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Embedding Lifelong Learning Skills into a First-Year Engineering Course through Introduction of an Independent Research Project and Information Literacy Skills
ASEE Conference Proceedings (online) (2011)
  • Chris Plouff, Grand Valley State University
  • Debbie Morrow, Grand Valley State University

This paper reports on a work in progress to address ABET program outcome ‘i’ (“graduates have a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in, lifelong learning”) in the Bachelor of Science in Engineering programs (mid-size, undergraduate engineering program) at a large Master’s-granting university in the mid-western United States. One performance criterion used by the programs to assess program outcome ‘i’ is the ability to find, evaluate, and effectively use information independently. This concept is introduced in the first-year of the programs, and is reinforced in an intentional thread throughout the curriculum, culminating with the senior capstone project.

The current study focuses on the final assignment, an independent research project conducted by each student, in a required engineering measurement and data analysis course typically taken by first-year engineering majors. A learner-centered approach is taken, based in self-determination theory, allowing the student to choose a topic of interest to him/her, research it, and present the topic to the class, with the requirement that the material presented is framed by the objectives of the course (proper use of engineering measurements and appropriate data analysis).

School of Engineering course instructors have partnered with the university’s Engineering Liaison Librarian to incorporate information literacy skills instruction as a component of the course. The University Libraries’ have recently (2009) developed and adopted an “Information Literacy Core Competencies” framework, enumerating learning objectives at Basic, Major, and Graduate levels in six skill areas. In our collaboration, a goal is to identify the specific skill areas and learning objectives that will be the basis for the required information literacy workshop. Evaluation of the students’ performance in the first semester using this new process for introducing independent learning, and assessment of a required, accompanying information literacy workshop, provided evidence that better achievement of program outcome ‘i’ might be realized by further revising both the final course assignment and the contents and presentation of the workshop, and more tightly integrating the assignment as the specific target of the information literacy workshop.

During the current semester (second offering that includes the new component in the course), pre- and post-tests are planned in order to formally assess student progress in improving knowledge and developing skills and abilities related to ABET program outcomes ‘f’ (an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility), ‘g’ (an ability to communicate effectively), and ‘i.’ The longer-term goal is to expand on the foundation developed in the first-year curriculum for independent learning and information literacy, and to scaffold toward higher-level skill development at the third- or fourth-year level as a formal component of the curriculum.

  • Engineering Education,
  • Lifelong Learning,
  • ABET
Publication Date
June, 2011
Publisher Statement
ASEE 2011 Annual Conference & Exposition - Proceedings
Citation Information
Chris Plouff and Debbie Morrow. "Embedding Lifelong Learning Skills into a First-Year Engineering Course through Introduction of an Independent Research Project and Information Literacy Skills" ASEE Conference Proceedings (online) (2011)
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