Reflection: Flexibility

Flexibility is key to engaging learners and their myriad learning styles. As a poetry instructor team-teaching a workshop designed for underserved youth, I learned firsthand how rigidly adhering to a lesson plan impeded student learning. The element of surprise, while often appreciated in the line of a poem, is especially useful when teaching a room of bored teens looking for a way out.

“Differentiating instruction” can help keep learners engaged by incorporating that element of surprise. (Booth, 2011, p. 50) By choosing to incorporate both procedural and conceptual (direct and discovery) instructional techniques, teachers can engage multiple senses and intelligences and promote transfer and retention. By remaining open to the highly diversified needs of a classroom environment, teachers are privileged and challenged to listen intently for new ways to best serve learners.

As Booth (2011) suggests, thinking about learning as a continuum instead of hierarchically allows the mind to consider the nonlinear ways we can grasp new knowledge. In changing the visual model from a laddered to a lateral approach, learners can begin to grasp how what we know and what we learn continue to blend and recontextualize to make new learning. One way this is done is by anchoring new knowledge to previous knowledge. This method of cognitivist instruction can be paired with other instructional methods e.g. behaviorist and constructivist to meet various student needs.

Booth, C. (2011). Reflective teaching, effective learning: Instructional Literacy for Library Educators. American Library Association Editions: Chicago.

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Melissa Eleftherion is a writer, a librarian, and a visual artist. She is the author of field guide to autobiography (The Operating System, 2018), & nine chapbooks, including the forthcoming trauma suture (above/ground press, 2020). Born & raised in Brooklyn, Melissa now lives in Mendocino County where she manages the Ukiah Library, teaches creative writing, & curates the LOBA Reading Series. Recent work is available at

One thought on “Reflection: Flexibility”

  1. The element of surprise can be useful for teaching and learning. I use it in my presentations – I tell stories about silly things and then wham bring them back to the subject of libraries.


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