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Investigating the efficacy of embedment: experiments in information literacy integration

Meagan Bowler (Mount Royal College, Calgary, Canada)
Kori Street (Mount Royal College, Calgary, Canada)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 14 November 2008




This paper seeks to present the findings of a series of experiments in embedding a librarian at a variety of levels into the undergraduate classroom. This study aimed to determine whether different levels of librarian embedment correlated with improvement in undergraduate students' information literacy (IL) skills.


Students from five undergraduate History courses and two undergraduate Women's Studies courses participated in the study. A librarian was embedded in each of the courses, at a variety of levels across courses. All student assignments were graded using a standardized rubric. Students' IL skills were assessed using the research component of the rubric, which measured their ability to locate, retrieve, evaluate, and incorporate sources into their assignments. Students' research and overall scores on their initial problem‐based learning (PBL) assignments and written assignments were compared to their final assignment scores in order to assess improvement over the course of the term.


There was significant improvement in students' scores when a librarian was conspicuously and obviously embedded in the academic classroom. Students' scores showed little improvement when the librarian was embedded but not explicitly identified as a specialist in information literacy, and when the researchers attempted to embed information literacy seamlessly in the classroom.

Research limitations/implications

The research was conducted only in courses in the Humanities.

Practical implications

This study suggests that students' IL skills improve most when IL is identified in the classroom as a specialized subject taught by a highly trained specialist. The methodology used may be useful for others studying the impact of IL instruction.


Although embedding has been studied and reported on in the literature in a variety of contexts, the study of different levels of embedding, quantified using the same rubric is unique.



Bowler, M. and Street, K. (2008), "Investigating the efficacy of embedment: experiments in information literacy integration", Reference Services Review, Vol. 36 No. 4, pp. 438-449.



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Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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