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Thursday, July 19 • 11:30am - 12:30pm
Charting their Own Path: Following the Trail of First-Year Undergraduates' Life-Research Experiences

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What if we made first-year students' life-research experiences the focus of curriculum design for information literacy? A central tenet of constructivist learning theory states that new learning builds on prior knowledge (Good and Brophy, 1994; Cooperstein & Kocevar-Weidinger, 2004), yet an examination of recent literature suggests that it is common practice to focus on gaps in knowledge when developing information literacy programming for first-year college students (Varlejs & Stec, 2014; Julien & Barker, 2009; Nierenberg & Fjeldbu, 2015). The authors conducted a study of 40 first-year students from across four diverse institutions. We were interested in determining the prior knowledge and strengths that they bring to bear when learning about college-level research, with a view to designing learning experiences that capitalize on students’ existing knowledge and experience. A phenomenographic analysis of interview transcripts suggests that first-year students already bring considerable research skills to the first-year classroom through their life-research experiences.

The hands-on workshop is based on the authors’ study. The facilitators of this session plan to design a series of authentic, real-world tasks, in which participants will discover what cognitive connections exist between their real-world information seeking experiences and academic research. The tasks we will ask workshop participants to explore mirror the tasks we asked students about in our study. Participants will build on prior knowledge and learn with others to discover what first-year students already know about research. We can make students' prior knowledge the basis for library instruction based on strengths rather than deficits!


Cooperstein, S.E., & Kocevar-Weidinger, E. (2004). Beyond active learning: A constructivist approach to learning. Reference Services Review, 32, 141-148. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00907320410537658

Good, T.L., & Brophy, J.E. (1994). Looking in classrooms. New York, NY: HarperCollins College Publishers

Julien, H., & Barker, S. (2009). How high-school students find and evaluate scientific information: A basis for information literacy skills development. Library & Information Science Research, 31, 12-17. doi:10.1016/j.lisr.2008.10.008

Nierenberg, E., & Fjeldbu, O.G. (2015). How much do first-year undergraduate students in Norway know about information literacy? Journal of Information Literacy, 9, 15-33. http://doi.dx.org/10.11645/9.1.1983

Varlejs, J., Stec, E., & Kwon, H. (2014). Factors affecting students’ information literacy as they transition from high school to college. School Library Research, 17, 2-23. Retrieved from: http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslpubsandjournals/slr/vol17/SLR_FactorsAffecting_V17.pdf

avatar for Emily Cox

Emily Cox

Scholarly Resources Librarian: Humanities, University of Texas, San Antonio
Emily Cox is the Scholarly Resources Librarian for Humanities at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She works extensively with students and faculty in Philosophy, Classics, and Music.
avatar for Mark Lenker

Mark Lenker

Teaching and Learning Librarian, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Mark Lenker is a Teaching and Learning Librarian at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where he works extensively with first-year English classes and first-year seminars for the College of Liberal Arts. Mark’s research interests include information literacy, political discourse... Read More →
avatar for Tatiana Pashkova-Balkenhol

Tatiana Pashkova-Balkenhol

Undergraduate Research & Instruction Librarian, Millersville University
Tatiana Pashkova-Balkenhol serves as Undergraduate Research and Instruction Librarian at Millersville University, PA. She facilitates the library’s research fellow program that engages undergraduates in carrying out individual research projects while participating in a community... Read More →

Thursday July 19, 2018 11:30am - 12:30pm MDT
University Center Ballroom West