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The Research Studio: Integrating Information Literacy into a First Year Engineering Science Course

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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

Information Literacy Programs for First-Year Engineering Students

Tagged Division

Engineering Libraries

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1496.1 - 22.1496.21



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Paper Authors


Michelle Baratta University of Toronto

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Michelle Baratta has held positions in academic and public libraries, as well as a corporate setting. Her education includes a Master's degree in Information Studies (2007) and an Honours Bachelor of Science degree (2004), both from the University of Toronto. She is currently a Reference and Instruction Librarian at the University of Toronto's Engineering & Computer Science Library.

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Alan Chong University of Toronto

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Alan Chong is a Senior Lecturer in the Engineering Communication Program at the University of Toronto. His pedagogical research is primarily in the area of the integration of Design and Communication across the curriculum.

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Jason A. Foster University of Toronto

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The Research Studio: Integrating Information Literacy Into a First Year Engineering Science CourseIn this paper, we describe a set of strategies and an associated activity used to overcome thedrawbacks of traditional methods that have been used to teach information literacy skills to firstyear engineering science students. Traditional methods and models for teaching informationliteracy in this context have significant drawbacks that limit their efficacy in developing corecompetencies. Lectures on research skills fail to take advantage of active learning strategies.Computer lab-based research skills sessions are largely limited to online sources and arecomplicated by difficulties in maintaining student focus. Extracurricular library based sessionsfor groups of students typically only teach research skills in the abstract, lacking the immediacyafforded by sessions integrated with their classes, and are often poorly attended. Without theimmediacy of an assignment, students often fail to acknowledge the relevance of the activities,and are unable to develop transferable skills.To address these issues, Engineering faculty and librarians associated with a large research-intensive university have collaborated on the design of an activity that integrates informationliteracy into the curriculum and provides a more rigorous process for instruction. Key principlesthat informed the activity include:1. Introducing students to the physical library and encouraging alternatives to internet search engines for information discovery2. Integrating the library session into the curriculum and tying it to a core assignment with clearly defined objectives and outcomes3. Developing a series of short activities that cover an important range of sources and providing scaffolding within those activities to build transferable skillsIntroducing students to the physical library is the first step to challenging their preconceivedideas of the research process and to building their knowledge of the information sources that areintegral to engineering research and study. Placing them in physical proximity of paper journals,books, and other sources forces them to engage with the results of their research in afundamentally different manner than they would with online sources. Second, assigning a set ofdeliverables that form an intermediate step in a current course assignment as exit criteria forcesstudents to engage while in the session, and provides a much more direct transfer point. Finally,structuring the activity as a set of short, 20-30 minute sessions on distinct research topicspromotes student focus during the sessions, and provides each student with a variety of researchskills. The six sessions, of which each student within a three-person team completed three,included comparing different types of information sources for the depth and breadth ofinformation covered, evaluating information sources and engaging their critical thinking skills,and developing research strategies that can be used to find different sources of information.This paper describes the learning objectives for the activity as a whole and for each session,presents observations taken during the activity and both solicited and unsolicited feedback fromstudents, and provides an evaluation of the students’ submissions for the assignment that waslinked to the activity.

Baratta, M., & Chong, A., & Foster, J. A. (2011, June), The Research Studio: Integrating Information Literacy into a First Year Engineering Science Course Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18609

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