Experiment Focuses on ‘Information Competency’

BONNIE SCHINDLER
El Vaquero Staff Writer

It is 3 a.m., the research paper is due tomorrow, and you are awake trying to formulate a thesis.

You hand your wrinkled, eight-page paper into your English teacher the next day, still confused and very tired.

Having difficulty writing a thorough, clear and concise research paper is a common problem here at GCC, where the English department requires all English class students to present a research paper.

Four GCC faculty members decided to help the students, in hopes of eliminating the un-researched research paper, by conducting an experiment involving the library and an English class.

Upon receiving a grant from the Fund for Instructional Improvement, librarian Deborah Moore, librarian Steve Brewster, Cynthia Dorroh, assistant professor of nursing, and Michael Moreau, professor of mass communications, conducted research during the spring 2001 semester and presented the results in the Reference Services Review, a scholarly journal. The article, “Information Competency Instruction in a Two-Year College: One Size Does Not Fit All,” was written by all four faculty members.

The plan was to familiarize students with the library and bring the research skills back into the English class.

The Library 191 class, which is designed to offer lifelong research and information competency skills, was paired with English 101, which is designed to improve reading and writing skills to a college level.

In the beginning of the semester, while English 101 teachers traded syllabi with librarians, students signed up for concurrent classes in library sciences and English. The pairing of the classes was named the Information Competency Program, and the semester began.

The English class met three days a week, and instruction was based around reading and writing, not teaching how to prepare a research paper. That was to be the job of Library 191.

“The English teachers should not have to keep up with teaching everything in the ever-changing library world,” Moore said. Directly after English class, students would meet in the library for a course in library research.

“Research papers are started very early in the semester,” said Moore. Topics for the paper are discussed; then, both books and Internet searching are implemented into the process.

The location of the class was “great because if students needed more reference, they were in the library, so the books were right there,” Moore said.

For two days a week, for one hour per class, students embarked on an information-competency journey. The students improved their grades at the end of the semester by 51 percent, compared to those students in English 101 who did not take the pairing, thanks in part to a formula taught by the librarians.

“First, you teach how to identify what you need for research. Second, you teach how to find the information, and third, you actually use the information,” Moore said.

Brewster added, “With the ever-increasing volume of information itself, the second part of the formula is both critical and not as easy as it may seem.”

For this reason, the librarians decided that another large part of the campus — allied health/nursing — should receive the aid as well.
The nursing program instructors, and the English faculty, agreed that they would like to spend less time teaching technical data and more time with medical information.

The nursing program students already take on so many courses during the semester that it was difficult at first to implement the Information Competency Program into the students’ schedules.

“Recognizing the need for competency was easy. Figuring out how to fit these needed skills into the program without requiring busy, often overwhelmed students to take yet another class was harder,” said Dorroh.

The solution was to have Brewster give 30-minute instructional sessions during regular class time. This eliminated the need for students to take an extra unit and helped raise the total passing grades of the class by 49 percent, compared to students that participated in the nursing program without the instructional sessions.

Despite the increase in grades and success in the pairing and infusion experiments, one size does not fit all The goal was to implement the Information Competency Program as a required course, but budget cuts have taken a toll on all areas of the campus.

“Given enough space, enough money and enough teachers, the required collaboration would be ideal, but the money to fund the expansion of the project is not necessarily in the budget,” said Moore.

What are in the budget are library workshops, although there are fewer workshops this semester due to budget cuts.

The library offers six workshops.to aid in the library education process.