Negotiating the Power Dynamics of Librarian-Led Instruction: Strategies for Overcoming the Limits of One-Shot Instruction

Michelle Bishop, First-Year Experience Librarian,
Nicole Westerdahl, Research, Instruction, and Outreach Librarian,
and Deborah Bauder, Research, Instruction, and Outreach Librarian,
State University of New York at Oswego


By its very nature, the traditional one-shot information literacy instruction session goes against most pedagogical best practices, yet remains a common format for instruction in academic libraries. The typical one-shot, as implied by its name, is a one-time instructional session where librarians provide varying levels of instruction on library or research related topics. The persistent struggles associated with this teaching model continue to dominate the information literacy literature. The history of this discussion has centered on debates about the instructional role of librarians, calls for better collaborations with discipline faculty, meaningful assessment, inclusive teaching practices, librarian burnout, and effective professional development. Despite the abundance of articles addressing these challenges, librarians continue to grapple with this instructional method and to explore creative approaches to mitigate the many well-documented pedagogical challenges of the one-shot.

The many demands on librarian time and fragile teaching relationships between librarians and subject faculty are at the heart of the challenges of one-shot instruction. Both factors can directly impact many aspects of instruction. The length of time for instruction greatly limits what content librarians are able to effectively teach. Instruction techniques and student engagement are also very much shaped by the limited amount of contact time librarians are allowed during the one-shot. Adequate time for lesson planning and preparation is also very dependent on the time required for additional duties of librarians. In addition to time constraints, librarians in most academic settings rely heavily on subject faculty for access to large sections of students. This dependence can also influence instruction content and greatly limit what can be assessed and how librarians assess student learning. Yet, working within these very real limitations, librarians continue to develop methods to address the many unique constraints of the one-shot. Three teaching librarians share the methods they have used to address these constraints and negotiate the demands of teaching one-shot library sessions.

Limitation: Time Crunched One-Shot Sessions (Deb)

Working within the inherent limitations of the typical one-shot library instruction session is a challenge, particularly when it comes to the very real time limits most librarians face. One fifty-minute class period is not enough time to provide a comprehensive information literacy instruction session, regardless of how basic (or advanced) it needs to be. As a result, class preparation becomes an exercise in narrowing scope and making difficult decisions about what to leave in and what to leave out. This compromise does not mean a lessening of value in the overall session, however, when some targeted strategies are employed. There are a variety of methods that I use to compensate for the necessary ‘content winnowing’ that is required for the time-crunched one-shot. These include both pre- and post-class activities and tools.

I have found pre-instruction activities an effective means of extending library instruction beyond the single class period. Provided that the classroom faculty with whom I’m partnering are supportive, these activities can add meaningful library instruction time to students’ schedules. Among the more effective methods I’ve found is the flipped classroom, which requires that students spend time before class learning about topics that will be presented during their library instruction session. When they come to class students are then more prepared to ask questions and our classroom time can progress into in-depth material more quickly. Of course, this depends upon student engagement with the material and their timely completion of the pre-class work, but provided that it’s not too onerous or time-consuming I know that I can count on at least some of the students to do the work. These activities can range from completing simple tutorials and quizzes to watching short videos that I’ve created.

Also effective are anonymous pre-instruction surveys, which require minimal time from students before class (and are thus more likely to be completed). These simple surveys can yield meaningful information, helping me to tailor my short instruction sessions to specific groups of students. For example, my surveys ask questions like:

  • Have you had library instruction before?
  • Where do you currently go to do your research?
  • What’s your favorite or most used source of information?
  • Do you know what a database is?

Student responses to these questions help me to understand current skill and/or exposure levels and thus tailor my instruction to meet students more accurately where they’re at. This in turn leads to more targeted and concise class outlines, and better decisions about what, and how, to present in the classroom. For example, finding out that very few of my students know what a database is will lead to a quick explanation before diving in, leading to fewer blank stares and more nods of comprehension. On the other hand, learning that my upper-level students are feeling confident in their research skills and have had library instruction already means I can plan to spend less time on the basics and move more quickly into targeted topics of instruction.

Another important means that I use to compensate for the one-shot time crunch is the development of effective handouts that I distribute to students at the beginning or end of an instruction session. Development of good handouts takes time but done correctly I find they provide a valuable reinforcement of classroom concepts as well as a good reference document afterwards. These handouts range from quick tips sheets to in-depth citation guides. I always make sure to include contact information on them for students to follow up directly with me or the library’s Research Help Desk, as well as links to helpful LibGuides. (I’ve included more handout ideas in the ‘Active Learning’ section of this paper). Additionally, I’ve found well-crafted digital learning objects and videos covering some research basics can also be used to good effect. Here again, these require time to create. However, they save time in the classroom as they can be referred to either pre- or post-instruction for students to learn more. And once created, they can be used many times over before needing to be updated.

Finally, I send a short follow-up email to students the next day, which provides a helpful endnote to my instruction session and reinforces things that I covered during our class time. I add links to subject and citation guides, databases, and other things that I talked about in class. And I include a final friendly reminder about how to get in touch with me and/or the library’s research help desk. While I know that not all of them will read it, a well-crafted (and short!) email provides an opportunity for me to make a final connection with students and to reinforce important tools and people that I discussed during our time-crunched one-shot session.

Limitation: Limited Preparation Time (Nicole)

Instruction is typically only one responsibility among many for librarians. These additional responsibilities often include duties necessary for the everyday operations of the library, which can be difficult if not impossible to reschedule or delay (for example, reference shifts and employee supervision). It can be difficult to schedule the many instruction sessions requested of us, especially with short notice from instructors, let alone develop lesson plans and design activities and learning objects.

I ease some of this time pressure by strongly encouraging or requiring a certain amount of advance notice from instructors to schedule an information literacy session. If I work regularly with an instructor who struggles to provide advance notice, I make a note of it and reach out to the instructor before the semester starts or at the beginning of the semester to get them thinking about scheduling their session earlier. In extreme cases, and particularly when library instruction is a required part of a course, I occasionally schedule the class in advance myself and notify the instructor of the date to add to their syllabus.

Librarians often teach our sessions solo, but information literacy instruction is a collaborative effort across librarianship. We do not have to develop lesson plans, activities, worksheets, and learning objects alone. I directly consult with colleagues, both within my institution and externally, and further connect and share ideas via professional Listservs, organizations, and conferences. I find templates and examples, both general and subject-specific, in books, journals, and blogs. I also regularly use repositories of Open Educational Resources (OERs) such as the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy Sandbox (; note that not all Sandbox content is considered OER); Community of Online Research Assignments (; OER Commons (; MERLOT (; and Peer-Reviewed Instructional Materials Online Database (; note that not all PRIMO content is considered OER), which offer ready-made materials that can be used as-is or adapted as needed. All these options help me make the most of my limited time.

It may seem counterintuitive within the context of limited preparation time, but I’ve found post-session assessment to be an important preparation tool. While it requires investing additional time after an instruction session, conducting a self-assessment prepares me for success in future instruction sessions. I record my observations and impressions of the class as soon as possible after teaching an instruction session, making note of student and instructor engagement, discussions during the class, questions asked, and any observations I made during hands-on activities. We use Project Outcome at my institution, a survey toolkit adopted by my library in response to the pandemic and the rapid jump to online learning. The toolkit makes it fairly easy to create surveys and collect data.

I look through this information and write up an assessment, documenting what was successful, what was not successful, what I will make a point to continue doing, and any specific improvements to make in future instruction. Even if I will not be teaching that particular course regularly, I often still gain insights from sessions that will be relevant to other courses. Conducting these self-assessments enables me to more quickly and efficiently complete future lesson plans.

Limitation: Teaching in Unfamiliar Classrooms (Nicole)

While academic libraries typically have classrooms librarians can use for instruction, they are not always available or appropriate: the room might already be booked for an event, meeting, or other librarian’s instruction session; it might not have enough seats; or it might not have the necessary software installed on its computers. This means that we frequently teach one-shot information literacy sessions in the classroom of record for the course, which is often a classroom we have never previously used or even seen.

I try to visit the space in advance if possible. Visiting the space can help me plan for instructional activities (incorporating, modifying, or eliminating group work), note any necessary adjustments to the room for accessibility and/or usability on the day of the class, and review the technology and equipment present (especially important on campuses where classroom tech is not standardized). If a visit is not possible, I try to get a sense of the room by finding photographs online, asking the instructor for a photo or brief description, or consulting with colleagues who may have previously used the space.

I also arrive early for the instruction session itself whenever possible. This allows extra time to move furniture if needed to improve the accessibility of the space, download, or upload any computer files, and test lighting, projection, sound, and software.

Teaching in an unfamiliar classroom can exacerbate the impact of technological glitches. I schedule extra buffer time for navigating any problems into my lesson plans—time which can be repurposed if no troubleshooting is required. I bring presentations and other files on a thumb drive in case of weak or inconsistent internet. If planning live demonstrations of online functions, I also prepare videos or slideshow presentations of these activities as a backup. Often these learning objects already exist, whether offered by vendors, other librarians at my institution, or by librarians at other institutions. These existing learning objects might not be tailored to how I would prefer to teach the demonstration, but they provide something to work with.

Limitation: Limited Active Learning Time (Deb)

Research has proven that active learning is a key component of an effective instruction strategy. Given the aforementioned time-crunch of typical one-shot sessions, however, the difficulty is how to align best practices related to effective classroom instruction with the practical limitations of the single class period.

When it comes to active learning, there are a number of quick and easy ways that I have found to engage with students and get them talking without taking up a lot of precious class time. The aforementioned pre-instruction surveys are one way to insert a jolt of participation quickly and easily into my instruction session before it even begins, while indicating to students that our brief time together will not be one-sided. I send it to their classroom faculty via email and ask them to have students complete it a day or two before our class. Then at the beginning of my class I take a couple of minutes to share the results of the survey. I’ve found that students are almost always interested to hear them. And realizing that they’re not alone in what they don’t (or do) know builds students’ confidence to actually ask questions.

Sometimes at the classroom door I hand out a simple crossword using research-related terms, which is a fun way to get students’ minds clicking as they roll into class. Usually they don’t finish it, but the exercise begins to familiarize them with some of the ‘library language’ they’ll be encountering during my instruction session. I write the list of words on the whiteboard or put them on the paper with the crossword. It’s a simple introduction and/or reinforcement of the language which, though very familiar to us as librarians, can be new or even scary sounding to students who are unfamiliar with doing research. This is particularly effective in lower-level classes.

I also distribute note taking outlines at the beginning of class that roughly mirror the structure of my instruction session. These outlines highlight the main elements of what I will be covering, cuing students to specific areas to pay attention to. They also serve as a framework for note taking and help students process the information I’m covering in their own words. Providing them with the bones of my instruction plan helps students to stay engaged as they follow along and know where we’re heading. This actually started as an experiment that has quickly become a habit, as I’ve found that a good percentage of students will actually write on the handouts and take them at the end of class for later reference. As an added benefit, these outlines help students to develop their note taking skills, which is particularly valuable for those who benefit from an opportunity to gain useful practice in this academic skill.

Anonymous question posting boards are another simple interactive means by which I engage students during class. I provide a simple online Jamboard ( for students to post anonymous questions in real time during class. This helps less confident students to ask questions and participate without feeling called out and reduces feelings of isolation for those who are struggling. I make the link available to them at the beginning of class and then check regularly for questions. Truthfully, this doesn’t get used a lot, but the students seem to appreciate the option and I think it builds a sense of community and inclusion that encourages students to engage.

A five-minute pair and share for brainstorming keywords is also a fun and effective use of class time. Sharing with and learning from each other can help students to wrap their minds around the (often) creative process of coming up with effective search terms. And because it’s interactive, they are forced to rouse themselves mentally and engage with my instruction. When they report back, I always use their search terms to demonstrate effective database and catalog searching, thereby making the session more relevant to their needs. It’s a win-win, not least of which is because I’m removing the burden from myself and asking them to contribute to the direction of the instruction that follows.

Limitation: No Research-Related Assignment (Deb)

Compounding the challenge of the time-crunched one shot is the fact that I do not always have a research-related assignment around which to center my classroom instruction. In a best-case scenario, of course, I’m able to link my classroom instruction directly to such an assignment. That has the benefit of allowing for more targeted instruction with clear application to students’ immediate goals, as well as piquing student interest in the session overall. Since the relevance to their studies (and grades) is clear, students are more likely to pay attention, maintain interest, and learn. Without this direct connection, it can be a challenge to attach meaning to what’s being presented. It then becomes my responsibility to make the session’s import and relevance apparent to the students using other methods.

There are several key ways that I approach that. The first is to consistently convey the value of the session by tying the content to students’ larger academic and professional goals. By layering in examples that explain why what I’m teaching is directly relevant to their success, I can help students to maintain interest throughout my session. For example, instead of just talking about database searching in a general sense, I explain how the skills I’m demonstrating directly relate to finding better sources, resulting in better grades on assignments and higher GPAs (hopefully!). I also tie in ways that the research skills I’m demonstrating will help them in the professional world and in their personal/adult lives, providing specific examples as I think of them. When students understand why I’m showing them something (not just how to do it), they become more invested and engaged in learning. Mentioning, “You will need this going forward and here’s why” is a line I regularly use to signify to students that something has applicability beyond this one class.

Another related method is to use real world and/or college achievement examples to supplement my instruction, providing examples of what other students in similar classes are working on. For example, I make one-to-one connections between my points of instruction and the typical requirements of college research papers and projects (e.g., scholarly sources, citations, etc.). And I pepper in stories and examples of students with whom I have worked in similar classes. By referencing others who are in the same “research boat” as they are, I can help students connect the content of my instruction with their larger academic goals, as well as to their peers across the campus community.

In terms of preparing for a session, when I don’t have a research related assignment upon which to base my instruction, I find it helpful to review questions being asked at the research help desk. I look for patterns in order to develop a deeper understanding of the kinds of research students are doing across campus and in similar courses, as well as the areas in which significant numbers of them might be struggling. This helps me come up with a more effective instruction plan that addresses real student needs. Stating in class, “We’ve been seeing a lot of people coming in with questions about xyz” (e.g., how to find good scientific articles, how to find scholarly materials, etc.) often leads more organically to a discussion about the library’s LibGuides, where to locate databases, and/or how to use filters to refine results sets. This again signifies the relevance of the session to the students’ real world research problems, despite the fact that I’m not teaching to a specific assignment.

Limitation: Instructor-Directed Instruction (Nicole)

It is the nature of one-shot information literacy instruction that the librarian is a guest in the primary instructor’s class. Not only are the students accustomed to their instructor leading the class, but the instructor also develops the course content. Instructors often ask us to teach specific things, which might or might not be the most helpful skills and resources for students to use in the class or reflect what the students themselves feel they need to learn. Information literacy instruction outcomes are stronger when instructors tie the session to an assignment, which gives us the opportunity to tailor our instruction to the assignment but does not give us the freedom we would have if we were developing our own assignments. Instructor-created assignments also sometimes do not accurately reflect the resources available through the library, asking students to locate and use materials not available for their use. Even when instructor-created assignments are well-designed and appropriate, we must take the time to review the assignments and identify skills needed to complete them.

I work to overcome this challenge in multiple ways. I strive to build strong relationships with instructors in which I’m considered an active partner in the information literacy instruction process. The relationships frequently allow me the opportunity to provide input and guidance to instructors while they are developing their assignments. I encourage scaffolding of information literacy skills, check that assignments are achievable using existing available resources, and even create assignments myself. I also advocate for assignments requiring a broad range of sources to better capture the breadth and depth of scholarly conversation, particularly underrepresented and marginalized voices. For example, I encourage instructors to supplement or even replace a requirement to only use peer reviewed scholarly articles by encouraging students to use other credible sources, regardless of their publication format or status. Even if instructors don’t change their assignments, I bring up the broader range of sources available during the instruction session to at least introduce the idea to their students.

We as librarians can also solicit student input about what instruction they feel they need in advance of the instruction session to guide our lesson planning. Instructors often have assumptions about their students’ skills, knowledge, and familiarity with the library, particularly when they are teaching upper-level courses, but these assumptions are often incorrect. For example, high schools offer different information literacy curriculums; transfer students might never have used this library and its resources; students may have received a waiver for the introductory class in their program where they would usually be introduced to basic information literacy skills; and students might not have retained research skills if they have not regularly needed to use them. Like Deb, I prepare a pre-instruction survey for students to complete with questions to gauge their comfort levels with various library resources and information literacy skills before developing my lesson plan. This strategy has been an effective way to incorporate student voices into my instruction. Students might also express interests and needs beyond the scope of the assignment that I can incorporate into my session if time allows.

Regardless of whether I pursue the above methods for any given class, I can also respond to this challenge on the spot during the instruction session itself. I routinely conduct formative assessments, whether informal or formal, to monitor student understanding and needs and respond accordingly. This can be as simple as observing students completing a task and determining that additional skills need to be taught and addressed within the session. For example, it might become clear during a session on Boolean operators that students would also benefit from keyword generation instruction, which I can then immediately introduce.

Limitation: Building Student-Librarian Trust (Michelle)

Imagine you have been asked to speak with a class of first-year college students about using the library’s resources for a research paper assignment. You have communicated with the course instructor to better understand the research needs of the specific assignment. You have put together a lesson plan and created the necessary learning materials. And now you stand at the front of the classroom welcoming students as they enter the room. As the session begins and you look out at the classroom, you are not likely to see expressions of excitement. Instead, most students are more likely to display expressions that may appear more like confusion, doubt, boredom, or anxiety. As the familiar adage goes, “first impressions are everything.” Unfortunately for most librarians teaching one-shot sessions, there is typically just one chance to make a positive first impression in order to begin to build trust with students. Like any mutually beneficial relationship, trust is also critical to establishing a healthy bond between students and teaching librarians. This trust has proven connections to student learning (Curzon-Hobson, 2002). The scenario presented above is a reality shared by many librarians who teach one-shot sessions. Unlike their classroom teaching colleagues who have an entire semester to establish trust with their students, librarians are not afforded the time needed to realistically foster the trust necessary for student learning in just one session. Fortunately, there are tools and strategies that may help facilitate relationship-building with students even when a one-shot session is the only option.

While during the height of the COVID pandemic we all struggled with the accelerated shift to virtual learning, my greatest challenge was the new reality of teaching against the backdrop of George Floyd’s murder. I was forced to reimagine my role as a teacher and attempt to claim my power in this role, even within the limitations of the one-shot. In the midst of all of this unrest, the move to virtual instruction meant that I needed to seize the opportunity to connect with students in a new way. Worsening student mental health made it clear to me that I had to make an intentional effort to connect with students, particularly because students were expressing a critical need to connect and feel connected. In response to this immediate need, I specifically revised my lesson plans to include formal and informal methods of introduction that would facilitate opportunities to connect. Some of these methods I have continued to use now that most classes are back to in-person instruction.

Pre-pandemic, I would usually begin in-person, one-shot sessions with a smile and what I hoped was a warm welcome and then introduce myself. With the limited time allotted for content, I thought that was the most time I could allow to create a positive connection with students. I would then launch into the lesson I had planned for that session. However, this approach needed to change when the campus moved to fully online instruction in early 2020. More than ever, connecting with students became a necessity but I realized that my routine welcome would not be enough, particularly via Zoom. I was also challenged to find techniques that were authentic and demonstrated a level of empathy. With that intention, I allocated more time to allow for “checking in” if students cared to share and reduced time spent on content. In one synchronous session, I set aside time for sharing about stress relief activities and tools. I started by sharing the techniques I used to manage stress and then asked students to share which tools and techniques they use. Many students responded via chat. My hope was that this time for sharing would help students to know that they were not alone in what they were feeling. They would also have some resources that they could also use to help manage stress.

I also supplemented synchronous sessions with music and visuals to welcome students into virtual sessions or to serve as icebreakers. For example, as students joined a virtual session, I would have a selection of light, upbeat music playing in the background. Since students are already not very eager for in-person library sessions in general, I was prepared for even less enthusiasm for a virtual library session so I used music with the hope it would help to establish a positive mood for the session. In one class on the topic of misinformation, I created a short slide presentation that asked students about librarian stereotypes. I then spent a few minutes dispelling some of those stereotypes by sharing about myself as a librarian. And again, there was evidence of engagement when many students responded by providing feedback in chat.

For asynchronous sessions, it became necessary to use a more formal method of introduction. I created short video introductions in order to create some level of connection with students. In these videos I introduced myself to students and explained my role in supporting their research assignments. Using screen recordings, I also walked students through the resources included in the Libguide I had created for the course. Each video was less than 2 minutes long. Unlike the synchronous sessions, I had no way to determine whether these video introductions served to establish any meaningful rapport with students, but they were an intentional effort to create at least the minimum level of connection possible despite a less than ideal learning situation.

Since the campus has moved back to in-person instruction, I have continued to be much more mindful of student well-being. I make time for a quick question about how the day is going or acknowledge stressful times of the semester. I also reference more of the current state of the world in my sessions and make space for students to share their thoughts. It is still not clear whether or not these efforts foster rapport or real connections, but I recognize that establishing some level of trust is a critical component of learning. I will continue to build in moments to connect with students and also actively seek out new techniques to help foster rapport in the classroom.

Limitation: Access to Student Work to Assess Student Learning (Michelle)

Traditionally, the power to assess student learning has rested firmly in the hands of course instructors or instructors of record. Instructors of record also have ownership over determining student grades and as a result, gain valuable insight into student learning.

This knowledge is critical to informing instruction and gives instructors the ability to adjust instructional methods and strategies in order to improve student learning. Classroom instructors also have the privilege of witnessing student growth over time. For librarians, however, the assessment of student learning in relation to information literacy is greatly limited by the one-shot. As a result, librarians have had to develop alternative methods to gauge the impact of their teaching. Still, some would argue that many of these methods may still not adequately measure instructional effectiveness.

Over the years, I have tried a variety of formal and informal assessment methods in an attempt to gauge what impact my teaching of information literacy concepts has had on student learning. At the start of my teaching career, I relied heavily on a short, post-instruction paper survey developed by the library’s instruction team. This survey provided some qualitative feedback about how students felt after having attended an instruction session. Since it was the only means of evaluation formally recognized by my department and also used in the evaluation of my teaching, I continued to use it. However, I began to wonder whether students’ post-instruction feelings of confidence about using the library were a direct result of my instruction or other factors I had no control over. There were also a number of responses that were not immediately helpful because they provided no information about the instruction session itself. My assessment toolkit also consisted of some formative assessment methods I used at multiple points during sessions. Many times, I would walk around and observe students as they worked and would offer feedback (help or encouragement). I would also pause and ask students to raise their hands in order to gauge whether students needed more time to work. For the most part, these methods worked to give me some feedback on how well students were following along with the session. However, I realized these techniques would not translate well to an online setting.

With the forced move to online learning, like all educators, I also needed to reexamine how technology could be used in instruction. My assessment methods then needed to be reconsidered. The shift to online also provided an opportunity for me to explore alternatives to the post-instruction paper survey. These explorations led me to attend a number of professional development workshops on campus. Of the variety of options presented, I decided upon using Google Documents because it was a tool I had already used and was beginning to be used more frequently across campus. As a result, I assumed that it would not be a steep learning curve for me or students. My initial intent was to use Google Documents as a tool to engage students while in the virtual learning environment, but I quickly realized how powerful a tool it is. In addition to encouraging active, collaborative learning, I realized that it could also serve to assess student learning. I would set up a Google Document for each class that included prompts requiring students to complete tasks. I would share the link via chat and give students a quick explanation of what information they would need to add. The shared document then served as a space where students could show their work. I could immediately see whether students could demonstrate that they could apply the concepts being taught. I could quickly respond to the need for review or clarification (see Figure 1).

Figure shows a spreadsheet filled in by students and the librarian that includes ideas for narrowing a topic and citing credible sources, with input from the librarian
Figure 1: Shared Google Document for English 102 Library Session

Asking students to work in a shared document has effectively encouraged the active learning activities I would typically have students do when teaching in-person. An unexpected benefit was that the shared document also functioned as an effective assessment tool. And while in-person instruction is now possible, I have continued to use Google documents for active learning and assessment even now that most classes are back to in-person instruction.

In addition to Google Documents, my colleagues and I also make use of the Project Outcome for Academic Libraries survey toolkit. The survey instrument, designed to be delivered online or in print, was also very timely since all instruction moved online and assessment therefore, also needed to move online. Librarians were then able to easily embed survey links in Libguides and other online learning materials. The survey was also easily deployed to assess learning in both synchronous and asynchronous classes. Both Google Documents and the Project Outcome survey work well in virtual settings and have also translated effectively to in-person assessment. Google Documents provide insight into the application of learning while Project Outcome focuses on student perceptions of learning.

Another formal assessment collaboration involved the use of a survey designed to gain faculty feedback about information literacy instruction. The survey sought to gain feedback from faculty about their own assessments of the impact of information literacy instruction on student work. While librarians did not gain direct access to student work, faculty provided helpful insight into and the contribution of librarian instruction to student learning.

Yet another approach is to reach out to course instructors to identify opportunities to access student work. I have found that most instructors respond well when I have communicated the need for access to student work in order to improve my instructional practices. As a campus with a strong focus on the assessment of student learning, course instructors readily understand the need to be able to see artifacts of student learning. These collaborative experiences have included both formal and informal assessment activities.

As a member of my library’s instruction unit, I have shared in the assessment of bibliographies written by students in upper-level courses. We clearly communicated our assessment goals to instructors and received good responses. Instructors shared student work, along with information about the assignment requirements. This project was designed to begin to assess upper-level students’ use of quality information sources. This assessment method can also easily be adapted by librarians to assess student learning as a result of instruction provided by librarians.

Other informal collaborative assessment approaches I have found effective include seeking out instructor or student permission to see student work. In recent years, I have reached out to instructors to attend final student presentations. After an initial library session, I have provided individual research consultations to upper-level students. I have then followed up by asking these students to share their final written assignment with grades if they are comfortable. Since I have started to make these requests, I have received full cooperation from instructors and most students. Although these approaches are not best suited to assess the full breadth of students I teach, I would argue that it provides meaningful insight into the impact of my teaching on student learning.


Despite ongoing power disparities between librarians and course instructors and the persistence of one-shots, there are many opportunities for librarians to explore pedagogical models that allow for more sustained information literacy instruction. Embedded instruction/librarians and credit-bearing information literacy courses are evidence of alternative instructional opportunities. However, the one-shot will likely continue to be an imperfect pedagogical model for teaching information literacy. Rather than struggle with its inherent limitations, there are strategies that librarians can employ to empower ourselves as teachers and to foster student learning. We hope that the strategies we’ve shared here provide fellow teaching librarians with practical solutions to the persistent challenges of the one-shot.


Curzon-Hobson, A. (2002). A pedagogy of trust in higher learning. Teaching in Higher Education, 7(3), 265-276.

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