Epistemic beliefs and use of comprehension strategies by Indian and U.S. engineering undergraduates

Roman Taraban, Kristin E. Oliver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Engineers must actively process information and critically evaluate spoken, written, and electronic sources in their professional work. Data in this study were collected from a random sample of freshman through senior engineering students at an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and were compared to existing data from a sample of U.S. engineering students. English is used in all academic instruction at IITs, however, it is not students' native language. Literacy research suggests that individuals are disadvantaged when processing information in a nonnative language. This study applied two psychometric scales. One scale measured use of reading strategies; the other measured attitudes about interpreting and critiquing written information. Additional questions concerned school-related academic and reading activities. The findings are discussed in terms of language and cultural differences. Implications for curriculum change are also considered. One element in the training, credentialing, hiring, and retaining of engineers relates to their language and information skills. Competent engineers must be capable of both processing and communicating information effectively. The need for information-literate engineers is addressed in ABET 20091 criteria that include the ability to analyze and interpret data and to engage in engineering practices in global, economic, environmental, and societal contexts. These goals set the agenda for engineering education.2-4 Information competencies go beyond being able to comprehend or give a simple interpretation of information, and are regarded as intricate and complex. Starkey and colleagues5 use the term information fluency to refer to skills, attitudes, knowledge, and a range of ways of experiencing information use. In the Engineering Science program at Trinity University, for example, engineering students "learn to access, understand, and evaluate information, use it ethically, and create new material (papers, presentations, or other products) based on that information" with an emphasis on critical and creative thinking.3 The development of information fluency involves incremental growth in proficiency.5 It requires more than a single visit with the school librarian or a couple of written research assignments. Within a demanding and supportive curriculum, it would be reasonable to expect to observe development in information fluency in engineering students in their freshman to senior years.

Original languageEnglish
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2011


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