Reflecting on feedback in Blog Stage Two

As my final blog entry for this semester I am now taking the time to reflect on the written feedback which was provided to me by both peers and my lecturer for Information Learning Nexus.  This process, like with Blog Stage One, was both confronting, but extremely beneficial for learning.  I must be honest however and admit that I found receiving the feedback more beneficial than giving it.  This was probably mainly because I am still very uncomfortable critiquing other people’s work.

My peers, Jacqui and Sara provided me with both positive feedback, and feedback which then allowed me to go back and adapt my blog entries before my final submission for the semester.

Regarding some of the technical elements of my blog, their comments reminded me to check my hyperlinks.  I can’t presume that what I see on my screen is automatically what others will be able to access.  This feedback was crucial in terms of improving the technical standards of my blog posts.

In terms of the way in which I critically analyse my information learning activity it was interesting to note that Sara too felt that she needed to spend more time explaining inquiry process with the group of students she worked with.  I thought that it was a significant weakness within my own Information Learning Activity.  It was reassuring to know that I wasn’t the only one who felt like that about their unit of work.

Jacqui provided me with a couple of thought provoking questions.

  1. Did my unit of work allow my students to make connections to the real world?

I felt that providing my early years students with access to a variety of primary and secondary sources relating to their topic was extremely successful.   The use of photographs was particularly successful with my young learners.

  1. Were the students able to make conclusions from this?

The students demonstrated varied success in regards to being able to draw conclusions from the learning opportunities I provided.  In particular, from my analysis of data collected I was extremely disappointed that the students showed limited ability to be able to provide information beyond factual statements about the given topic.

One of the other significant things that Jacqui suggested to me related to grammatical issues.  In particular my habit of writing very long sentences.  This valuable feedback was timely and allowed me opportunity to go back and look more critically at my written work, before submitting it for marking.

The need to submit an oral presentation as part of my study this semester was both daunting, and stressful for me.  However the feedback for this assessment item provided me with both positive, and more significantly with crucial information regarding my digital footprint.  In particular that I had not been successful in de-identify my data collected over the course of the semester.  Regarding my digital footprint, although I initially only used first names,  any “interested” parent googling me would have been able to access information that they could easily associate with children that they know.   I instantly recognised my significant error thanks to that feedback, and de-identified my data as a result.  This particular feedback made me stop and think about the digital footprint that I was creating, and the impact this might have on others.

I found it difficult to be critical of my peers work however, tried to ensure that I provided a balance of both positive and areas for improvements.  My goal was to provide them with feedback that was worthwhile, and allowed them to view their own work from a different perspective.

Although I initially lacked confidence in giving and receiving feedback, as an external student, this was indeed an extremely beneficial and essential element of my study this semester.  Being external, unless I was required to provide feedback to my peers, I could always be a little removed from others.  It is essential however as a future teacher librarian that I continue to build and work with a network of peers if I am truly to experience deep learning in my context.

Thanks again to Sara, Jacqui and Mandy for both your feedback and providing me with some valuable learning experiences.

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My Digital footprint

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Questionnaire 3

  1. Take some time to think about your topic. Now write down what you know about it.
  • The new History and Geography Curriculum documents outlined in the Australian Curriculum have a leadership role to play in helping teachers to implement effective inquiry based learning, and information literacy skill development.
  • Inquiry – developing an awareness of a number of different inquiry learning models, particularly those pertaining to early year’s concept.
  • As a history teacher, I need to look at the role of the teacher and the learner in an inquiry process.  The learner gaining control of their own learning as they progress through the inquiry process, and the teacher acting as the facilitator for this learning.  In order for this to occur, it is essential that as a future teacher librarian that I continue to develop my own understanding of inquiry in order to be able to assist teachers in developing units of work which will allow for this.
  • A growing understanding and awareness of a definition of both inquiry based learning and information literacy.  Information literacy being the skills to be able to locate, reflect upon and use information in a range of contexts for a particular purpose. These are the skills essential for digital natives, being students grappling with copious amounts of information in the 21stcentury.  These skills also involve the ability to think creatively and critically.
  • Inquiry based learning has the potential to provide students with learning opportunities which will assist them in being able to cope with the copious amount of information available to them.  Inquiry based learning involves questioning, reflecting, retrieving, and analysing information in order that learners will gain a deeper understanding of information.

2. How interested are you in this topic?

Not at all  not much  quite a bit   a great deal

3. How much do you know about this topic?

Nothing  not much  quite a bit   a great deal

4. When you do research, what do you generally find easy to do? Please list as many things as you like.

  • Searching QUT library databases- I have developed a greater awareness of the different databases relevant to my context (education), and this understanding has helped me to research more effectively for different purposes.
  • Identifying whether sources found are relevant through the use of skimming, summarising and taking notes.
  • Able to find relevant information once I had a clear understanding of what my focus was going to be for the semester.
  • Reflecting upon my teaching practice, using the information sources I have discovered this semester.

5.  When you do research, what do you generally find difficult to do? Please list as many things as you like.

  • Referencing, referencing, referencing!!!!!!  Why do I always leave it until last. I need to learn to collate as I go, and not just hyperlink
  • Keeping on track as I discover the amazing plethora of information available to me in relation to inquiry learning
  • Learning to become specific in terms of what I was searching for.
  • Keeping track of where I found my information sources.
  • Working out which inquiry model best suits a context (how do I know that I am selecting the most suitable model for my context)

6. What did you learn in doing this research project? Please list as many things as you like.

  • That as a teacher I need to ensure that information literacy skills, under an inquiry based model underpins all aspects of curriculum development and implementation.  That authentic learning tasks are more about the skills, than the content or context.
  • As part of my own Information Search Process, my progress is open ended, and using a model such as the Alberta Model I have been able to recognise what I have learnt, but that this learning is never ending, as I work back and forth through the process. That I could certainly relate to the feelings described in Kuhlthau’s ISP model, with  lots of peaks and troughs about my own ISP
  • That it is “normal” to feel  frustrated, confused or overwhelmed when exploring new topics.
  • That I now have new skills in being able to seek out information for a purpose, which will assist me in completing my final unit of study.
  • That my ISP journey is not over, and in order to enhance my teaching practice, both as a classroom teacher and a future librarian I need to continue to add to all the new knowledge and skills that I have learnt this semester
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Action I took with my students after Questionnaire One and Two

As one of three teachers who developed this Year 2 history unit, the opportunity to collect data about my student’s information literacy skill development this semester added a new dimension to the way I have been able to reflect on not only my own teaching practice, but how we are approaching planning and implementation of Australian Curriculum Units of Work.   In regards to the Australian Curriculum, this year has been a steep learning curve. Although I have taken on leadership in the planning and implementation of units of work, my confidence in my professional practice has been low as times.  This is of course in line with Kuhlthau’s stage of initiation in the Information Search Process, feeling “bogged down and overwhelmed at the amount of work ahead.” (Kuhlthau, 2007, p18). This stage of initiation is certainly very much where I could see myself in terms using the new curriculum documents    The information that I was able to reflect upon using the data collected from Questionnaire 1 and 2 was confronting, and made me question everything I was doing, from teaching style, to learning activities that I was developing for students.

The information I have gathered from the first and second questionnaires, also allowed me to identify patterns and isolate particular weaknesses within the construct of my Information Learning Activity.  I found myself focussing on the negative aspect of these results, which I know will enhance my future practice, but it resulted in me having an overwhelming feeling of disappointment.

Using the results of the first two surveys I was able to make adjustments to activities that were previously planned.  One of the significant adjustments that were made was looking at the role I was playing during the information gathering sessions.  I became more aware of the fact that I needed to step back and let go of “control” of the learning environment, acting as a facilitator, to allow the students more freedom in the direction that their inquiry would take. As a result of my reflection I was able to observe my role change over the course of the Information Learning Activity as I moved from the “provider” to the guide or facilitator as students became more independent in their information gathering skills.

As a result of this change of role, additional research activities were developed to encouraged children to explore information sources in different contexts, and environments.  I have come to realise that there are many incidental opportunities in the course of a school day to encourage children to question and seek out information about the various topics that are discussed.  The results of the questionnaires therefore did not only see changes to my teaching practice as part of the Information Learning Activity in question, I also made me aware of the ways in which information literacy skills can be developed during the everyday course of a school day.

In addition to new discoveries, I came to realise that I was already providing many of these opportunities, but now have a renewed understanding of the theoretical principles that underlie my teaching practice.  From observation these opportunities allow students to gain confidence as “information gatherers”

As part of my reflection as a result of questionnaire 1 and 2, I was able to identify firstly things we were doing well.  In particular children were able to demonstrate a growing awareness of new information sources as lots of opportunities were provided for them to interact with primary and secondary information sources.  It was clear that the children were able to demonstrate that they had increased awareness of an inquiry based process and have demonstrated an awareness of the need to find information from a variety of sources to gain new understanding of the given topic.

One of the significant weaknesses that hindered students’ progress as part of this Information Learning Activity was that as the classroom teacher, I did not consider the importance of explaining the inquiry process to my early years class.  After analysing the students responses from Questionnaire 1 and 2, I came to the realisation that I had underestimated the students level of understanding.  Through their responses they indeed demonstrated that they had an understanding of thinking processes and skills involved in an inquiry process.  As part of the concluding part of this Information Learning Activity I only had a brief amount of time to formally outline stages of an information search process.  Being an early years context I looked at exploring the TELSTAR model of inquiry with my Year 2 class.  This exercise was limited due to time constraints.  It is clear to me however the acronym  has huge potential in an early years context as it is easily remembered and uses simple language to explain each stage of inquiry.  I look forward to seeing the true potential of this model in future units of work.

Throughout this journey, I have felt overwhelmed about creating and implementing a history unit of work, and have also felt a great deal of angst in regards to my ability to able to successfully implement an inquiry based unit.  Despite these feeling I have also become inspired to look more closely at how I can provide a learning environment to maximise opportunity for development of information literacy skills, in an inquiry context. Like my Year 2 students I continue to be on a journey of discovery.  By analysing the results of questionnaire 1 and 2, I was provided with solid information I could use to evaluate my existing Information Learning Activity plan, to deepen the learning opportunities for my early years class.

Reference

Kuhlthau, C. C. M., Leslie K. & Caspari, Ann K. (2007). Guided inquiry: learning in the 21st century. Retrieved 15 September 2012 from http://cissl.rutgers.edu/guided_inquiry/introduction.html 
SOSEAQ An Integrated Learning Community – SOSE Inquiry. Retrieved 28 September, 2012 from http://www.learningplace.com.au/deliver/content.asp?pid=50241)

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A look at Science, History, and Geography Australian Curriculum Frameworks

Looking at the role of inquiry based learning outlined in each of three disciplines of Geography, History and Science, I was able to directly relate the strengths and weaknesses that I found to my previous discoveries in regards the practicalities of inquiry based practices within a classroom setting.  It was interesting to note that although many of my initial discoveries in my information search related to links in the science curriculum, possibly owing to the fact that “science has traditionally been as a leader in the classroom when it comes to inquiry based learning and teaching practices,” (Lupton, 2012),  this leadership role may be in fact changing within the Australian Curriculum documents.  Elements of the new History and Geography curriculum areas can be directly linked to information literacy standards, and in particular the historical skills mentioned provides classroom teachers with a strong starting point in regards to being able to effectively embed inquiry learning processes within the classroom setting.

While it is clear that there has been an attempt in each of the curriculum areas to embed elements of inquiry based learning, the curriculum documents provide no consistent direction in terms of developing inquiry based learning within a classroom setting.  Although science has traditionally been as a leader in the classroom when it comes to inquiry based learning and teaching practices, one significant weaknesses of this new curriculum framework was the limited mention of how information is gathered, a significant information literacy skill.  All three curriculum documents also seem to lack  a  cohesive definition of inquiry learning.   This is a significant weaknesses given that as a classroom teacher, it is a lack of understanding of what effective inquiry learning looks like that has in the past hindered my success in being about to provide authentic inquiry learning experiences within my classroom.  As part of my information searches this semester I have come to a better understanding of inquiry based approaches to learning.  In particular, through this new understanding I can now see that there is no one fixed “method” of doing science, history or geography, there is no fixed sequence that students work through when developing information literacy skills.  “Rather, it is an approach in which the posing of real questions is positively encouraged whenever they occur and by whomever they are asked.” (Wells, 1999

References

Lupton, Mandy. (2012). Inquiry skills in the Australian Curriculum Access, 26 (2), 12-18.

Wells, Gordon (2001). Action, talk & text: Learning & Teaching Through Inquiry. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Retrieved August 23 from http://www.galileo.org/inquiry-what.html#1

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A look at inquiry learning within my Information Learning Activity

Having now taken a closer look at the place of inquiry learning as it is represented in the Australian curriculum, it is clear to me that there are significant strengths and weaknesses of the Information Learning Activity in question.  The approaches that were taken in the development and application of this Information Learning Activity can be linked to the inquiry approach suggested within the history Australian Curriculum framework.  There is a strong emphasis within the inquiry methods suggested in the History Australian Curriculum on the analyses of primary and secondary sources of information.  Throughout this Information Learning Activity, consideration was given to providing students with access to both of these information sources.  In particular primary sources included a number of guest speakers who had specific roles to play in the history of the school.  Particular secondary sources include an excursion to a local history village, and the use of online sources to access photos of the past and present physical elements within the school community.

The aim of this unit of work was to provide students with opportunities to explore, recognise and appreciate the history of their local area by examining examples of the past and considering their significance and impact on the present day.  This focus had potential to provide students with opportunity to examine the physical environment that they interact in on a daily basis.

Another significant strength in regards to being about link to the goals of the new Australian History Curriculum framework was that  students were made aware of Inquiry questions they would have opportunity to investigate during the initial stages of the information learning unit of work.

Many of the students participating in this  Information Learning Activity were able to demonstrate that they were able to “analyse aspects of daily life to identify how some have changed over recent time while others have remained the same. They describe a person, site or event of significance in the local community.” (ACARA 2012) This  according to  the Year 2 achievement standard outlined in the History Curriculum framework, is the desired outcome of a unit of work.

The approach that was undertaken however, limited the students potential to develop information literacy skills because of the lack of information available to the students on the teacher selected topic.  A significant weaknesses of this Information Learning activity was that these early years students were very much guided through most aspects of information gathering during this inquiry unit.  When gathering information about the past history of their school environment it was difficult to provide  opportunities for early years students to independently gather information from a range of sources.  This was because  a large of amount of information that related to the preselected topic was not age appropriate.  Therefore this limited the opportunities for students to be able to independently gather information, beyond guest speakers, and an excursion.    In saying this however, once provided with this information, they were able to readily gain information about present aspects of their school environment.  They were then able to link the teacher provided information to this.

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Comparing my inquiry process to Alberta Inquiry Model

As part of my information gathering earlier this semester, I analysed my progress using the stages outlined in Kuhlthau’s model of Information Search Process. (ISP)  I certainly experienced strong feelings during each of those stages.  At this stage of the semester I have decided to have a look at another model, namely the Alberta Inquiry Model.  I selected this model after taking a look at the particular features, and finding that I was able to align these with the information gathering, and inquiry processes that I have worked through this semester.  The Alberta Inquiry Model (2004) is illustrated below.

The Alberta Inquiry Model

from http://education.alberta.ca/media/313361/focusoninquiry.pdf

One of the significant features of this model that I particularly like that it shows that an information journey involves the learner revisiting different stages as part of an inquiry process.  This semester I found myself constantly moving forwards and backwards (some might say one step forward, three steps back!!!) as I worked through a process of inquiry.  In particular as I discovered new information, I needed to link it to information I had previous developed, re-organising this information as a result. In addition, this process forced me to reflect upon my inquiry process. On more than a number of occasions I reflected upon whether I was on the right track, or if I needed to indeed change my focus.

This model also made me rethink the process of reflection and evaluation in an inquiry learning experience. I now realise that this processes are not the end result of an inquiry process, but are in fact a constant feature throughout as I linked new information to my previous discoveries.  I would suggest that this reflection is indeed an essential element in all stages of an inquiry journey, to ensure that authentic learning takes place. In terms of my professional practice I have been reminded through looking at the Alberta Model for Inquiry that evaluation involves looking at the complete process a child works through, and not simply about making judgements about the product they are asked to produce at the end of the unit.   I need to be mindful of this when planning learning activities within my classroom.

During the semester I have gained confidence in my own information journey as I have come to the realisation that no two people work through an inquiry process in exactly the same way.  The features of the Alberta Inquiry Model in particular emphasised this to me.  As part of my professional practice I need to constantly remind myself of this as I work with students.   By looking at the Alberta Model for Inquiry I now have an increased awareness of how my learners might experience any future inquiry process, and also how I can better facilitate and provide learning experiences for my students which will support them as they work through their own inquiry journey.  I need to be particularly mindful in a primary school context that this journey will be very different for early years students in comparison to students in the upper years.

My study this semester has certainly made me rethink the inquiry process I have been part of  so far as part of my Master’s study, particularly relating to how I can more effectively and efficiently access and use the exhaustive amount of  information sources available to me.

 

 

 

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Recommendations from Analysis of Information Learning Activity

There are a number of key recommendations that would enhance the History Information Learning Activity “XXXX Then and Now.”

Significantly teachers need to consider the way in which units are developed.   Significant aspects of the Australian Curriculum and Inquiry based learning were largely overlooked in the planning stages of this unit of work.  In particular, there was a significant emphasis on the end product, and the predetermined content during the initial planning stages of this guided inquiry unit.

No consideration was given to which particular guided inquiry framework would underpin the unit of work.

The TELSTAR model of Guided Inquiry could be applied effectively to this learning experience.  This model in particular has an easy to understand acronym, and uses simple language, making it ideal for younger students.  The steps for this model are:

 

TTune In (to topics, issues, Key Question)

E Explore (both prior understandings and attitudes, and also the mechanics of the inquiry – skills, resources, end products, and students’ own questions)

L Look (for, collect and organise information; where to look)

SSort ( and evaluate information for reliability; analyse information for connections and underlying value positions)

T Test (evidence to reach conclusions; consider the implications of the findings)

AAct (by thinking about the real-life application of their findings in their community)

RReflect (upon both what they have learned and how well they have learned it).  School based decisions should be made in regards to which inquiry model best suits a particular context.

The consistent use of a model such as TELSTAR means that there is “ greater commonality of language among teachers as they design, implement and review teaching/learning units, and that there is increased competence of students and teachers in relation to the use of an inquiry model.” (Nayler) .

In saying this however, consideration needs to be given to which inquiry model will best enhance a teacher’s capacity to support their students as they engage in an inquiry process.

How can learning opportunities assist students to develop effective Information Literacy skills. Information Literacy skills being “the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information.”

Significantly there is no explicit inquiry model or information literacy skill framework suggested by the Australian Curriculum, so it is up to individual schools to determine which skills are most relevant to their particular context. In my role as a future teacher librarian I am in the process of developing my knowledge of different inquiry models as different models can be adopted and used by students at different stages of their information literacy skill development.

In addition to a lack of an inquiry based learning model, little or no consideration was given to looking at the general capabilities provided as part of the Australian Curriculum framework.  Given the strong emphasis on collecting information using online sources, any future unit develop would be enhanced by looking at the Information and Communication general capabilities outlined in the Australian Curriculum.

While students were exposed to a number of different information sources, they were not given control over where information came from.   Given that there was a significant emphasis during this unit on the use of primary and secondary sources it is essential that any unit of work which is developed provides opportunities for “ students think and learn and give them greater control over how, where and when they learn.” (ACARA, 2012) Consideration should also be given to providing opportunities for students to experiment, problem solve, and work collaboratively during any inquiry unit.

Another area which was not explicitly looked at during the planning and implementation of this Information Learning Activity was components of the general capabilities of Critical and Creative thinking.  As stated in the Melbourne Declaration for Schooling, “ critical and creative thinking are fundamental to becoming successful learners. Thinking that is productive, purposeful and intentional is at the centre of effective learning.”  (ACARA 2012) These should be essential elements of any or all learning activities which take place in a classroom, and are also the fundamental goals of effective inquiry learning practices.

Consideration needs to be given to how any future Information Learning Activity will explicitly provide opportunities to develop such skills.  This general capability explicitly outlines inquiry skills, and provides a concise definition of inquiry processes that could be used as a starting point by history teachers when developing and enhancing units of work. In particular, history teachers need to ensure that Information Learning Activities provide opportunities for students to “identify, explore and clarify questions and issues, gather, organise and process information, and in particular in regards to the Information Learning Activity in question, provide opportunities for students to transfer this knowledge into new context.“ (ACARA, 2012 Page 58)  This was indeed a weaknesses of the Information Learning Activity in question as teachers did not look beyond the unit in terms of how students could apply new knowledge into different context.  This should be explicitly expressed as part of curriculum development.

The GeST Windows model presented by Lupton and Bruce (2010) is an effective information literacy model, which can use to analyse existing curriculum plans, and through this analysis can then enhance future units of work.  The model explains the relationship between generic; situated and transformative characteristics of inquiry. Using the model I am able to look at the extent to which students are provided with opportunities to move beyond basic skill development, to genuine information learning.

When developing units of work, even in the early years sector, it is important that I consider the types of skills that students will develop through a learning experience. Using the GeST window framework it became immediately apparent that while the Information Learning Activity content was authentic and one which directly related to the every day experiences of students,  the assessment task was narrow, and did not allow the early years students to move beyond the “generic window’.  Because of this the students only had opportuntities to find, and organise information.

A particular strength of the GeSt window is that it provides opportunities for students to consider information in regards to it’s “ideology, and socio-cultural attitudes and values.” (Bruce and Lupton 2010).   The Information Learning Activity in question provided limited opportunities for students to “challenge the status quo, or to consider assumptions that have been made, and to think about whose interests are being served through the information gathering activities. (Bruce & Lupton 2010)
By gaining a deeper insight in information literacy models, and taking a look at my Information Learning Activity in relation to the GeST window it is clear that there were a number of different missed opportunities to extent my students’ information literacy skills.  When considering my Information Learning Activity, a Year 2 History unit, looking at past and present features of a school environment, I can see a significant emphasis on the generic windows.  In particular the Information Learning Activity provided students with opportunities to:

  • Practice search skills and follow a series of stages when acquiring information.
  • Manage and organise information.
  • Practice using search strategies particularly using online sources of information
  • Work through a process for finding and managing information

(Bruce and Lupton 2010 p 14)

Regarding the Situated window students were provided with opportunities to

  • Find and use information for personal and community purposes (in particular gaining knowledge about the transformation of their school environment, gave them increased ownership of it)
  • Ask people about the content in question using a variety of information gathering tools
  • Examine multiple sources of ifnormaton and question how information is produced and communicated.
  • Work with authentic information practices in a familiar context.

(Bruce and Lupton 2010 p 14)

Given that these early years students are largely in the early stages of information literacy skill development, it was somewhat difficult to provide them with opportunities to interact in the Transformative window, particularly in regards to the “implicit and explicit assumptions inherent in textual and social practices.” (Bruce and Lupton p14)  It is certainly the long term goal for these students as they move through primary school, and information literacy skills develop further, that Information Learning Activities will allow them to engage in learning activities that to engage not only within the Transformative window, but in balance with the Generic and Situated windows.

It is clear to me by working through this process of analysing my Information Learning Activity using the GeST windows, the model is indeed a valuable one that could be used to enhance existing curriculum plans, and also when planning unit of work and assessment activities. I need to remember during planning future units of work,  that the strength of each window is dependent on each other, and that all three are necessary if I am going to provide students with a truly meaningful, authentic learning experience.

While it is clear that there are some significant areas for development for this particular Information Learning Activity, it needs to be remembered that the teachers who developed this unit are also on an information journey themselves.  The Australian Curriculum: History framework is as yet largely unfamiliar.  In an ideal world, educators will be provided with professional development to assist them in not only familiarising themselves with History Current Curriculum frameworks and standards, but also the inquiry skills and models which underpin the framework.

References

Lupton, Mandy and Bruce, Christine. (2010). Chapter 1 : Windows on Information Literacy Worlds : Generic, Situated and Transformative Perspectives in Lloyd, Annemaree and Talja, Sanna, Practising information literacy : bringing theories of learning, practice and information literacy together, Wagga Wagga: Centre for Information Studies, pp.3-27.

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Results of data analysis and interpretation of results

 This blog post outlines the findings of my analysis of my Information Learning Activity this semester.

Question 1 – Take some time to think about your topic. Now write down what you know about it.

An analysis of Question One average responses across the three questionnaires, showed primarily fact based statements.  A look at the average responses across this question shows only minimal development in terms of the early years students ability to provide either explanation or conclusion statement.  This could be interpreted in a number of ways:

  • the students did not necessarily develop deeper knowledge and understanding in terms of information literacy skills
  • the students were not provided with opportunities to demonstrate a depth of understanding
  • being an early years class they had difficulty expressing their understanding in written form.

A look at the fact statements across the three questionnaires show that students made steady progress throughout this Information Learning Activity.  The responses showed that students generally had developed a significant amount of knowledge about their Information Learning Activity topic.  It is interesting to note that on a number of occasions there is a significant dip in fact statements in the second questionnaire, before an increase again during the third questionnaire.  It needs to be noted that during the period of time that the second questionnaire was administered there was significant amount of children absent for up to two weeks due to Influenza A.  This most certainly had an impact on the students’ progress at that stage of the Information Learning Activity.  It should be noted also that the quality of the fact statements steadily improved over the course of the Information Learning Activity.  The responses became more relevant and specific to the topic under investigation.

Most children showed some increase in all the statement types over the course of the Information Learning Activity.  The number of fact statements increased the most significantly.  Looking at the explanation statements provided on the three questionnaires show that 13 children were able to demonstrate some progress in terms of their depth of understanding, however this was not consistent.   There was a limited demonstration of conclusion statements during data collection.

According to Kuhlthau, effective guided inquiry can start with fact finding. But in order for it to be an authentic inquiry experience, opportunities must be provided for students to interpret these facts. While as part of this Information Learning Activity, discussions and activities were conducted to encourage the children to reflect upon their information gathering skills and methods, they had difficulty representing things that they had discussed in written form. By providing opportunities to “synthesis and reflect on factual knowledge, students are then able to construct new ideas and deeper understanding.” (Kuhlthau et al, 2007)

Upon reflection, data collection results may have been enhanced if as the teacher I had given the children examples of what fact explanation and conclusion statements looked like.  (I could have done this both related to the Information Learning Activity context and others also.)  Also, although special needs students were given opportunities to respond to questions orally, the remainder of students could have benefited from this opportunity also.  On this particular occasion however time constraints would have made this quite difficult.  By analysing the student’s responses, it is evident that there was limited skill development in terms of deeper understanding of the history topic.

For the purpose of this analysis, this group of students were selected to include mixed gender and mixed ability (a verified child, gifted children, and mixed ability children were selected) Over the course of the Information Learning Activity it is clear that all students were able to provide increased fact statements about the Information Learning Activity topic.  Similar to the whole class pattern, there was a decrease for a number of responses from a number of these students on the second questionnaire

Analysis of responses from individual students was extremely inconsistent.  Four children were unable to provide any responses beyond factual.  Student A and C both have high level language skills and were therefore able to provide responses at the conclusion of the Information Learning Activity which were of a higher quality than at the beginning.

The patterns which have emerged as part of the whole class analysis of conclusion statements are repeated for the individual students.

Question 2 – How interested are you in this topic?

Key:                       0 = not at all       1=not much        2=quite a bit       3=a great deal

Interpretation: The second question asked the children to mark on a scale to indicate their level of interest in the topic at three specific times during the information learning activity. Generally the level of interest stayed relatively similar for questionnaire one and two.  Analysis of the results showed however that there was a decrease in interest level at the time that the final questionnaire was administered.  When questioned there were a number of reasons given for this pattern, they were sick of learning about the topic, they had finished the activity so wanted to learn something new and they wanted a holiday  (Out of the mouth of babes)   This pattern can be aligned with the feelings of relief that are consistent with the stage of accomplishment described by Kuhlthau (2007).  It is interesting to note that the three students who indicated little or no interest in the topic in the early stages of the Information Learning Activity felt the same at the end of the unit of work.  One quarter of students consistently demonstrated a great deal of interest in the topic over the course of the Information Learning Activity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Key:                        0 = not at all       1=not much        2=quite a bit       3=a great deal

Analysis of the individual students showed some honest responses.  During the completion of these surveys, I became aware that there were a number of students who selected “a great deal ” for their interest level as they thought that was “the right answer”.  These students were as a result not included in this individual group.  Three students expressed a great deal of interest in the topic at the beginning of the Information Learning Activity.  As with the patterns found in the whole class, there was a decrease interest level for these students for the subsequent surveys.   When questioned, these students felt that they had learnt everything about the chosen topic, and that they were ready to learn something new.  At this point of the analysis I need to remember that although these students may have ranked their interest level at quite a bit or a great deal, I could not presume that this will automatically mean that deep learning has taken place.

Looking at the two students who indicated that they had ‘not much’ interest in the topic, one has a similar lack of enthusiasm towards most topics discussed in class. This particular student’s however generally achieves at or above given standards consistently across curriculum areas. The other student, a verified child consistently only displays interest in topics that are of personal significance to him, and is often fixated on these topics as part of his disability.

Key:                       0 = not at all       1=not much        2=quite a bit       3=a great deal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Key:                       0 = not at all       1=not much        2=quite a bit       3=a great deal

In Question 3 of the administered questionnaires, the children were asked to describe, using a given scale the indicator that they felt best described their knowledge of the chosen topic at the three specific stages of the inquiry process. In the majority of cases,  there was clear positive development as overall knowledge levels increased over the course of the three questionnaires.

By the end of this unit of work, it is clear that the children had acquired new knowledge about the history topic under discussion.  One quarter of the class felt that they now have a great deal of knowledge about the topic.  Significantly 7 students felt that their knowledge acquisition was no different from the middle of the unit of work to the conclusion.  This pattern may be because a number of students voiced that the excursion activity which occurred around the time of the second survey was the activity that they were able to gain the greatest knowledge from.  Only one child expressed that they had limited knowledge in the third survey.

Key:                       0 = not at all       1=not much        2=quite a bit       3=a great deal

As this stage of analysis, I need to remember, like with student’s attitudes towards their learning,  I cannot assume that the students who acknowledge limited interest in this topic have necessarily achieved limited results.  Student F reported consistently across the three questionnaires that he had “not much” interest in the topic, however on the Reflection Sheet 3 he responded that he felt that he now knew “a great deal” about this same topic.  (In fact the highest rating of all individual students in question)  All individual students demonstrated positive development with knowledge acquisition over the course of the Information Learning Activity. It needs to be noted that a number of the children felt that their knowledge dropped at the time of the second questionnaire being administered.  This could be attributed to the previously mentioned illnesses during this time period.

Throughout the inquiry student A, C and D showed particular skill strengths in their ability to ask relevant questions in regards to information literacy skills, however all showed this decrease in knowledge acquisition during the second questionnaire.  These particular students did in fact know ‘a great deal’ about the topic but did not record this on their reflection sheet.  Student E who stated “not much” interest in the given topic over the course of the Information Learning Activity was still able to say that he had learnt quite a bit in both the second and final questionnaire.  Student B, who expressed at the beginning of the Information Learning Activity she did not know anything about the given topic, still consistently expressed a significant amount of interest in the topic over the course of the Information Learning Activity.  From observation and questioning she also developed a great deal of confidence in her ability to be able to gathering information from a range of sources over the course of the unit of work.

Question 4 – When you do research, what do you generally find easy to do?

Interpretation: Question four required the children to express what they found easy to do when conducting research on a topic.  Analysis of the students responses was conducted using related strands from the Standards for the 21st Century Learner. The graph above shows the patterns of skill development for this class over the course of the Information Learning Activity.  There were significant areas of skill development and strengths over this period which could be aligned to the 21stCentury Learners Standards.     In particular students felt that they had developed particular skills in being able to develop and use successful stretegies for locating information.  This could be attributed to the fact that there was numerous opportunities throughout this Information Learning Activity to collect information from a range of primary and secondary information sources, and the children felt quite confident with this as a result.  In addition to this, student responses also indicated that they felt they were able to access information efficiency and effectively. This judgement was based on the questionnaire responses and also from information collected as part of a KWL chart activity which was conducted at the beginning and end of the unit of work.  Students were also able to demonstrate through this KWL activity that they could develop questions which led to appropriate information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An analysis of individual student responses in relation to the Related Strands from the Standards for the 21st Century Learner skills showed particular patterns of skill development.  Like the whole class analysis particular strengths were found in regards to developing and using successful strategies for collecting information, and accessing information effectively and efficiently.  Student A demonstrated particular progress in her ability to integrate new information into her existing knowledge base, and her ability to select information which related to the given question or problem that was pose.  Student D demonstrated particular skills in being able to think critically in problem solving situations.  It must be noted that he has consistently been able to demonstrate particular skills in this area in a range of contexts throughout the year.  In addition to the questionnaire responses, given that this is an early years class, I spent some time interviewing this group of children about what they found easy to do when researching.   These interviews were conducted at the same time as the formal questionnaires.  Verbal responses as part of Questionnaire One included using friends to find out information, using the internet, finding it easier when they were interested in the topic, and knowing that they could always ask the teacher.  During the middle of the ILA the children expressed that going on an excursion helped them to gain lots of informaiton, that they like to be able to talk to people to find out things, and that while they were getting better at using the internet and google, they still liked having a teacher there to help.  Questionnaire Three responses included having a KWL chart to give them direction for their learning,  using friends and teachers, and having pictures to look at aided their understanding at this stage of the Information Learning Activity.  Students also felt that they were getting better at planning how they were going to find information, and were feeling more confident in organising information that they had found.

Based on the above responses, the children have demonstrated that they have increased awareness of an inquiry based process and have demonstrated an awareness of the need to find information from a variety of sources to gain new understanding of the given topic. It was interesting to note that students still saw the teacher as a source of information at the conclusion of the Information Learning Activity.  From my own observation my role however changed over the course of the Information Learning Activity as I moved from the “provider” to the guide or facilitator as students became more independent in their information gathering skills.

Question 5 – When you do research, what do you generally find difficult to do?

Interpretation:  For Question 5 on the questionnaire the children were asked to identify the skills they found difficult to do when researching. Their responses were once again analysed using the Standards for the 21st Century Learner.  There were 5 significant strands that could be linked to student’s responses in terms of things that they found difficult. Of particular concern was being able to determine the accuracy of information that they found.  I felt as early years students; this demonstrated that there was significant shift in the students mindset that they were able to express concerns with this standard.  Previous observations of this early years group of children showed that they were generally very literal in their thinking, and did not question either the authenticy of information that they read or the source that they used to gain this information.  Two other standards which stood out as areas of difficulty for the children could also be linked to the developmental stage of the children participating in this Information Learning Activity.  Being able to identify inaccurate or misleading information and being able to distinguish between facts, point of view and opinion.  It is my hope that this pattern of thinking will diminish in future units of work as they confidence as information literate learners increases, and they become more independent.

Interestingly, although a significant group of students voiced through their responses that they had developed and were able to use successful strategies for developing information, this was also seen by sectors of the class as an area that they still have difficulty with. It is essential that I consider all these aspects of difficulty and use them as a starting point for me as I work towards developing future units of work for this group of learners.

An analysis of individual students responses  for this question showed some interesting patterns.  Significantly or coincidentally,  responses provided by the individual students were linked to three particular standards, unlike the whole class analysis where there were five significant strands that students could be mapped against.  Although student’s responses in question four in terms of strength was the development and use of successful strategies for location information, this was also seen as a significant area of difficulty for students.  It is very clear through this that they are on a journey in regards to skill development in this area.  Once again, like the patterns found in the whole class analysis, students in this group found it difficult to ascertain the accuracy of information.  This is clearly an strand which should be of particular focus within future units of work.  Once again, like with question four, this group of students were interviewed over the course of the unit as part of data gather.  During the initial reflection, students express difficulty in learning about topics that they were not interested in, knowing which website to use, finding it hard to read information, knowing if the information was true, and thinking on their own without teacher assistance.  During the middle stages of the Information Learning Activity students expressed difficulty in “doing it on their own”, wondering what they were missing, where to go and what information to use.  At the conclusion of the unit students were more worried about thinking, remembering information,  and presenting information. These responses demonstrated students progress in regards to information literacy skills.  In particular a number of students began to talk about the accuracy of information, and wondered about what they needed to collect and what they didn’t, a significant shift in thinking for this early years class.

Question 6 – What did you learn from doing this project?

Interpretation:   The final questionnaire as part of this analysis asked children the question ‘What did you learn from doing this project?’ Some of the respondants for this question had to be eliminated from this analysis as they listed specific information about the history topic, rather than specific responses  about their information literacy skill development.  Many of the responses that were given could be connected to stages of inquiry,and students demonstrated knowledge of locating, accessing, organising, communicating and evaluating information.  Significant response from this early years cohort include:

  • You use different things to collect information
  • You need to think more and be careful
  • You need to be careful with spelling
  • Sometimes it is hard and sometimes it is easy (depending on what you are looking for)
  • Sometimes you can use the internet and learn a lot
  • You would have to think who would have the information and when you would use google.
  • That it was hard using the internet.
  • That you can get information from many different places.

It is clear through these responses and individual questioning that students are indeed on the beginning of a journey to develop information literacy skills and knowledge.  Significantly there has been a shift in thinking for these digital natives from thinking that they were going to be able to get all that they need from the internet, particularly google, to voicing that it was sometimes hard using the internet, and that you have to think about who had the information that they need.    Although results of this analysis indicate a low level of development in regards to development thinking skills beyond fact finding (referring to the limited range of explanation and conclusion statements the children were able to provide)  The responses that they were able to provide in a lot of cases demonstrated a growing awareness of inquiry based process.

Across the cohort selected for individual analysis two students Student A and F were able to demonstrate significant skill development as a result of participation in this learning experience.  This result was evident in their end product, in their everyday participation during questioning and information gathering sessions, and through their ability to apply these skills to a growing range of contexts.  Although his information literacy skill development was not as strong as Student A and Student F ,  Student D showed particular development in thinking processes through his responses.  In particular Student D, who from the beginning of year 2 has wanted to spend all day on laptops (if he was given the opportunity) stated that he had learnt that you can get information from many different places, and that you had to think about when you need to use google.

Conclusion

During this data collection activity I have examined, analysed and appraised the implementation of the inquiry-based learning activity, XXXX Then and Now” which was conducted with a class of 24 Year 2 students.  This analysis was conducted using  the School Library Impact Measure (SLIM) Toolkit (Todd, Kuhlthau & Heinström, 2005) and the sample size of twenty students,  were then compared to a small group of 6 students. This provided opportunity for patterns of evidence to develop in regards to development of Information Literacy skills.  Through this analysis I was also able to identify areas of strength and areas that need to be a focus in future inquiry based units of work.  It has become clear that these digital natives are only just beginning the journey in developing information literacy skills.  It is essential that they continue to be provided with a merid of opportunities to interact in an inquiry based learning environment to ensure that they  have the best opportunity to develop information literacy skills for lifelong learning.  The use of a range of information gathering techniques during this Information Learning Activity including the use of ICLT’s were not only an important part of this inquiry learning experience, but also helped the students to maintain engagement with the topic.  The length of this learning experience however needed to be reassessed for the same reason as students level of interest in the topic diminish by the end of the unit. In saying this however the students were provided with opportunity to engage with some of the principles of Guided Inquiry.  Some of these learners were able to demonstrate higher order thinking as a result. Upon reflection, it is essential for me as the facilitator on this journey to provide as many opportunities as possible for repetition and reflecting of the inquiry process over time, so that students are given the best possible opportunities to learn and grow into lifelong learners.

Further recommendations for future teaching practices have be included in a subsequent blog post.

Reference List

American Association of School Libraries (AASL). (2009). “Standards for the 21st Century Learner”. Retrieved on 15 August, 2012 from http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/aasl/guidelinesandstandards/learningstandards/standards.cfm

American Association of School Librarians (AASL), & The Association for Educational Communications & Technology. (1998). Information Literacy Standards for Student Learning.  Chicago: American Library Association.

Kuhlthau, C. C. M., Leslie K. & Caspari, Ann K. (2007). Guided inquiry: learning in the 21st century. Retrieved 15 September 2012 from http://cissl.rutgers.edu/guided_inquiry/introduction.html  

Todd, R., Kuhlthau, C., & Heinstrom, J. (2005). Student Learning through Inquiry Measure (SLIM). Rutgers University: Centre for International Scholarship in School Libraries.

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Methodology (how I gathered & analysed data)

The Method

The students participating in this inquiry-based learning activity are from a Grade 2 class at a Catholic Primary School in Brisbane’s South.  This class consists of 24 students and is one of 3 Year 2 classes within the school.  This class is taught as part of a job share situation (I teach 3 days a week).  As a number of students were absent due to illnesses during the completion of this unit, not all students completed the given surveys.  It is for this reason that the class analysis involves only 20 children who have been selected to be part of the coding and analysis. A smaller group of 6 students including a mix of boys and girls, and mixed ability including special needs have also been included for closer analysis, allowing for comparison to the whole class results.

The Instrument.

The tool which was used for data gathering and analysis was The School Library Impact Measure (SLIM) Toolkit.  This kit was designed by Todd, Kuhlthau and Heinstrom in 2005.  The Toolkit was used to administer a qualitative and quantitative survey.  The School Library Impact Measure suggests a survey which is conducted three times, with an additional question in the final survey.  Owing to the fact that this unit was conducted with an early years class, an adapted version of this survey was used this semester.  A copy of these three surveys can be found in Appendix One.  The survey (or reflection sheet) was administered in Week 1, 6 and 11 of this Information Learning activity.

The first three questions within this survey were quantitative.  The first question asks the children to write a list of what they knew about the topic.  These were later categorised into knowledge statements as factual, explanations or conclusions.  For the benefit of younger students, question two and three were adapted using appropriate smiley faces icons, so that younger students would be able to respond to facial expressions appropriate to their experiences.  They were multiple choice questions.  The final two (three in the final survey), questions four and five were qualitative and required students to respond in their own words.  These questions were then coded using the AASL Information Literacy Standards.  In addition to the three surveys, information about student progress was also gathering using a KWL chart, observation, anecdotal records and the final assessment piece.

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