Best Practices for Engineering Information Literacy Instruction: Perspectives of Academic Librarians
Information literacy instruction has long been an important part of undergraduate education. Subject librarians, together with undergraduate instructors, help students identify the relevant information sources in their discipline, plus help them learn how to effectively search for, locate, and recognize high quality information. Information needs and specific resources differ across subject disciplines, however, and information practices and needs vary by workplace and discipline norms. Effective instruction takes into account these discipline variations, so that instructors responsible for information literacy instruction can align instruction to unique needs. This study, funded by the Engineering Information Foundation, focuses on identifying best practices for incorporating unique needs and information behaviors of engineers in the workplace into undergraduate engineering information literacy instruction. We examined the instructional materials on the library websites from universities with engineering programs ranked in the top 25 (according to the ranking of undergraduate engineering programs in the U.S. by U.S News and Report) and interviewed five experienced engineering librarians. The information gained from the website analysis and interviews provide insights into best practices for engineering information literacy materials and instruction. The website analysis revealed the topics, issues, and themes that are addressed by engineering libraries/librarians in regards to generic research and information literacy skills. The purpose of the interviews with experienced engineering librarians was to collect more details about the specific efforts of engineering librarians to incorporate information literacy training into engineering curriculum. The five librarians who were interviewed all work at Highest Research Activity Doctoral Granting universities (according to The Carnegie Classification) and have many years of instructional experience. These interviews were semi-structured in nature and lasted 45 minutes to one hour. The participants described their experiences, instructional practices, and insights based on how they have incorporated information literacy into engineering curriculum. The interviews were analyzed qualitatively and six major themes emerged, which include the need for a strategic approach and the need for information literacy instruction throughout students’ entire undergraduate career. Future work will include the development of instructional modules that can be incorporated into engineering curriculum based on the results from our interview and website analyses. These modules will be assessed and revised before they are broadly disseminated.
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