As higher education transforms itself from a lecture-dominated enterprise to one that encourages active engagement by the students with the curriculum, librarians have a new avenue for inserting themselves into the educational mission of the university. At Purdue University, the libraries have been successful integrating problem-based learning activities into curricula in several departments. One of the most successful ventures at Purdue has been in the Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, where, in addition to our regular instructional presence, we have created ‘information labs’ in two courses so far, including the first year survey course taken by all EAS majors. The information lab takes the place of a regular lab in those classes, and involves the students tackling a research project, solving it, and writing up the results in some format. The lab uses a problem-based learning methodology, where students take ownership of a problem or situation, determine what their learning issues are, and then go about resolving those learning issues to solve their problem. The instructor acts as a guide, answering questions and guiding students through the process of problem solving, rather than standing up front and demonstrating databases for the students. The students work in small groups to facilitate peer learning as well, which has been shown to be a preferred method for students to learn. Since the information lab takes the students through all the steps in the problem-solving process, it naturally addresses each of the ACRL information literacy competencies, providing a well-rounded introduction to information literacy to the students. This paper describes the two information labs that have been created for the geosciences, one in the survey course, and one in mineralogy.

Published in:

Geoscience Information Society Annual Proceedings, 34 (2003): 73-76.

Date of this Version

December 2003