We have been working closely with the School of Undergraduate Studies (UGS) since it was formed in 2006 and I frequently get questions about our involvement and collaborations. So I decided to blog about it and hope it will be useful to people interested in the information literacy work we are doing in the core curriculum here at UT.
About the Signature Courses:
UGS offers over 200 Signature Courses each year. Knowing a little about the Signature Courses is essential to understanding our involvement:
- Signature Courses are required of every student in their first year at UT.
- These academically rigorous courses are designed to help students transform from excellent high school students to excellent college students. Each course has 7 required elements – one of which is information literacy – selected to ensure that students learn how to write, discuss, present and find, evaluate and use information.
- Distinguished faculty from every discipline across campus teach in this program. If they are interested, they propose a course which may or may not be accepted by UGS.
- Courses labelled UGS 302 and TC 302 are small format and capped at 18; courses labelled UGS 303 are large format and can be anywhere from 25 to 300. The large format classes have discussion sections that meet weekly and are run by specially trained TAs.
When we learned that the undergraduate curriculum was being reformed, we began our quest to integrate information literacy into that curriculum. We spoke with members of the Faculty Senate working on curricular reform as well as influential faculty on campus who supported our goals. When the inaugural Dean of Undergraduate Studies was appointed, we also approached him and were successful. We established program-level learning outcomes based on the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards.
Our goal is to integrate our program-level learning outcomes into each Signature Course in a way that support the goals of the particular course, and to assess our work to ensure students are learning. To achieve our goals, we reach out individually to every faculty member teaching a UGS course. We offer assignment design and course consultations to help faculty incorporate information literacy into their courses; instruction sessions tied to research assignments; tailored research guides; assignments and exercises; tutorials; and training of TAs to teach information literacy skills during discussion sections. In addition, we work with the UGS’ Sanger Learning Center to support the TAs directly, visiting their learning community cohort meetings to talk about how to teach information literacy skills to freshmen.
We also maintain and develop an Information Literacy Toolkit. Faculty may browse it to find learning objects they can use as is or adapt to their course on their own or with our help. It also includes examples of how other faculty have incorporated information literacy into their Signature Courses.
We offer an annual information literacy award to students enrolled in Signature Courses. While most students are nominated by their faculty, students are also allowed to self-nominate.
Our assessment plan outlines our approach in the Signature Courses, which includes pre and post-testing large numbers of students and assessing individual student work.
Other UGS Programs
In addition to working with the Signature Courses, we are involved with UGS in other ways.
One of our larger programs is with the First-year Interest Group program, or FIGs. We train all of the FIG mentors (upper division students who lead the interest groups) to lead a game-based program to teach their students what plagiarism is and strategies for avoiding it. You can read more about our plagiarism prevention approaches here.
We work closely with the Sanger Center in UGS on UGS TA support, but also partner with them to offer workshops in the Libraries on a variety of topics ranging from career exploration to public speaking. We partner with the Writing Flag Coordinator to teach workshops about teaching writing since it so often overlaps with teaching research. We support the Honors Colloquium each summer, promote Freshman Reading Round Up and work with the Office of Undergraduate Research. We are always looking for ways to expand our partnerships.