Can Your ESL Students Explain Tabular Data? Fostering Information Literacy Through a Demographic Study of a City

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Wouldn’t it be nice if all students could explain the implications of data presented in tables and graphs? Indeed, the learning standards of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) stress that information literate students effectively evaluate and manipulate data for their specific needs. As coordinator of library instruction at the Eastern Campus Library of Suffolk County Community College, I collaborate with professors in the ESL department to help students develop essential information literacy (IL) skills.

The focus of this presentation is an analysis of a semester-long assignment which requires advanced ESL students to study the demographic data of a city in the United States. Demographic studies contextualize IL skills because they require students to describe and explain the significance of data in charts and graphs. In this case, students synthesize information from the U.S. Census into their illustrated presentations. Each student’s project is the culmination of an incremental process that includes four library workshops. During the workshops, students research U.S. cities and discuss trends in demographic data including the infrastructure of each others cities. Guiding the students’ explorations are key questions by the ESL professor such as: “What does the population shift mean for the city’s infrastructure and labor force?” (Cash-McConnell) ESL students who competently synthesize graphical data possess IL skills that they can apply in future content courses such as psychology and nursing. A brochure will motivate conference participants to consider meaningful ways to incorporate demographic assignments into ESL courses and IL classes.


Keywords: Academic Libraries, Academic Discourse, Collaboration, Constructivism, Demographics, English as a Second Language (ESL), English for Academic Purposes (EAP), Graphic Literacy, Information Literacy
Stream: Literacy, Language, Multiliteracies; Languages Education and Second Language Learning
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Can Your ESL Students Explain Data in Tables and Graphs?


Dr. Penny Bealle

Associate Professor, Information Literacy Librarian
Eastern Campus Library, Suffolk County Community College

Riverhead, NY 11792, USA

Penny Bealle, MLS, PhD, is Associate Professor of Library Services and coordinates library instruction at the Eastern Campus Library of Suffolk County Community College. Prior to joining the library faculty at Suffolk she was the Collection Development Librarian at Adelphi University. She holds an MLS from Queens College (2000) and a PhD in Art History from Cornell University (1990). At Suffolk, she promotes infused library instruction as a means to enhance student outcome behaviors for critical thinking and synthesis skills.

Ref: L09P0672