On-the-fly lesson plan conversion

So a couple of weeks ago, I taught a library research session for a nursing class and professor with whom I’d worked before, on a fairly straightforward lesson plan of “how to find articles in an EBSCO database.” The students were upperclasswomen who had done at least some research before, so I had a whole lesson plan worked out for covering Boolean logic,1 some of the more advanced features of the EBSCO interface including My EBSCOhost, and going into detail on finding full text using our SFX link resolver.

All well and good, except that when I stepped into the classroom, the professor happened to mention that she’d eliminated the research assignment, for which these skills were essential, from the syllabus. But of course, she still wanted me to teach the session, because “this is really important information for these students to know!”

Insert a paragraph or two of me quietly seething here.
So, I had to do a quick revision of the intended lesson plan for the day.

I was teaching the class in the professor’s classroom, rather than our library instruction room, so the only computer in the room was the instructor’s machine. In that kind of a situation, I use a worksheet on brainstorming keywords and translating them into a Boolean search string, using the students’ own research topics, to inject at least a little active learning into the session. On that day, I still talked a bit about Boolean logic, but had to jettison the active learning exercise because they didn’t have topics to work with, and I hadn’t brought any sample topics to class with me.2 I still talked about some of the aspects of the EBSCO database, but skipped My EBSCOhost and downplayed the SFX tools. Since these students were about to go out into clinical practice, I had planned to talk a little bit about the relationship between CINAHL (the database we were searching), EBSCO (our provider) and Ovid (the provider that many hospitals use for access to CINAHL).3 I beefed up that part of the session as much as I could.

In short, I tried to transform the session into “what you’ll need to know about doing research in the nursing literature once you graduate and are actually working as nurses.” I wasn’t terribly successful, on account of having negative prep time for the transformation, but it wasn’t a complete flop either.

Next year, if this professor comes back and wants another library session for this course, I’ll be more careful to confirm whether or not her students have an actual research assignment, and if not, I’ll present some ideas for a more deliberate transformation of the class. I’d like to do some small-group work with scenarios that present real-world information needs that nurses might have, and get the students to suggest research strategies that might meet those needs. I actually think this would be a much more interesting, useful, and engaging session than yet another “how to find articles using an EBSCO database” session. Even if I do bring in the Magic Library Elves™.


  1. I’ve found that even if students have used databases to find articles before, they still often haven’t a clue about Boolean operators, and I was teaching a discipline where synonyms are especially prevalent, so wanted to emphasize that point.
  2. I’m good at generating sample topics on the fly, but not that good.
  3. I’m under the impression that some practicing nurses will refer to CINAHL as “Ovid,” much the same way that undergrads call Academic Search Premier “EBSCO.” I always try to mention this to nursing students so it doesn’t confuse them when they get out into the real world. If I’m wrong about this, will someone please correct me?

One Comment

  1. Kirstin
    Posted February 9, 2009 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Stab me with a spoon! Why why why why do professors do this to us? Good thinking on the fly though!