What Students Really do in the Library: An Observational Study

Lawrence Paretta, Long Island University
Amy Catalano, Hofstra University


Teaching based on situated learning theory employs techniques that enable learners to experience a concept within the circumstance in which it would most likely be useful, and is presumed to facilitate transfer of knowledge from the instructional situation to its application to environments outside the classroom. The purpose of this experimental study is to investigate the efficacy of a situated learning environment for facilitating transfer during tasks requiring the evaluation of information in an online information literacy course. Eighty-five university students enrolled in a distance education library research course were randomly assigned to a situated learning condition or a control/traditional instruction group. Students assigned to the experimental group demonstrated transfer more often. A logistic regression analysis revealed that the grouping variable was a significant predictor of transfer. These results reveal that teaching models based on the principles of situated learning have the potential to facilitate transfer to real world contexts. The implications of this study may inform curricular decisions by providing evidence-based instructional design for instructors wishing to employ situated learning in order to teach for transfer, thus improving distance education courses in general, and library instruction in particular