Purdue Libraries, College of Engineering initiative aimed at lifelong learning

August 27, 2013  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue Libraries and the university's College of Engineering are collaborating in an effort to assess and teach information gathering skills among engineering students.

"In our own research and in other findings, we discovered a need in self-directed learning, especially in information literacy," said Senay Purzer, an assistant professor in engineering education at Purdue and principal investigator on the project. "Engineering graduates must constantly renew and expand their skills in rapidly changing fields, and this program is designed to measure students' information literacy skills and to develop their abilities as they become practicing engineers."

Loosely defined, self-directed learning is a process where students determine their own learning needs, including knowing where to go to find the resources that can help them meet their objectives. That often involves information literacy skills, which is where Purdue Libraries fits into the project.

The effort received a $200,000 boost from the National Science Foundation to develop assessment tools that measure information literacy skills and attitudes among engineering students, said Michael Fosmire, head of the physical sciences, engineering and technology division of Purdue Libraries. Fosmire and Amy Van Epps, associate professor of library science, are co-principal investigators on the project.

"We expect to develop validated assessment tools that can accurately measure student performance, and we expect that these tools will lead to better and deeper conversations between engineering faculty and librarians about the skills students need in this area," Fosmire said.

The project includes two objectives. One is to develop surveys to measure students' perceptions of their self-directed learning skills to gather evidence and use that information to make effective decisions. The other objective incudes a multiple-choice information literacy test, one part focusing on assessing students' reflective judgment and information literacy skills and the second part checking the reasoning behind their answers.

The overall goal is to promote persistent, lifelong learning skills in alignment with ABET requirements and the Purdue University College of Engineering's Engineer of 2020 vision, to enable students to stay abreast of changes in their fields and be effective problem solvers as practicing engineers. The assessments provide engineering faculty with the tools and resources needed to do so.

The effort also initially includes the universities of Arkansas and Manitoba (Ontario, Canada), and Arizona State University. Additionally, project leaders also plan to share the program with others at professional research conferences and institutions across the nation. Several universities also have expressed an interest.

Writer: Jim Bush, 765-494-2077, jsbush@purdue.edu 

Sources: Senay Purzer, 765-496-1684, senay@purdue.edu

Michael Fosmire, 765-494-2858, fosmire@purdue.edu

Amy Van Epps, 765-496-7680, vanepa@purdue.edu

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