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Working Information Literacy into Assignments
by Reba Leiding

 

Students in Carrier LibraryBoth teaching faculty and librarians recognize the need to help today’s students find their way through the thicket of information on the Internet and the increasingly complex variety of scholarly sources available.  The best way for students to learn research skills is by creating assignments that include an information literacy component.

 

To support this approach, JMU Libraries in partnership with the Center for Faculty Innovation will offer a three-day workshop, Information Literacy in the Major, to be held in Carrier Library on May 7-9, 2008.  In the workshop, teaching faculty members are paired with their department’s liaison librarian to work on developing or revising a class assignment that incorporates information literacy objectives. 

 

Full-time JMU faculty teaching in the majors are encouraged to apply for the workshop. Those accepted will receive a $1,000.  See the workshop website for more information about the application process. Space is limited to 10 participants.  Application deadline is February 28. 

 

The workshop will be facilitated by Dr. Terry Mech, Library Director at King’s College in PA, and a nationally known expert in information literacy and assessment. 

 

Information literacy is defined as the ability to recognize when information is needed and to locate, evaluate, and use it effectively.  The workshop supports the university’s objective of providing students with opportunities to master skills and competencies which will enable them to succeed in a rapidly changing world.  Students in all majors can apply these information literacy skills in their coursework now, later as they enter their professional careers, and throughout their lives as active citizens in their communities.

 

Students learn information literacy skills best when their assignments  provide an opportunity to practice and refine those research skills.  In a collaborative situation, the faculty member can provide librarians with the understanding of the nature of course and assignment objectives, while librarians can point the instructor to various print and online resources available within the discipline to achieve those objectives.

 

2006 IL Workshop Participants
Participants at the May, 2006 Information Literacy Workshop

Physics Professor Bill Ingham participated in the Libraries' first information literacy workshop in 2006, where he collaborated with Science Librarian Meris Mandernach to create two assignments.   “The workshop experience was pivotal in clarifying my thinking about what learning goals were worthy and realistic for my students,” says Professor Ingham.

 

One assignment, for first-year majors, asked students to read a particular article and develop a “background reading list” and a “further reading list” that would be appropriate for various audiences ranging from the general public to a scholarly audience.  In the second assignment, for more advanced physics majors, students created a resource guide that would give them an overview of an unfamiliar area of physics.  Professor Ingham sums up the experience, saying: “The workshop was terrific.  It was both inspiring and practical.”  Meris Mandernach adds, “The value of working with faculty was exceedingly important as well.”  She also notes that the assignments are still in use and continue to evolve.

 

Other assignments in that initial workshop took many forms:  Marketing Professor Theresa Flaherty asked each of her students to choose a print library resource from a list in the marketing field and create an ad that promoted its use.  Management Professor Bob Eliason had his students research theoretical works in the field, and synthesize the information into a wiki that served as a reference tool in the discipline for the class.  English Professor Dabney Bankert and English Librarian Melissa VanVuuren developed an assignment involving a traditional bibliography, but with emphases on how to use the discipline's print research tools and the interconnections of print and online resources.

 

See the workshop website for more information about the workshop and to download an application form.  For further questions, contact librarian Jason Sokoloff at 8-5569 or sokolojk@jmu.edu.

 

 

 

E-mail comments and questions to:
leidinrm@jmu.edu


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