Staff Publications - University Libraries


I felt like such a freshman’: Integrating first-year student identities through collaborative reflective learning

Document Type


Publication Date

October 2014


This poster reports on qualitative analysis of 97 first-year student essays generated from an information literacy exercise designed collaboratively by four academic support units at DePaul University in Fall 2013. Working as an ACRL Assessment in Action team, the Library, Writing Center, Office for Academic Advising, and Center for Students with Disabilities integrated a library experience into an academic skills unit led by peer mentors.

First-year students were asked to consider a topic of personal or academic interest, use the library discovery tool to identify an item, physically find the item in the library, check it out, and reflect on the process The data for the study are 1-2 page student essays written as homework for credit. Students were asked to reflect on the process of finding library materials, what they found to be novel about the academic library in comparison to previous library experiences, and ways in which the library can support their success as academic learners.

The exercise deliberately invites students to look for physical materials in order to prompt students to explore the library space and get them out of the comfort zone of internet-based research. It also intentionally connects to an overall co-curricular theme of defining the university experience as a learner and developing habits of mind that support academic success.

Previous literature employing qualitative analysis of student writing about the research process has centered on longer-term research diaries, yielding rich insights into cognitive and affective elements of library research (Herring; McGuinness and Brien; Mellon; Lahlafi, Rushton, and Stretton). This study will add to that literature by:

•Building an empirical basis for understanding how first-year students may engage with ACRL threshold concepts in information literacy in their own words (Hofer, Townsend, and Brunetti).

•Seeking evidence of student learning outcomes in a collaboratively designed context.

•Exploring how new college researchers situate their academic identities through narrative (Klentzin).

•Mapping key themes from the first iteration of the exercise to allow the collaborative team to further develop the exercise and to train peer mentors to debrief students in the classroom.

References Herring, James. “A Grounded Analysis of Year 8 Students’ Reflections on Information Literacy Skills and Techniques.” School Libraries Worldwide 15.1 (2009): 1–13. Print.

Hofer, Amy R., Lori Townsend, and Korey Brunetti. “Troublesome Concepts and Information Literacy: Investigating Threshold Concepts for IL Instruction.” portal: Libraries and the Academy 12.4 (2012): 387–405. Print.

Klentzin, Jacqueline Courtney. “The Borderland of Value: Examining Student Attitudes towards Secondary Research.” Reference Services Review 38.4 (2010): 557–570.

Lahlafi, Alison E., Diane Rushton, and Erica Stretton. “Active and Reflective Learning Initiatives to Improve Web Searching Skills of Business Students.” Journal of Information Literacy 6.1 (2012): 34–49. Print.

McGuinness, Claire, and Michelle Brien. “Using Reflective Journals to Assess the Research Process.” Reference Services Review 35.1 (2007): 21–40.

Mellon, C A. “Library Anxiety: A Grounded Theory and Its Development.” College & Research Libraries 47.2 (1986): 160–165. Print.

Source Publication

Library Research Seminar VI: The Engaged Librarian: Libraries Partnering with Campus and Community