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The Effectiveness of Information Literacy Instruction at St. Cloud State University: A Lesson in Situated Cognition

By Jennifer C. Hill


In 2006 The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article describing a study completed by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). ETS estimated that only 13% of incoming freshman students were information literate. Studies by Mittermeyer (2005), Wassman (2000), and the Intersegmenatl Committee of the Academic Senates of the California Community Colleges (2002) confirm this diagnosis. Information literacy speaks to the skills of finding, evaluating, and presenting information. Indeed, these skills are crucial in the information age. This paper sought to discover if the for-credit undergraduate information literacy courses (Information Media [IM] 104 and 204) at St. Cloud State University (SCSU) effectively provided students with information literacy skills that are being applied in subsequent courses and/or in the world outside of academia. In discovering the answer to this question, the context in which the instruction was delivered was considered. Learning theorists Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger (1991) developed the theory of situated cognition which suggests that learning is contextual and any knowledge of skills gained through instruction are dependent upon the environment in which they are presented. Therefore, skills learned inside the classroom will not transfer to the outside world unless connections are drawn between the two environments (Anderson, Reder, & Herbert, 1996). This paper explored the effectiveness of St. Cloud State University\u27s residential, for-credit, undergraduate information literacy courses. Did enrolling in an undergraduate information literacy course at SCSU contribute to graduates being information literate? More specifically, this paper aimed to address the following research questions through the use of a survey: How did the skills and knowledge learned in an information literacy course transfer to subsequent or simultaneous courses, everyday life and the workplace? How did students who enrolled in IM 104 of IM 204 feel about the knowledge and skills gained in the course, particularly if it contributed to their academic success in any way (higher grades, ease of finding credible sources of information for course assignments, etc.) What credible sources of scholarly information (typically those that are peer-reviewed and written by authorities in the field) were students able to identify and locate after taking an information literacy course? How did the students change their information seeking behaviors by looking for scholarly sources for information (electronic databases, Book in Print, credible Web sites, etc., instead of passively surfing the Internet) as a result of enrolling in an information literacy course? Did students use the library and its resources more frequently as a result of taking an information literacy course

Topics: Information Literacy
Publisher: theRepository at St. Cloud State
Year: 2008
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