Adapting the KWL chart to teach Library information literacy

KWL stands for “What do you know? What do you want to know? And “What have you learned?”. Now imagine these three questions as headings in a columned chart and you have your “KWL chart”. Typically this tool for teaching literacy is used as a before reading strategy in subjects like history, but “[t]eachers across content area subjects have confirmed the usefulness and flexibility of the KWL technique for introducing a unit of study” (Fisher, 2007). Instructors teaching Library information literacy can also use this tool. The basics of the KWL chart method are as follows:

  • The first step is to identify the topic under investigation. Let’s say LIB 001 Library Foundations.
  • Introduce students to the topic. This step ensures that every student has some ideas about the topic under discussion
  • Invite students to share what they already know about the topic. Record their responses, right or wrong, on the chart or board.
  • Ask students what they would like to know about the topic and record these responses in the appropriate column
  • As the topic of study come to a close, return to the KWL chart and ask students to review their initial knowledge and questions. Then invite discussion about what they have learned from the workshop.

Keeping with our chosen topic of Library Foundations, questions to ask students would include “What do you know about types of academic sources? What do you know about searching for books and articles? What do you know about accessing books and articles? What do you know about accessing your library account?”. Record student answers in the “K” column (What do I know?). Then ask a second set of questions “What do I want to know?” about Library Foundations and record student responses in the “W” column. Finally, after workshop discussion and activities ask students to provide feedback of what they have learned, and record these in the “L” column (What have I learned?). There’s your KWL chart adapted for library information literacy!

The benefits of employing the KWL chart include getting a better estimation of what your students know and what they have learned after a workshop. As library instructors often face the challenge of running one–off sessions with limited opportunities to make assessments the KWL chart provides a quick and easy method to estimate student learning.

For other Teaching Tips and more Teaching Resources see:

LINC Toolkit – Teaching Resources

Thank you,

The Library Instruction Committee

Fisher, D., Brozo, W. G., Frey, N., & Ivey, G. (2007). 50 Content Strategies for Adolescent Literacy. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education Inc.


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