Illustrate your data - Data visualization with Microsoft Excel for beginners

Infographics are popular in newspapersacademic journalsonline publicationsOCLC reports, and even library vendor publications.

They're useful because they communicate the meaning behind a lot of data quickly.  And through graphs and charts, they also make a visual impact while driving the conceptual point home.

In this IDP session of December 17, 2013, we explored the making of graphs and charts in Microsoft Excel for our report writing and for consulting with library patrons who are writing up a research project.  Our objectives were:

  1. Identify the best type of graph or chart to communicate a data analysis.
  2. Outline heuristics for the effective design of graphs and charts.
  3. Create basic graphs and charts in Microsoft Excel.

Here are the handout and self-directed exercises from our session.

Win them over: Approaches to motivating your audience

Teaching and giving presentations can be rewarding experiences, especially when you have a positive impact on the knowledge and skills of your audience.  Making this impression is easier when you first spark the motivation of your students and colleagues and bring out their active participation.

In this IDP session of November 14, 2013, we explored ways of motivating an audience and began to practice these skills through case study discussions.  Our objectives were:

  1. Identify elements that trigger motivation
  2. Describe techniques for cultivating motivation among your audience
  3. Design solutions to problems of low audience motivation

Here are materials from our session:

Information literacy instruction for graduate students


On Wednesday, May 1, the Library Instructor Development Program held an event on information literacy (IL) instruction for graduate students. Please click on the links below to view:

The event was focused around three key questions:

1. Who are our graduate students?

Graduate student profiles: UC Berkeley-wide and CalAnswers (customizable by department/program)

  • Doctoral students predominate in current enrollment at UC Berkeley, but
  • incoming Master's and professional students outnumber PhD students 2:1, and
  • Master's degree programs are expanding
  • Master's students may be less familiar with library services, resources, and tools such as reference managers
  • Master's students have shorter time frames than doctoral students, and often need research skills that will be transferrable to the workplace

2. What are their research support needs?

Graduate student roles:

  • Student
  • Teacher
  • Researcher:
    Funding seeker
    Data collector and analyzer
  • Author
  • Archiver
  • Job seeker

Information-seeking practices:

  • Initial searching/orientation
  • Citation chaining
  • Browsing/networking
  • Differentiating/evaluating sources
  • Selecting/prioritizing sources
  • Monitoring (topics and research areas)
  • Extracting (from specific publications)
  • Assembling/disseminating the products of scholarly research

Advanced IL concepts:

  • Advanced search techniques (controlled vocabularies, etc.)
  • Citation chaining
  • Reference list mining, cited reference searches, finding related articles by reference list or keyword similarity
  • Interlibrary loan procedures
  • Bibliographic management software
  • RSS feeds, alerts, TOCs
  • Scholarly writing
  • Emerging research areas
  • Sources of funding (Pivot/Community of Science, Grant Forward, NSF/NIH Funding Opportunities,
  • Data management tools, services, best practices
  • Building relational databases
  • Bibliometrics and other forms of data mining
  • Research dissemination (seminars, conferences, journals)
  • Identifying leading journals in a discipline (Journal Citation Reports, Ulrich's)
  • Finding dissertations by advisor, campus or topic (Dissertations and Theses)
  • Scholarly communication: copyright and Open Access issues
  • Career information

3. How can we effectively deliver IL instruction to graduate students?

Outreach strategies:

  • Presenting during departmental orientations for incoming graduate students
  • Embedding or presenting in research methodologies classes
  • Asking graduate students who request a workshop to recruit at least 5 attendees and find a day and time that works for all
    Note: You can share bCal without making the details of your events visible
  • Attending departmental events
  • Finding a faculty or program director champion
  • Slipping in graduate-student-oriented content when doing library instruction for undergraduate courses with a large complement of graduate student instructors
  • Volunteering to do an IL session for a course as a guest speaker when the instructor is attending a conference
  • Approaching your Library Advisory Board (for those libraries that have active LABs)
  • Making use of intersessions when scheduling events
  • Partnering with various programs that promote diversity in graduate student populations


The needs of Master's students are very different from those of PhD students - Master's students need resources they can use in the real world (vs. library databases)

Possible next steps:

  • Promote Open Access to graduate students, the faculty of the future
  • Include graduate students in a discussion of how best to meet their IL needs
  • Partner with other campus groups that have graduate student constituencies (D-Lab, Career Center, etc.)

Many thanks to all of the participants!

Corliss Lee and Elliott Smith

A dialogue with Richard Freishtat of CTL

The March 20th IDP event featured Richard Freishtat, Senior Consultant for UC Berkeley's Center for Teaching and Learning. Richard described the CTL services, programs and resources that are available to Library instructors, which include:

After this introduction, Richard responded to questions about pedagogical issues and challenges. What follows are summaries and paraphrases of the discussion.


Lesson content: Is it REALLY true that we should minimize the number of new things we try to teach to students? I've heard things like, "Don't tell them more than 4 new things in a session. They won't remember."

Richard Freishtat: While it's true that too many new concepts can make recall difficult, there is no rule about the number of new things you can present. Studies show that there is greater retention of new material if you present it in a way that connects the new concepts to existing knowledge. Also, compelling activities such as discussion with peers or hands-on problem-solving can help with retention as well.


Procedural vs. conceptual instruction: In a short 30 - 90 minute session, is it better to minimize instruction on things like database how-to's, and concentrate on higher level stuff, like critically evaluating what they find using databases? If so, when and how WILL they learn how to work these databases? Is giving them an exercise set to work on in their "spare time" a good idea?

RF: I recommend that you focus on higher-order concepts. If you frame the session around higher-order concepts, you can do just-in-time learning for the lower-level ones. Gaps with lower-order tasks will reveal themselves as the students proceed with their work.

Pre-session assignments on the how-to steps might be helpful, but your ability send out an assignment will depend on how much access the faculty offer you.


Recapturing attention after exercise: When I offer the class time to practice the search strategy I've described / demonstrated / discussed, it can be hard to get them to stop searching and discuss the results. Any suggestions for good ways to get their attention back once they've gone off on their own?

Class responsiveness: When I ask students to do a hands-on database exercise, how do I get them to talk about what worked for them and what didn't?

Combatting unresponsiveness: What can we do when the flop sweat starts popping out because the entire class, to a person, is staring stonily at you and seems completely bored? Take a deep breath, yes. But then what kind of activity can turn the class around?

RF: You might use techniques like think-pair-share or 2-2-2. In 2-2-2, after 5 minutes of hands-on work, the students are instructed to form groups of two and discuss it with their partner for two minutes -- what they found, difficulties, etc. Then ask them to take two minutes to share their experience with the rest of the class. Framing it as sharing the findings of their group can make it easier for people to participate, because they don't feel put on the spot as an individual.

This technique sets up defined times to work and to share with the rest of the class -- during the sharing period you can say "I shouldn't hear typing."


Engaging students: I've found that students are a lot more attentive when there is a specific assignment or goal assigned by their professor. But often they come to our session without an expected outcome, and it can be hard to have them either focus on the topics or to see the value of the resources that we're demonstrating.

Student preparation: Some classes begin with students all jazzed and ready. Their teachers have obviously told them the benefit of listening. What kind of advice do you have about how to urge the teachers to prepare their students? What wording might we use in our email/personal contacts with the teacher to get them to do more than announce that they're meeting with a librarian?

RF: You're right to stress the importance of clearly defined outcomes, and learning in an authentic context. You might pose the question to them: what would be helpful to cover today? Ask students to think about the topic, what type of information they want to be able to find, and how much time they have to spend finding the information.

Motivation is connected to relevance -- be sure that you give students the "persuasive pitch": explain that what you're doing is connected to their success with their assignments (earning an A). If possible, give them a concrete example from your experience -- hearing about how library session has been of value to their peers will motivate them most effectively.


Presentation strategies and tools: What are some effective presentations strategies, such as tips for demonstrating a database that are a bit more engaging?

RF: Whenever possible, shift away from the burden of covering too much database-specific content. Focus on skills, not individual databases -- although it's helpful to use examples. Concrete examples are important for establishing relevance, but try to embed them in the narrative of the class or the context of a current assignment.

Course guides, especially if they are linked from bSpace or course webpages, make resources available so that students can return later, and allow students to discover solutions on their own at the time of need.


Online tools: There's an increasing need to teach library and research skills in different online settings and in some cases we don't have any opportunity to interact with the students in person. Are there any pedagogical guidelines regarding when or why you would use an online video to cover content as opposed to, say, an interactive quiz? When does a simple text version of a lesson suffice (if it ever does) in online learning? I feel like we have a lot of different tools at our disposal (slideshows, videos, quiz modules, images, charts, text) but it can be unclear which tool is best suited to a specific lesson.

RF: Look at the framework of desired outcomes, rather than the tools. Will this tool enhance the students' learning? Will it give them an opportunity to engage with the material in a more authentic way? Will it provide different kinds of learning experiences (for example, collaboration)? Are there ways that you want the students to demonstrate what they understand, and if so, how does this tool enable them?

Tools must support your goals: presentation, engagement, assessment. The selection of technology should arise from outcome that you want; don't start with the technology, start with the outcome in mind.

For help in choosing appropriate technologies for your outcomes, getting in touch with UCB Educational Technology Services can be helpful. Also, try different things and see what works most effectively.


Faculty outreach: Library instructors often have trouble interesting faculty/instructors in library instruction, or getting faculty/instructors to listen to our suggestions about assignments. Do you have any tips for reaching faculty?

RF: Faculty will listen to other faculty more than to us; leverage your existing faculty champions. Ask them to write up a blurb about the value of having a librarian give a research workshop -- something you can put up on the web or attach to emails. Ditto a short video interview with an instructor. Push these things out to the CTL and they can put them out to faculty also. Ask faculty champions if they'll take a flyer that you prepare to a faculty meeting and talk about the value of working with a librarian. Look for intact groups of faculty that come together around a topic (for example, the New Faculty Teaching Colloquium).

Too often we blanket messages to everyone -- the more you can target specific groups, the better. As a last resort, you can ask department chairs and deans to carry the message, but that can have a different tone.

-- Corliss Lee & Elliott Smith

Engaging students with interactive techniques

The November 15 IDP event featured presentations on interactive techniques to engage students. Three of the techniques involved using the forms and spreadsheets available on Google Drive (, and three made use of the "Berkeley 10," the ten minutes before class starts.

Google Forms for pre-class assessment (Elliott Smith)
Asking students about what they already know (and don't know) at the start of an instruction session is a useful way to determine what to emphasize. Google Forms offer a simple way to survey a class about both specific resources and general research skills. You can create a survey with branching questions, so that respondents are shown different versions depending on their answers.

Logic branching in Google Forms [2-minute YouTube video]

Add page break and go to page in forms [Google Docs blog]

Pre-event assessment survey given to attendees [bDrive]


10 questions for the Berkeley 10 (David Eifler, channeled by Corliss Lee)
David uses the 10 minutes before class starts to break the ice, engage students in conversation, and immediately seize the attention of those walking in. He asks a variety of questions?some are designed to survey user preferences (ebooks vs. printed books? Longer hours vs. more locations?); some are previews of what he?ll be discussing during the workshops (who?s used UC-eLinks? RSS feeds?); some questions help him assess the level of students? library experience. Some of the questions also let students know that librarians think hard about the decisions we make. Other questions (how many of you use Facebook? What?s your best source of news and information?) connect the Library to the larger world of information.

David's 10 for the Berkeley 10

In the discussion a suggestion was made that instructors could start with a Google Forms survey (which has the advantage of preserving the responses) and then an Eifler-style discussion could ensue based on the responses, which can be displayed onscreen.

Brainstorming Keywords (Corliss Lee)
Corliss uses the Berkeley 10 (plus some) to give students an exercise about brainstorming keywords for their individual topics, which also doubles as a pre-write icebreaker (if students get a chance to write down some thoughts before you call on them they are more likely to feel comfortable talking). A sample topic with keywords is displayed in Power Point, modeling the process. The class goes over the model together, and then brainstorms together about the next question on the worksheet: Which academic disciplines might write about this topic? Corliss types the students? suggestions onto the PowerPoint slide as they speak.

In discussing searching, and during the search-related exercises, Corliss refers back to the keywords that were developed during the brainstorming exercise; during the hands-on portion of the workshop, she is able to see what kinds of terms each student used and make suggestions as appropriate.

Corliss's Student Worksheet

Brainstorming Keywords Model (normally in PowerPoint)


Google Spreadsheets and real-time assessment (Shannon Simpson article)
For in-class exercises Simpson creates a Google Spreadsheet and then shares it via a link with the students in her class. They collaboratively enter their answers during the session, while she is able to monitor their progress, correct errors and give immediate feedback.

Simpson, S. R. (2012). Google Spreadsheets and real-time assessment: Instant feedback for library instruction. College & Research Libraries News, 73(9), 528-530, 549.


Google Forms for post-class evaluation (Cody Hennesy)
Cody has created a short student evaluation Google Form, and embeds a link to it in his Library A La Carte course guides. Students can easily follow the link and fill out the evaluation during the last few minutes of a session. Cody has used the feedback to guide the content he presents during sessions (one example: he now includes an introduction to the Research Advisory Service).

Cody's Course guide for History of Art 1B

—E. Smith & C. Lee

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