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Integrating Information Literacy Into A First Year Mass And Energy Balances Course

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Information Literacy Integration and Assessment

Tagged Division

Engineering Libraries

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.761.1 - 14.761.14



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Paper Authors


Donna Riley Smith College

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Donna Riley is Associate Professor of Engineering at Smith College.

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Rocco Piccinino Smith College

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Rocco Piccinino is the Associate Director of Branch Libraries and Head of the Young Science Library at Smith College.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract


Over the last several years, advocates of information literacy education have supported the idea of curriculum-integrated instruction as an effective student learning strategy, and this strategy has begun to be employed within engineering education.1,2 Curriculum integration necessarily requires buy-in and collaboration from faculty3 as well as detailed attention to course-level integration. 4,5 Despite some support found in the ABET 2000 outcomes criteria,6 there remain both political and logistical challenges in this effort, given the particularly packed nature of the engineering curriculum and a strong resistance to change within the profession.7

Building on this literature, and with the support of a college-wide curriculum-integrated approach to information literacy, we have established a sequenced information literacy curriculum for engineering. The college’s formal information literacy program began in 2003/2004 with an initial focus on first-year, writing-intensive courses, followed by departmental adoption of discipline-specific, sequenced, curriculum-integrated information literacy programs. Prior to the initial discussions and planning for this program in 2002, there was not a college-wide formal program, although the library conducted many instruction sessions that promoted and taught information literacy concepts.

Here we focus on one course in order to illustrate both the approach we have taken in our liberal- arts context, and to provide some details on the faculty-librarian collaboration process. The course brings information literacy to the fore by linking it to every other course element, including engineering ethics, engineering calculations, a project on life-cycle assessment (LCA), and the development of reflective judgment and intentional learning.


On our campus, efforts to enhance instruction in information literacy have been underway for several years. The effort began with a focus on first-year instruction and continued with a curriculum-integrated approach in which departments work with librarians to create sequenced, discipline-specific instruction across the curriculum. To date, fourteen departments on campus (nearly 40 percent) have developed information literacy standards for their curricula.8

Engineering’s information literacy standards were developed in March 2007.9 A first-semester first-year course in engineering (required of all majors with considerable non-major enrollment) incorporates library instruction and requires students to conduct research related to a design project. In parallel with this course, students normally take a writing intensive course that introduces them to library resources that are not specific to engineering, and students take an information literacy quiz-tutorial online.10 The college is in the process of improving this aspect of the first-year information literacy program to ensure a larger number of students receive this preliminary learning opportunity in information literacy. This paper focuses on the second- semester first year course that builds on these preliminary skills and provides a basis for more advanced learning within the major. Later courses address other aspects of information literacy in the context of laboratories, design, and engineering analysis in a variety of areas. The capstone design course utilizes information literacy skills on a real-world design project for a corporate, governmental, or non-profit client.

Riley, D., & Piccinino, R. (2009, June), Integrating Information Literacy Into A First Year Mass And Energy Balances Course Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5347

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