Peer Instruction in the Library

So, last time, I started talking about what peer instruction is, how it works, and why it is beneficial. Now that we know what it is, we can talk about how peer instruction can be used in the library.

Peer instruction was initially designed for, and has mostly been used in, the university setting; however, I think it would still be a useful technique in elementary or secondary schools, though some modifications may be necessary.  What would peer instruction look like in an elementary setting?

In the library, the skills being taught aren’t content area skills, but rather information literacy and inquiry skills. After the librarian teaches a mini-lesson on, for example, using the library catalog, she could ask students questions, such as how to find a particular book in the catalog, or why a particular search was unsuccessful. Students can answer individually (perhaps by using clickers, or another tool like Socrative or PollEverywhere, depending on the available technology). Students must then defend their answers to a partner or small group.  Finally, the librarian has all students answer again, and is able to see if the percentage of students who understand has improved.

While the questions asked in the library might not have the same concrete answers as those in the content area classes, the process of students explaining to one another how they figured something out, and helping others to understand a concept or idea, is very beneficial, despite the different setting. The librarian is teaching students the basics of the skill or concept, but the students must describe their thought process, present an argument for their answer, and, at times, teach other students why and how to do a certain thing.  Students are sometimes better able to explain things to other students than the teacher, so this technique can be a useful one for teachers and librarians.


One thought on “Peer Instruction in the Library

  1. Alison,
    Thanks for sharing some peer instruction ideas for the elementary age group. I agree, that while it is a technique usually used in college, it can have great benefits in a library setting. It allows students to analyze their process, and question why they think that answer is right. Even the shy students who may not speak up in class, may feel less intimidated thinking about their answer to themselves, and then speaking to a small group about it. Peer instruction also allows other students to learn how their peers came to a conclusion of an answer through hearing thought processes from others. I can see peer instruction apply to multiple lessons in the library, and even after story time as well. For example, if the librarian is doing a lesson on fairytales, she/he can explain about the “moral of the story”, read a fairytale, and have students identify what they think the moral of the story is. Next, they can explain their answers to their peers what they think. It can be a great way to incorporate analysis skills during storytime as well.

    Lisa U.

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