I finally found it – a publication in which a librarian is involved in a STEM retention initiative! The journal, College Teaching, published “Embedding Multiple Literacies into STEM Curricula” by Soules et al. in 2014. A team of six STEM faculty and one STEM librarian took on the daunting challenge of changing pedagogy and increasing retention at California State University, East Bay.
Their approach was to use multiple literacies to increase science learning in one upper division and three introductory STEM courses. They based activities on standards and techniques developed for K-12: Next Generation Science Standards, Common Core State Standards Initiative, and SQ3R. The librarian contributed by training students in information literacy and SQ3R, holding office hours for individual help on research papers, reviewing and commenting on draft papers, and creating online tutorials.
What were the results? Well, it was hard to tell because of all the variables. The faculty did not all use the same pedagogical tools in their courses, making comparisons between courses difficult. Although in general, the students resisted doing anything that increased the amount of time they needed to spend on a course. Within courses, the team found that students had differing responses to the reading, writing, and information activities. The team reports a learning gain of 17% in the chemistry class and 31% in the physics class, but cannot attribute the gains to their interventions, again because of numerous variables.
Disappointing . . . but still valuable. This team used teaching approaches with sound theoretical foundations that are worth trying again (which they are, by the way). Their work is a reminder that it is important to arrange something close to a control group to show the effectiveness of an intervention. And these faculty members had the foresight to involve a librarian from the beginning. Did I mention that librarian Aline Soules is the first author?
Image attribution: “Csueb view” by Jennifer Williams – originally posted to Flickr as csueb view. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Csueb_view.jpg#/media/File:Csueb_view.jpg