Are you instructing or are you informing?

posted in: Blog, Instructing | 0

I tell people that I teach library skills to college students. So I thought that I had a good prior knowledge base from which to approach my graduate courses in education. In one of them, we’re assigned to plan a one-hour lesson. I decided to design a lesson for a particular composition class whose instructors want library instruction, but the librarians don’t have time to teach.

I described what I was planning to do on the class discussion board for peer review, and first, my classmates said that what I was planning to teach was too much for one-hour. I said I did it all the time!

Don’t be this guy.

Then, my instructor replied. She said: you’re informing, you’re not instructing. For this assignment, you need to instruct.

I was offended! What do you mean, I don’t instruct?

Talk about a perspective shift. I googled the topic “informing vs. instructing” and was completely enlightened.

The bottom line: information is pushed. Instruction should be pulled by the learner.

This post from the e-learning blog is a better explanation of this concept.

It’s the difference between dumping content on your learner, and having your learner engage with the material to find what she needs.

As another blog puts it, “information informs your learners, instruction changes them.”

While there are many theories that describe how and why this process takes place, one shared characteristic of the learning process is certain: learning creates change. If learning has truly occurred during a training session, the student leaves the program a different person than he or she was upon entering. The learning experience has changed the way the student thinks, feels, or behaves.

So – apparently I’ve got a lot of learning to do on how to actually teach. My job in the next couple of months is to come up with instructional activities that cause my learners to learn, not just lecture at them.

Want to learn more? Get an introduction to instructional design!