Library and Communication Studies: Information Literacy Skills

Topic: Teaching Library Information Literacy Skills to Students Enolled in an Introductory Communication Course: A Collaborative Study
Discipline(s) or Field(s): Library & Communication Studies
Galadriel Chilton, Michael Current, Jenifer Holman, Christine Prucha (Library, University of Wisconsin – La Crosse), James Putz, Thomas Reinert (Communication Studies, UW-La Crosse), Becky Belter (Communication Studies, Jackson Community College)
Submission Date: February 28, 2007

Executive Summary: Our interdisciplinary lesson study group developed a collaborative learning experience designed to introduce CST110 students to library resources and research skills. The lesson was both interactive and hands-on. It was intended to serve as the model or template for all librarians to use when providing information literacy instruction for CST 110 classes. It included general library information, instruction about, and hands-on experience with, several library databases, exercises in evaluating resource credibility, and exercises in generating American Psychological Association (APA) style citations from several library databases. We utilized the new lesson for the first time on February 8, 2006.

Learning Goals: Our primary goal for the lesson was to ensure that CST110 students gained proficiency in basic research skills, including the use of library services and resources. Specifically, we wanted students to be able to:

  • choose appropriate library databases for a research question (navigate the library website)
  • efficiently search library databases (use basic search principles)
  • understand how to use library databases to identify and retrieve books, print periodicals, and electronic periodicals
  • discern the credibility of sources
  • format APA-style citations

Lesson Design:

Librarians and communications studies faculty designed the lesson to mimic the research process, taking students though the steps necessary to conduct quality research. In order to engage the students in learning we incorporated collaborative learning techniques, including a series of interactive questions that each group answered. The questions sometimes required a verbal response, and sometimes required a written response from each group. We also utilized a worksheet to help focus student attention.

Groups of three to four students shared a computer and completed tasks together. Collaborative learning serves a pragmatic purpose, as it keeps the class together, rather than having some individuals jump ahead or work on non-related web browsing. As Smith reported in his 2004 study on collaborative learning, the quality of the work increases with collaborative learning:

“In a meta-analysis of 122 studies involving 11,317 learners, Yiping, Abrami, and d’Apollonia concluded that ‘when working with computer technology in small groups, students in general produced substantially better group products than individual products and they also gained more individual knowledge than those learning with computer technology individually'” (2001, 476 in Smith, 2004).

Each group member had his or her own worksheet referred to as a “research log.” Librarians designed the worksheet to provide a:

  • Lesson outline that would aid students’ processing of new information
  • Guide for group activities
  • Model framework for completing the research process
  • Personal, customized job aid that students could use outside of class

Class outlines and worksheets with keywords from the lesson help students focus their attention rather than dividing their limited short-term memory between the instructor and note taking. Research by Kiewra and others (as cited by deWinstanley and Bjork, 2002) suggests that when instructors provide students with an outline or worksheet for note taking, students’ note quality, performance, and lecture recall improve.

In addition to keeping in-class performance on track and helping students’ process new information, the CST 110 worksheet is also a job aid. Job aids are “repository[ies] for information, processes, or perspectives that are external to the individual and that supports work…by directing, guiding, and enlightening performance” when a need arises (Rossett & Gautier-Downes, 1991). Many students who come to the library with their CST 110 class have not yet selected a topic for their assignments. Therefore, when students are working on their research outside of class or in future classes, their worksheet — a customized job aid — directs and guides their search for information.

Major Findings About Student Learning
Analysis of student behavior observed during the lesson indicated that:

  • The worksheet questions, coupled with librarian interaction with individual groups, resulted in successful learning of searching techniques.
  • Student searches observed during the class indicated that material introduced only through lecture was not learned as successfully.
  • Students were particularly excited to learn how to use database features to automatically format APA style citations.

Students perceived the lesson to be effective in improving their ability to use information resources. However, we did not ask for their perceptions about specific research skills. After the library lesson, the CST 110 instructor recognized that the students located and cited more credible information to support their speeches. Students were also able to use proper citations in their bibliographies. The instructor reported that students expressed that they felt more comfortable using available library resources.

After the lesson the librarians recognized shortcomings in their standard assessment instrument, and planned to implement improvements. In addition, they recognized the continuing need to collaborate with CST instructors to evaluate the efficacy of the CST 110 library lesson.

Links to materials used to teach the lesson:

  • Library Introduction
    This is the library introduction video (Windows Media Video format) used on February 8, 2006, the date of the lesson study. It was playing in a continuous loop as the students arrived for the lesson.
  • Presentation
    This is the presentation used on February 8, 2006, the date of the lesson study.
  • Handout
    This is the handout used on February 8, 2006, the date of the lesson study.

Links to the study of the lesson:


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