The Pedagogy of Reference Services

Designer Librarian

The librarian-student reference transaction has a lot in common with human tutoring. After all, they are both a form of one-on-one instruction, where the tutor helps the tutee master some type of knowledge and understanding, or a specific skill. So it stands to reason that best practices in tutoring pedagogy would translate well to best practices in reference services.

What are the best practices in one–on-one instruction? Three instructional strategies work particularly well together in tutoring. These strategies are equally applicable to the reference process. Here they are, with examples of how librarians can use them:

  1. Modeling. Modeling is the method of demonstrating tasks, while at the same time making the why and how transparently clear to the learner. The Think Aloud protocol is an example of this. For librarians, modeling can be done by demonstrating the selection, access and searching of materials within a database (or other source), where…

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