Information fluency growth through engineering curricula: Analysis of students' text-processing skills and beliefs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

BACKGROUND Based on ABET engineering criteria and goals for engineering education, students must learn to actively process information and critically evaluate written and electronic sources of information in order to achieve professional skill levels. PURPOSE (HYPOTHESIS) Two hypotheses were tested: during the freshman through senior years, (i) engineering students increase their use of cognitive strategies to process written forms of information; (ii) the ways in which students respond to written information become more interpretive, analytic, and critical. DESIGN/METHOD Two validated scales were administered to engineering majors in their freshman through senior years. One scale measured use of reading strategies; the other measured attitudes about interpreting and critiquing written information. Additional questions concerning school-related academic and reading activities and were used to interpret the scale scores in the context of the engineering curriculum. RESULTS First-year students had significantly higher analytic skills upon entry into the university, compared to a general university sample. There was a significant increase in the use of reading strategies from freshman through senior years, particularly practical reading strategies. There was also an increase in using written information as a resource, and a decline in critical analysis of written sources. Data about texts that students read linked these patterns to an emphasis in the curriculum on reading textbooks, solving textbook problems, and taking tests. CONCLUSIONS These cross-sectional data suggest that engineering curricula are a significant influence in shaping the development of information fluency. A major implication is that engineering students have analytic and intellectual skills that can be developed further through adjustments to curricula.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-416
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Engineering Education
Volume100
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2011

Keywords

  • ABET
  • Information fluency
  • Student progression

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