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Case studies in the classroom: assessing a pilot information literacy curriculum for English composition

Rachel Wishkoski (Utah State University, Logan, Utah, USA)
Katie Strand (Utah State University, Logan, Utah, USA)
Alex Sundt (Utah State University, Logan, Utah, USA)
Deanna Allred (Utah State University, Logan, Utah, USA)
Diana J. Meter (Utah State University, Logan, Utah, USA)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 24 May 2021

Issue publication date: 19 July 2021




This mixed-methods study assesses a pilot library curriculum in a general education English composition course. Case-based learning (CBL), a form of problem-based learning (PBL), was used to scaffold information literacy skills and concepts across sessions. This article explores the approach's impact on student learning and engagement.


Participants were enrolled in four sections of an undergraduate composition course. Two sections were taught with the CBL library curriculum, and two with the standard library curriculum as a control. Pretest/posttest surveys included quantitative and qualitative measures to assess students in several areas of information literacy. Weekly reflections from a subsample of students were analyzed, and the research team conducted structured classroom observations and teaching reflections.


Quantitative survey results did not support the hypotheses that the CBL curriculum would increase students' confidence and skill levels compared to their control section peers. Although there was no significant difference between sections in measured information literacy outcomes, students generally agreed that the case studies used in the CBL curriculum taught skills applicable to their research. Teaching observation data revealed the cohesion of the curriculum across library sessions and increased student engagement in classroom activities. However, some of the case studies could be improved, and some limitations in study design point to the need for further research.


This study addresses a gap in the literature through a mixed-methods assessment of CBL pedagogy using a control group, contributing to an understanding of the role of PBL pedagogies in information literacy curricula.



The authors would like to thank the library student employees and interns who helped with curriculum development: Maddie Thomas, Madeleine Bell, Luke White and Alyssa Begaye. They also thank their colleague, Jessica Sandberg, who helped with recruitment for this study, and the instructor who was willing to have his sections of ENGL 2010 participate as our control group. There were no funding sources for this research.


Wishkoski, R., Strand, K., Sundt, A., Allred, D. and Meter, D.J. (2021), "Case studies in the classroom: assessing a pilot information literacy curriculum for English composition", Reference Services Review, Vol. 49 No. 2, pp. 176-193.



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