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Freshman English Information Literacy Instructors' Guide

This toolkit is intended to support information literacy instruction in Freshman English (ENGL 101 and UHON 110) classes. It provides resources for use by library faculty and teaching faculty.

Active Learning

Active learning techniques cause students to engage with the subjects rather than passively take in information.  Examples of active learning activities include brainstorming, discussing, teaching, journaling, group work, focused listening, formulating questions, notetaking, annotating, and roleplaying.  Lecturing is not an active learning technique!

Situated Learning

Authentic, situated teaching and learning arise out of social-constructivist thinking that sees learning as "an active process of building knowledge and skills within a supportive group or community (Herrington & Oliver, 2000). This view of contextualized learning focuses on the social construction of knowledge posited in the writings of Lev Vygotsky; through enabling and supporting communication, interaction, and collaboration, knowledge can be coconstructed (1978).

Herrington and Oliver (2000) have identified the following characteristics of authentic learning:

  •  authentic contexts that reflect the way the knowledge will be used  in real-life
  •  authentic activities that are complex, ill-defined problems and investigations
  •  access to expert performances enabling modelling of processes
  •  multiple roles and perspectives providing alternative solution pathway
  •  collaboration allowing for the social construction of knowledge
  •  opportunities for reflection involving metacognition
  •  opportunities for articulation to enable tacit knowledge to be made explicit
  •  coaching and scaffolding by the teacher at critical times
  •  authentic assessment that reflect the way knowledge is assessed in real life.

Authentic or situated learning is based on the realization that, outside of the educational system, learning is social, i.e., it occurs naturally in contexts that demand the learning of skills and knowledge for participation in group activities.  Through interaction with a community of practice, learners naturally internalize the knowledge and skills necessary for group participation, developing from novices inhabiting the  periphery to central, expert participants.



Problem-Based Learning

Problem-based learning, as the name indicates, revolves around problem solving as the context of learning.  Students are given a problem to solve, and they engage in research in order to co-construct a solution.  Faculty and librarians scaffold student learning by providing coaching and modeling discipline-specific expert behavior.  In solving problems, students move from "legitimate peripheral participation" to subject experts who are full players in the communities of practice of their disciplines. 

Contact the Author

Contact Dr. Carol Leibiger at: or 605-677-6089.

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