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The Ecology of Information Literacy: Modes of Inquiry, Location, and Assessment in a Biology Department’s Writing Class Public Deposited

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  • Like many universities, the University of Colorado Boulder’s (CU’s) curriculum contains capstone courses enabling undergraduate students to develop skills in employing written communication in post-graduation, professional work. Frequently, capstones focus on writing genres within certain disciplines. Such is the case for one writing class housed within CU’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EBIO 3940: Written Communication in the Sciences). The class adheres with curricular priorities EBIO formulated in response to calls for enhanced STEM learning.1 Building upon the department’s priorities, faculty teaching EBIO 3940 aim for students to move beyond mere grammatical and stylistic correctness into a critical understanding of writing’s purposes within STEM. To build that awareness, many learning activities have been designed to teach students how to extract information from peer-reviewed research reports and critically assess its accuracy, authority, and breadth. However, too few of EBIO 3940’s students were showing prowess in such skills, despite information literacy (IL) sessions. Students were able to perform searches competently, but we noted that they lacked the ability to apply deeper analyses. As noted by Feekery and Emerson, the class was perating under the premise that IL skills and writing skills were largely independent; we were teaching IL as a series of procedures, rather than as concepts deeply enmeshed within writing and reasoning.2 Farrell and Badke similarly call “to position IL as [an] integral part of disciplinary socialization.”3 We saw a need to act toward integrating IL within the students’ STEM education and to guide them toward enculturation in their disciplines.4 Once socialized into disciplinary practices in the sciences, “good writers will clearly and concisely convey information, support their statements with data, incorporate credible outside sources as needed, and properly cite information from outside sources.”5 When planning sessions for EBIO 3940, we redesigned our instruction to give students opportunities to participate in scholarly conversations so they can join the community of scientists.

Date Issued
  • 2018-04-06
Academic Affiliation
File Extent
  • 521-536
Last Modified
  • 2020-01-13
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  • 978-083898991-3