June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
Educational Research and Methods
22.237.1 - 22.237.11
Are Engineering Students Life-Long Learners?: Results from A Two-Tier Multiple-Choice InstrumentOne of the most important skills students can take away from a technical education is the abilityto become curious, persistent, and life-long learners, and information literacy is crucial todeveloping those skills. This aligns with ABET accreditation criterion 3.i. Few standard, easilygradable assessment tools exist to assess the information literacy components of lifelong learningskills, especially in the context of an engineering education. The existing instruments generallyinvolve self-reports rather than objectively measuring life-long learning skills. In this paper, wepresent results from a two-tiered multiple choice instrument designed to quickly measurerelevant information literacy competencies. We collected data from first-year engineeringstudents (N=366), who were asked to read a technical memo and, based on the memo’sarguments, answer eight multiple choice and two open-ended response questions. While theaverage score on the multiple choice portion was 43%, the majority (96%) identified the mainpoint of the memo correctly. However, only 49% of students were able to correctly identify theassumptions and unreliable sources used in the memo, despite identifying, in the open-endedresponses, assumptions and unreliable sources as reasons why certain answers were incorrect. Aqualitative analysis of the open-ended responses provides more detailed insights into students’abilities to identify and resolve conflicts between information sources, evaluate the reliabilityand relevancy of information sources, and use reliable information sources. Additional conceptsprobed in the multiple choice questions assess student ability to: identify implicit and explicitassumptions, evaluate overall quality of a written document, extract the main points from theinformation sources, and to interpret and present information accurately. The qualitativeresponses support the quantitative scores: information literacy skills among first-yearengineering students need to improve for students to become competent lifelong learners.
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