Incorporating Information Literacy into Climate Change Teaching

Lura Joseph
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection

Resources in this top level collection a) must have scored Exemplary or Very Good in all five review categories, and must also rate as “Exemplary” in at least three of the five categories. The five categories included in the peer review process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

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This page first made public: Oct 24, 2006


This module contains 10 topics related to finding and evaluating scientific information related to climate change. The skills learned are transferable to any subject area. Each topic includes exercises.

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This module is geared toward upper level undergraduates and early graduate students, but could be modified for honors high school students. Topics can be completed by individuals outside class, or by groups in a class setting. The module could be modified for any science course, but current examples are focused on Climate Change.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Skills and concepts will be developed while progressing through the topics.

How the activity is situated in the course

The module, or topics within the module, could be used stand-alone. It was created in support of an upper level undergraduate seminar class in the geosciences for which each student writes a paper and presents the paper to the class. The presentations and papers are meant to emulate those typical for professional meetings such as GSA. The module teaches the information skills necessary for a successful outcome.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

The activities are directed toward helping students understand how to find, evaluate, and organize information, and how to effectively report information orally and in writing. The emphasis is on scientific, interdisciplinary information. The following topics are included:
Topic 1: Organization of Literature
Topic 2: The Research & Publication Process
Topic 3: Using the Right Tools (online databases etc.)
Topic 4: The Search Process
Topic 5: Journals Related to Climate Change
Topic 6: Finding Other Information (data sets, images, etc.)
Topic 7: Use and Misuse of the Web
Topic 8: Evaluating Information
Topic 9: How to Read a Scientific Paper
Topic 10: Reporting Information

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

The exercises are rather open-ended. Students are expected to study the information and examples presented in the topic, and then think deeply about how the information relates to their final product in the last topic. They are asked to summarize what they learned from the effort. What students gain from the module will be proportionate to the amount of independent thinking that they put into it.

Other skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals: critical thinking, writing, oral presentations, working in groups and individually, understanding the research & publication process and scientific method.

Description of the activity/assignment

This module includes 10 topics related to finding, evaluating, and presenting scientific information related to climate change or other interdisciplinary topics.

The ultimate goal is for students to prepare a paper and present it to their colleagues as though they were giving it at typical professional meeting such as American Geophysical Union, Geological Society of America, or American Quaternary Association. However, the technical level of the talk should be at a level that the class will understand and enjoy.

The topic should demonstrate scientific method rather than being merely descriptive or primarily applied science/technology. Students should use current literature. The presentation will be more interesting if the subject is somewhat controversial. The final product should demonstrate that the student understands and has gained the skills presented in all 10 topics.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Each topic includes an exercise. In addition, the final topic will demonstrate whether the student has met the goals of the module.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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