Book Review: Creative Instructional Design: Practical Applications for Librarians

Book Reviews

Creative Instructional Design: Practical Applications for Librarians. Brandon K. West, Kimberly D. Hoffman, and Michelle Costello, eds. Chicago: Association of College & Research Libraries, 2017. 396p. Paper, $72.00 (ISBN 978-0-83898-929-6). LC 2017019667.

Book cover for Creative Instructional Design

Creative Instructional Design: Practical Applications for Librarians is an edited volume of twenty-five chapters relating the experiences of academic librarians who have incorporated instructional design (ID) into their practice, primarily information literacy instruction. More in depth than just a series of lesson plans, this book makes strong use of the first person to offer candid reflections on the process of getting started with ID. In later chapters, the scenarios move beyond the application of ID to information literacy to discuss the incorporation of design into other areas, like planning faculty workshops and designing a library internship.

Creative Instructional Design largely fulfills its editors’ statements in the introduction that “Instructional Design” is being defined broadly in this book to “accommodate the authors’ variety of approaches and perspectives” (ix). While some chapters describe the implementation of specific ID schemes (ADDIE or USER, to give two examples), others incorporate ID best practices without applying a specific approach. Many authors draw not just from librarianship, but also from the broader scholarship of teaching and learning. Readers who are not familiar with ID should be able to readily grasp both the broad principles of ID and the associated terminology.

The similarity of many of the instruction scenarios presented in the book can make the volume as a whole seem repetitive. Several chapters focus on introductory undergraduate composition courses, where libraries are often tasked with providing information literacy instruction to several sections of the same course. As various chapter authors note, these sections are often taught by many instructors who all have slightly different ideas about how best to achieve common course outcomes. There is variety in how the librarians writing individual chapters approach this scenario using ID, but when the individual chapters are compiled back-to-back in an edited volume, the details of each can be difficult to recall shortly after reading.

The common instructional setting can cause the early chapters to blur together, but it also allows for the comparison of different approaches to this common instructional problem. Some libraries have opted to move to video tutorials for multisection courses, while others have used ID to revamp their face-to-face sessions. The plans that librarians describe in Creative Instructional Design received varying amounts of institutional buy-in, and the strong incorporation of the first person allows for authors to reflect clearly on what might work for others implementing or adapting their ideas.

A reader interested in approaches at an institution of a specific size or using a specific technique (flipped classroom, for example) will find it fairly easy to scan Creative Instructional Design to locate something that suits him or her. Many authors employ the same subheadings in their chapters—Institutional Setting, Problem to Be Addressed, Description of the Project, Lessons Learned, and Adapting or Customizing this Idea—which will aid the reader in quickly finding an appropriate chapter. Many of these case studies do not foreground formal assessment results, so librarians interested in a particular approach may need to do further reading on assessment and effectiveness. Helpfully, the chapters contain endnotes and are supported by often extensive bibliographies.

A close look at the bibliographies will reveal that many of the chapters are underpinned by several of the same theories and models. From the library literature, Char Booth’s Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning: Instructional Literacy for Library Educators is a popular citation, and some chapters directly incorporate that book’s USER model. Unsurprisingly, the most common sources cited from beyond librarianship are the ADDIE model of instructional design and Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design. Readers who have encountered ID before will likely be familiar with these models. For a reader who is new to ID, the underlying theory or approach is often explained by the chapter authors, though not consistently.

With chapters averaging around fifteen pages, Creative Instructional Design is more in-depth than collections of lesson plans like the Library Instruction Cookbook. It has the potential to serve as a gateway for librarians who want exposure to ID without immediately diving into the more substantive theoretical literature. In this way, the Creative Instructional Design succeeds in its goal to “demystify instructional design and make it more approachable for librarians” (xii). Several chapters include example learning objects as appendices, while others include figures that assist the reader in visualizing project timelines, organizational structures, and other information.

The institutional affiliations of the chapter authors and book editors represent a wide range of college and university sizes and a diverse mix of job titles. Popular phrases in the job titles of the librarian contributors include “instructional design,” “teaching and learning,” and “emerging technologies.” Several chapters are also coauthored by instructional designers and faculty from beyond the library. Though the size and location of the institutions vary from chapter to chapter, many authors report similar issues on their respective campuses, including changes to general education curricula, campus initiatives geared toward online education, or the need to reinvigorate a stale library instruction program. Creative Instructional Design makes the case that an upfront time investment in ID is a worthwhile way to change one’s practice to address these issues. The reader of this book will walk away with a good sense of the principles of ID, a list of practical scenarios paired with frank reflections from the authors, and a reading list for further exploration.—Michael R. Mitchell, Bethel University

Copyright Michael R. Mitchell


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