Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Article Presentation: Integrating Information Literacy with a Sequenced English Composition Curriculum

For my description of the article I read this week, I’m stealing Megan’s beautiful research article meme:

Title: “Integrating Information Literacy with a Sequenced English Composition Curriculum”

Authors: Wendy Holliday and Britt Fagerheim

Where you can find it: portal: Libraries and the Academy. 6.2 (2006): 169-184.

Audience: Compositionists and academic librarians.

Genre: Quantitative research chiefly based on surveys.  The narrative follows the course of the study, but I would not call it “story-telling.”  There are hints of qualitative methods, such as focus groups of students and librarians and anecdotal comments.

Epistemology: Post-positivistic in that it is hypothesis generating and it does not generalize universally.  The authors use the surveys to generate a hypothesis, which they then incorporate into the curriculum and assess, to some extent.

General focus: authors seek the best way to sequence information literacy instruction within the existing composition curriculum.  Their two research problems: 1) library instruction not meeting the needs of their students and 2) shortage of resources (librarians) (170).  I chose the article because I was hoping to find something cross-disciplinary.

Research questions:
  • What do our students do when conducting research? What are the gaps between what they do and what we would like them to do?
  • What are the English instructors’ learning outcomes for English 1010 and 2010 as they relate to information literacy? How do they identify gaps in students’ information literacy?
  • How do the librarians define and prioritize information literacy learning outcomes?
  • Where is the common ground between librarians and English instructors? (171)

Lenses/theories at work: Both authors are librarians and this article was published in a library journal.  I would not call it interdisciplinary; I would place it squarely within the library discipline.  I would say that in Cross’ schema, it is written from a community perspective, as the librarians try to work with the English faculty to improve information literacy education.

Methodology: “We decided to conduct a literature review of undergraduate information-seeking behavior to identify general trends among this population….We then conducted surveys with USU librarians and English instructors.  We also held a debriefing session with librarians, following an initial survey.  Through discussion, we reached a consensus on learning goals and refined the results of the librarian survey” (171).  The researchers counted the results of the survey, but did not do much interpretation past the numbers.  No triangulation was mentioned.

The Research found: The librarians thought that they should teach Information Literacy Standards One and Two and that writing instructors should teach Standards Three and Four.  They thought that Standard Five should be shared.  The surveys given to the English professors asked which Standards were important and which class the Standards should be taught in; the English faculty indicated that all the standards were important, though Standards One and Two had somewhat of an edge (175). 

  • Clear in terms of their purpose and methodology
  • Used standard terms and learning outcomes (the ACRL Standards)
  • The information gained was put to use in redesign of the curriculum and then assessed.
  • Innovative “modules” from which instructors can choose to meet the needs of their class.
  • Too localized
  • The surveys given to the English faculty and the librarians were different, thus making it difficult to compare their opinions.
  • Debate between credit-bearing and course-integrated information literacy was the topic of the first paragraph, leading the reader to think that perhaps that would be the focus of this study.  It serves as somewhat of a red herring.
  • All research on student needs was done through the lit review.
  • On the English teacher survey, the professors seemed to rank all of the items high.  This probably was an accurate reflection of their belief, but it doesn’t help much in terms of research.  
  • Assessment completely subjective: “all of the English instructors surveyed said that students’ research met their expectations in terms of quality….Students appeared to be more confident….Students used higher quality and more relevant sources in their assignments….The vast majority of students said they learned something new as part of the library instruction” (181).

Implications: I thought the best part of the paper was the description of the modules for their 2010 course, even though overall this was a very small part of the article.  I would like to see research on these modules: how are they developed? Is it easier to measure learning module-by-module? Are some modules more successful than others, and why? I would have also liked to see much more involvement of the English faculty in the study overall, so if I were going to research in this area, I would try to do better at gathering information from the composition instructors.


  1. So sharp/focused/readable--really lovely.

    In contrast, the study seemed quite sprawling......I suppose a survey of the field as it stands at that context....


  2. yes, they could have done a much better job at focusing their research. My guess would be that they started this project as problem-solving and decided later on to publish.

  3. You have exerted much effort and time in constructing this article. Many students will surely benefit from this.

    english composition