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Embedding Lifelong Learning Skills into a First-Year Engineering Course through Introduction of an Independent Research Project and Information Literacy Skills

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

FPD VII: Innovative Curriculum Elements of Successful First-Year Courses

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.555.1 - 22.555.25



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Paper Authors


Chris Plouff Grand Valley State University

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Dr. Plouff currently serves as Assistant Professor & James R. Sebastian Chair of Engineering Cooperative Education and Educational Development at Grand Valley State University. He is responsible for coordinating assessment efforts for the School of Engineering, including the mandatory cooperative education program. His research interests include first-year engineering program development, effective assessment of engineering education, and transition to and from the engineering educational environment, particularly to the workplace. Prof. Plouff is a registered Professional Engineer in Michigan.

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Deborah Morrow Grand Valley State University

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Deborah Morrow, Senior Librarian, has been employed as an academic librarian at Michigan Technological University and Grand Valley State University (Michigan) since completing her Masters Degree in Library Science (MS-LIS) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1983. For two decades she served as Systems Librarian at each institution, implementing and managing new technologies for library management and user access. Since 2009, Morrow has moved over to the "public side" of academic library work, and currently serves as Liaison Librarian to the Padnos College of Engineering & Computing at Grand Valley State University.

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Embedding Lifelong Learning Skills into a First-Year Engineering Course through Introduction of an Independent Research Project and Information Literacy SkillsThis paper reports on a work in progress to address ABET program outcome „i‟ (“graduates havea recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in, lifelong learning”) in the Bachelor ofScience in Engineering programs (mid-size, undergraduate engineering program) at a largeMaster‟s-granting university in the midwestern United States. One performance criterion used bythe programs to assess program outcome „i‟ is the ability to find, evaluate, and effectively useinformation independently. This concept is introduced in the first-year of the programs, and isreinforced in an intentional thread throughout the curriculum, culminating with the seniorcapstone project.The current study focuses on the final assignment, an independent research project conducted byeach student, in a required engineering measurement and data analysis course typically taken byfirst-year engineering majors. A learner-centered approach is taken, based in self-determinationtheory, allowing the student to choose a topic of interest to him/her, research it, and present thetopic to the class. The major requirement is that the material presented is framed by theobjectives of the course (proper use of engineering measurements and appropriate data analysis).School of Engineering course instructors have partnered with the university‟s EngineeringLiaison Librarian to incorporate information literacy skills instruction as a component of thecourse. The University Libraries‟ have recently (2009) developed and adopted an “InformationLiteracy Core Competencies” framework, enumerating learning objectives at Basic, Major, andGraduate levels in six skill areas. In our collaboration, a goal is to identify the specific skill areasand learning objectives that will be the basis for the required information literacy workshop.Evaluation of the assessments of the students‟ performance in the first semester using this newprocess for introducing independent learning, and assessment of a required, accompanyinginformation literacy workshop, provided evidence that better achievement of program outcome„i‟ might be realized by further revising both the final course assignment and the contents andpresentation of the workshop. This, in part, will be accomplished by more tightly integrating theassignment as the specific target of the information literacy workshop, and introducing theworkshop content in an active learning approach.During the current semester (second offering that includes the new component in the course),pre- and post-tests are planned in order to formally assess student progress in improvingknowledge and developing skills and abilities related to ABET program outcomes „f‟ (anunderstanding of professional and ethical responsibility), „g‟ (an ability to communicateeffectively), and „i.‟ The longer-term goal is to expand on the foundation developed in the first-year curriculum for independent learning and information literacy, and to scaffold toward higher-level skill development at the third- and fourth-year level as a formal component of thecurriculum.

Plouff, C., & Morrow, D. (2011, June), Embedding Lifelong Learning Skills into a First-Year Engineering Course through Introduction of an Independent Research Project and Information Literacy Skills Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17836

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