Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

Flipping the Classroom to Teach Systematic Reviews: The Development of a Continuing Education Course for Librarians *

Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

Flipping the Classroom to Teach Systematic Reviews: The Development of a Continuing Education Course for Librarians *

Article excerpt


As expert searchers with backgrounds in information retrieval and organization, health sciences librarians can add value to systematic review teams. To prepare librarians for leadership roles on such teams, the authors developed an intensive dual-mode workshop that combines instruction in best practices with a capstone project emphasizing institution-specific application of the acquired skills.

Expert searching has long been acknowledged as a core function of health sciences librarians [1, 2], and the perceived value of librarian-conducted expert search activities has been documented [1, 3]. Librarian involvement in complex searches, including systematic reviews and meta-analyses, is a natural extension of experience with mediated expert searches. In addition to designing and constructing thorough and replicable searches, librarians can add value to systematic review teams by forming answerable research questions, identifying information resources, collecting and managing search results, and writing descriptive methodologies [4]. In their recent survey of emerging roles for health sciences librarians, Crum and Cooper reported that 46% of respondents already supported systematic reviews and an additional 18% planned to become involved in the near future (n5258) [5]. One of the broad barriers to assuming the emerging roles that Crum and Cooper identified was lack of knowledge or skills [5].

To address this need, a project team from the University of Michigan's (UM's) Taubman Health Sciences Library (THL) developed a pilot course to train librarians to participate on systematic review teams. The pilot course was funded by the Greater Midwest Region (GMR) of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM) in spring 2013. Funding supported the team's time for course development and costs of course materials. Participants who completed all online and in-person components of the pilot course earned twenty Medical Library Association (MLA) continuing education (CE) credits.


The pilot consisted of both an online learning environment and an intensive in-person workshop, and was developed utilizing the ''flipped'' model of instruction. In this model, didactic materials (generally, lectures or readings) are available to students in advance of the course meeting, which frees up classroom time for discussions or interactive exercises that support active learning [6]. Flipped classrooms are gaining increasing recognition in academic settings, including the health sciences, as a means of developing critical thinking skills and fostering assimilation and application of course material [7]. In this course, didactic materials were presented online prior to the in-person sessions, which afforded participants ample opportunity to process and digest information before entering the workshop environment, where the focus shifted to application. The overall goals of the course were to increase participants' knowledge of best practices in conducting systematic reviews and to facilitate participants' creation of a personalized action plan to establish their libraries as recognized centers of expertise for systematic reviews at their home institutions.

Three informationists with experience conducting and coauthoring systematic reviews collaborated to develop and produce course content. The process of developing and conducting the course is summarized in Table 1. Modelling the course's organization on a workshop that the University of Pittsburgh's Health Sciences Library System conducts semi-annually, the team scripted brief (about twenty minutes) modules and created learning activities for both the online and in-person sessions. Three external peer reviewers provided feedback on the course outline, draft slides, and draft scripts for the online modules. After incorporating reviewer feedback, the team recorded the videos using Camtasia and developed a web platform to host course content. …

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