Using an Interdisciplinary Approach to Teach Undergraduates Communication and Information Literacy Skills

Andrea L. Dinkelman, Iowa State University
Jeanine E. Aune, Iowa State University
Gaile R. Nonnecke, Iowa State University

Originally published in Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education, 39 (2010): 137–144, by the American Society of Agronomy.

Abstract

For successful and productive careers, undergraduate students need effective communication and critical thinking skills; information literacy is a substantial component in the development of these skills. Students often perceive communication courses as distinct and separate from their chosen discipline. Faculty from the Departments of English and Horticulture and the library at Iowa State University collaborated in a foundation communication course (English 250). The course incorporates five components—finding information sources; evaluating information sources; and preparing an annotated bibliography, a research paper, and a research poster—all within the context of horticulture. The objective of the collaboration was to integrate communication and information literacy concepts into English 250 and relate these concepts to the students’ discipline of horticulture. Assessment data and focus group discussions strongly validate students’ appreciation for an interdisciplinary approach to teaching communication and information literacy skills within the discipline.