by Chris Sweet (Illinois Wesleyan University)

Service Learning is a quickly growing movement within higher education that empowers students to utilize classroom knowledge to solve a problem or effect a change within their local community. Service learning courses exemplify the concept of active learning because students are continually applying knowledge to a “real problem.” Service learning is distinct from volunteering or participating in many internships because it focuses not only on the action –the doing- but also on the broader sociopolitical contexts of a project. Information Literacy is critical for getting students to understand the “why” and “how” that should ground all service learning projects.

This presentation will begin with a broad overview of the service learning movement and a few brief examples of academic librarian involvement in service learning courses. Next, I will present a case study that draws on my own experiences as an embedded librarian in the Environmental Studies Senior Seminar at Illinois Wesleyan University. The students in this service learning course are tasked with identifying an environmental problem within the local community and then working with a community partner to identify ways to solve or alleviate that problem. In my experience, teaching information literacy through service learning has been the single best method getting students to understand how information literacy actually works in real world settings. Student feedback from the course will also be shared. The presentation will conclude with summarizing some of the emerging best practices for incorporating information literacy into service learning courses.

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