Techniques for the Small Class

July, 2015

Experience reveals that library instruction sessions vary in the number of students who register and show up to a workshop. Sometimes a session has many students 20+ attending, sometimes only a handful of students show up. Despite what we may consider an optimal number of students for our sessions, both large and small class sizes offer teaching opportunities, and the resourceful instructor will adapt to class size and take advantage of opportunities presented. This month we will consider taking advantage of small class size, seeing that it is not uncommon to have fewer students present at Spring Term workshops. With a smaller class size the instructor may want to try some of the following teaching techniques:

Silent Reflection:

This is where you give students a few minutes to think about a problem or issue. Ask them to write down their thoughts or ideas on a note pad. Keep the task specific. For example, ask them to write down the three ways they go about finding information on a research topic, or where they search for articles/book, or what difficulties do they encounter when looking for resources for a research paper, etc. Ask students to share their ideas with their neighbour before moving into a discussion phase. Once students have reflected on the question, written down their answer and shared with a neighbour you could ask them to share with the rest of the class a segway to a your discussion of your workshop topic. This technique suits quieter students and ensures that everyone has the opportunity to provide feedback.


This is the term used to describe activities undertaken by groups of students working to a brief under their own direction. They can be asked to undertake internet or literature searches, debate an issue, explore a piece of text, prepare an argument, design an artefact or many other tasks. To achieve productively, they will need an explicit brief, appropriate resources and clear outcomes.

Specialist accommodation is not always necessary; syndicates can work in groups spread out in a large room, or, where facilities permit, go away and use other classrooms etc. If the task is substantial, the tutor may wish to move from group to group, or may be available on a ‘help desk’ at a central location. Outcomes may be in the form of assessed work from the group or produced at a plenary as described above.

Click on the following link for more techniques for both small and large class sizes:

For other Teaching Tips and more Teaching Resources see

LINC Toolkit – Teaching Resources

Thank you,

The Library Instruction Committee

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