Authentic engagement

Kevin Michael Klipfel (Meriam Library, California State University, Chico, California, USA)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Publication date: 3 June 2014



The purpose of this case study is to measure the impact of authenticity – the operation of one’s true self in one’s daily activities – on student engagement and learning in the context of information literacy instruction.


The study was conducted during information literacy instruction for English 105 classes at the House Undergraduate Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A classroom modeling exercise was developed to help students choose authentic topics of interest. Students then filled out a questionnaire to assess whether choosing authentic topics led to increased engagement and increased learning according to Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) Information Literacy Competency Standards compared to students in the control group. Results were analyzed using an independent samples t-test.


The data illustrate that the exercise successfully helped students choose authentic topics and that these students’ motivation to learn was higher than students in the control group. Students in the experimental group also, on average, rated their learning of ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards significantly higher than students in the control group.


The study provides the first empirical data confirming the positive impact of authenticity on student motivation and learning in the context of information literacy instruction. An implication of the study is that it is possible not only to provide students with resources – as the traditional role of librarians might have it – but also that librarians can have a positive and substantial impact on the content students choose to work on, and the degree to which they care about it. The impact of this particular result could radically change the way instruction librarians view the nature and scope of their pedagogical role in academic libraries.



Michael Klipfel, K. (2014), "Authentic engagement", Reference Services Review, Vol. 42 No. 2, pp. 229-245.

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