruction has become a necessary component of liberal arts undergraduate education. According to the Association of College and Research Libraries, information literacy “is the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning.” If undergraduate students are to succeed as they progress through their academic career, they must be information literate learners. The ILI instruction can and should be integrated into liberal arts classrooms in a collaborative fashion between librarians and faculty.

In my experience, new academic librarians enter into the field with little to no formal teaching training. Perhaps some basic instruction theory was covered in a Masters of Library Science program, but otherwise librarians begin their time in the field with minimal experience in this area. This text serves as an ILI workbook for new academic librarians, serving as both an introduction to instructional theory and practice, but also as an interactive guide from which readers actively learn, reflect, and create instruction programming.

Kaplowitz’s text opens with an introduction to ID and why it is so important to instruction. The text provides just enough background information and analysis of various models, like ADDIE, ASSURE, and Char Booth’s USER method to introduce the topic, while also asking readers to consider a new method: the author’s “Teaching Tripod Approach.” This ILI method is developed for librarians who are unable to follow a student’s full academic course progression, but rather pop in at opportune moments to foster research skills and dispositions. Here, the presentation of popular and heavily used ID models in combination with the author’s own, provides the reader with context and clarity in relation to general ID as well as when applied to library instruction.

Kaplowitz begins her discussion of her ILI method by focusing on needs assessment. Who are your students? Kaplowitz asks, “What is the knowledge gap” (p. 46)? What is the culture of your campus? Who is willing to partner with you to meet these objectives? What are the liberal arts outcomes? Focusing on students, campus culture, and your position in ILI, Kaplowitz outlines a plan of action before instruction begins. Before you design your ILI it is imperative to explore your student population so that you can identify and understand the knowledge gaps that exist.

For an instructor, following an in-depth needs assessment comes the creation of expected learning outcomes (or ELOs as Kaplowitz calls them). What, specifically, will your students be able to do after your session? This chapter takes the reader step-by-step through the writing process, including Bloom’s taxonomy (revised too) as well as the ABCD method. Having Bloom’s taxonomy present, in a worksheet form, enables the reader actively to write ELOs next to the informative parts of the text.

Kaplowitz’s text builds on ELOs to help the reader develop an understanding of learner-centered teaching. The author covers topics such as how to keep students’ attention and the various types of activities that you could implement in your classroom. Included in the discussion are subjects like technology, accessibility, and delivery format, all of which are important to consider when implementing ILI. Building off of the creation of information literacy learning activities or modules, through the implementation of learner-centered teaching, the author also thoroughly covers assessment. Assessment stands as the third piece of the ‘tripod,’ serving to close the loop so that you can reflect, improve, and re-write your ELOs and activities to better serve your student population. Kaplowitz takes a stand for assessment in ILI: “there is more to assessment than accountability and grading” (p. 112). For many librarians, assessment is a hassle, an unnecessary add-on to a quick one-shot session. Kaplowitz acknowledges this, but forges another path: she believes that we are constantly running informal assessments that help us to guide our practice. She also advocates for formal assessments to prove ILI’s importance to stakeholders. Kaplowitz’s discussion of assessment and creating expected learning outcomes is something that new librarians interested in or engaged with ILI should read.

After assessment, the author asks us to take a step back from the ‘tripod’ to look more broadly at the organization of the ILI. Kaplowitz introduces both Gagne’s nine events of instruction and Keller’s ARCS to instruct readers how to organize and sequence the instruction materials. Here, she includes detailed charts explaining each method, including a detailed description, followed by how you can apply it to ILI (p. 141-2). The clarity of the tables in this chapter assists the reader in prepping the lesson before implementation.

After ILI organization comes implementation, in which Kaplowitz focuses primarily on marketing and performance. She covers areas such as developing an elevator speech for on the spot marketing pitches, ideas for how to increase user participation, and how to relax due to ‘stage fright’ (multiple stretches and breath exercises are included in the workbook to de-stress either before or after your lessons). While the information presented may seem somewhat disconnected, I appreciate this realistic approach to instruction. Librarians need to advocate for ILI. Librarians get nervous when instruction goes awry. Students sometimes don’t pay attention and we need to think on our feet. Kaplowitz covers the kinds of real feelings and situations that can emerge in the classroom and beyond. I appreciate how she not only covers situations that may arise in the standard face-to- face classroom environment, but also covers the online synchronous and asynchronous environments, as well as what you should prepare for when filming an instructional video.

Overall, I believe that any new professional engaging in information literacy instruction should read this text. I greatly appreciate Kaplowitz’s workbook because of its clear and organized instruction. While the name ‘tripod approach’ may seem just another piece of jargon, the ideas, theory, and experience behind it are both sound and useful to information professionals today.