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Information Fluency Instruction as a Continuous Improvement Activity

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Learn About Assessment

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


William W. Tsai California State University Maritime Academy

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Dr. William W. Tsai is an associate professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at California State University, Maritime Academy (Cal Maritime). His research background is fluid mechanics and heat transfer. In engineering education, he is involved in the incorporation of information literacy into the engineering curriculum. He is also involved in his program's assessment, ABET accreditation activities, and the Institution-Wide Assessment Council. Before Cal Maritime, Dr. Tsai was a Member of the Technical Staff in the Fluid Mechanics Group at The Aerospace Corporation. Dr. Tsai earned his Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. at the University of California, Berkeley in Mechanical Engineering.

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Amber Janssen California State University Maritime Academy

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Amber Janssen is a senior assistant librarian at California State University, Maritime Academy (CSUM). Her research background is in the instruction and assessment of information literacy in undergraduate education.

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Assessment and continuous improvement activities required for accrediting bodies are often wholly carried out by the department responsible for the program. Alternatively, these processes present opportunities to collaborate with colleagues across the campus whose expertise may align with the program’s student learning outcomes. This paper discusses the California State University Maritime Academy Mechanical Engineering program’s collaboration with the Library department in the assessment and continuous improvement of ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) Student Outcome 7 (“an ability to acquire and apply new knowledge as needed, using appropriate learning strategies.”). Indicators of this outcome were found to align closely with an institution-wide learning outcome called information fluency, where students will demonstrate an ability to “define a specific need for information; then locate, evaluate, and apply the needed information efficiently and ethically.” This institution-wide outcome would be used as an indicator of performance in ABET EAC Student Outcome 7.

In the 2016-17 academic year, an institution-wide assessment found the assessment scored for students in the Mechanical Engineering program were below the benchmark for information fluency. In response, the Mechanical Engineering faculty collaborated with the campus engineering librarian to develop instruction in information literacy in the appropriate courses within the curriculum. Information literacy modules were developed and implemented in eight courses throughout the curriculum. This instruction ranged from stand-alone assignments in freshman courses to multi-semester scaffolded assignments and research consultations in the senior capstone course sequence.

Following the implementation, assessments were conducted to track the curriculum changes’ effects, which closed the loop on the continuous improvement process. The results from information fluency assessments in Academic Year 2018-19 and the preliminary findings from the 2020-21 academic year showed improvement in the Mechanical Engineering students’ assessment scores. In addition, this collaborative effort in assessment, curriculum development, and implementation was presented under Criterion 4 in the program’s self-study report in 2019. The processes presented may help engineering programs attempting to address improvement in this ABET student outcome and motivate interest in increased collaboration with their engineering library to strengthen instruction in information literacy.

Tsai, W. W., & Janssen, A. (2021, July), Information Fluency Instruction as a Continuous Improvement Activity Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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