This blog post will make links between the ILA (discussed here) and current literature and models regarding Inquiry Based Learning. The first section of the blog will position the ILA in current literature and look at how teaching and learning in this unit fits in with inquiry and information literacy models. The second section will critically evaluate the ILA against GeST Windows and Blooms Digital Taxonomy to ascertain its success as an Inquiry Based project. The final section will draw on these evaluations and the interviews to make recommendations about how the ILA could be improved in the future.
Information learning theories and the ILA
Previous posts have looked at the ILA itself and how students engaged with seeking information and learning over the semester. This section of the post will look how the ILA fits in with current Inquiry Based learning literature. While some of these ideas have been briefly discussed in the annotated bibliography, this post will makes links with these ideas and the ILA
Inquiry Based learning (IBL) allows students to make their own discoveries and to create new knowledge, which are meaningful to them and their learning (Kuhlthau, et al, 2007). In a tertiary setting, IBL has the added benefit of linking research and learning, elements of a university that might not necessarily be experienced by students (Cox, et al, 2008). IBL gives students the unique opportunity to construct new knowledge through problems solving, even if this knowledge is not necessarily new to the discipline (Lee, 2012). Levy and Petrulis (2012) stress that while not all students will become researchers, all students will benefit from the process of research and synthesising information. They go on to say that IBL assist in developing;
‘Self-authorship, intra-personal and inter-personal maturity characterised by awareness of knowledge as constructed and contexted, belief in oneself as possessing the capacity to create new knowledge (Levy & Petrulis, 2012, p.87).
As evidenced by the responses in the interviews, and to a certain extent the questionnaire, the ILA certainly gave students the chance to create new knowledge. While students were required to engage with existing knowledge in the form of class readings and some of the research involved simple fact finding (Limberg, 2000), the process of writing blog posts meant that student had to explore and create new knowledge and to scrutinise and analyse it in order to arrive at these new meanings (Limberg, 2000). For example, one blog post requires students to interview a young person about the texts they engage in and to write about the findings. Here, students are conducting their own research and producing meaning from that experience, instead of relying on the research and observations of others.
Inquiry Based learning is crucial in promoting higher order thinking skills in students. By promoting such skills, universities are able to meet graduate capability outcomes, which are vital in preparing students for the challenges of the workforce and a life in an information rich environment (Cox, et al, 2008, Levy, 2012, Lee, 2012). These graduate outcomes may include problem solving, critical thinking and judgement, creativity, self management and collaboration (Levy, 2012). Critical thinking outcomes may not be achievable in traditional lecture based models of teaching and learning, where information is transferred form the lecturer to the students with little opportunity for the students to think critically about what is being learnt (Allen and Greeves, 2005). An IBL based course, on the other hand, promotes critical thinking and deeper understanding by providing students with opportunities to follow their own interests and create new meaning for themselves (Kuhlthau, et al, 2007).
Evidence of critical thinking can be seen in the ILA through student’s responses in the interviews. Students move from fact based responses in the first questionnaire, to reflecting about how learning in the unit has affected their teaching practice and awareness of how their learning and research present social and political consequences for them and their students. R2 commented on how program and software learnt about in the unit cannot be used in the classroom due to restrictions imposed by education authorities in the state;
‘It is difficult in a way… you are thinking in the real world about how you can apply all of the ideas presented to you… and then have those restrictions put in place’
Limberg (2000) looks at similar shifts in student’s experience of information literacy and outlines three categories as a way of describing how students approach their information seeking. The first category (A) is fact finding, where students are seeking the correct answer to a question. Category B sees the students using information to form a viewpoint and students in the third category use information to understand a topic and to place their knowledge and understanding into a wider context (Limberg, 2000) Students response to interview questions show a shift from category A experiences on information learning to category C where they can see how the information and learning they have encountered in the ILA over the semester has consequences on their lives and how their students learn.
Kuhlthau (et al, 2007) points to the ability of Inquiry Based learning to engage all students, including those who may struggle academically. While this may not be an issue for Master’s students who are presumably academically proficient, high levels of engagement in university units is still desirable. Allen and Greeves (2005) recount their experiences in redesigning an Asian Studies course to embrace IBL concepts, and how this was beneficial for the student’s engagement. The authors reported positive feedback after students were able to follow their own interests, and a shift to an online discussion format for tutorial where students were able to ask questions and discuss ideas with their lecturers (Allen & Greeves, 2005).
Students in this ILA were encouraged to comment on the class blog and their colleague’s posts, as well as construct and maintain their own blog platforms and posts. While this meant that students could actively engage with the material and be involved, barriers were created when students struggled with the new technology especially if they had spent some time away from study. R2 commented on how the technology was overwhelming, saying;
About the technology… when I first started using some of the things… there were so many different things we had to start getting on too… even when we had blogs ..in YPCT and for ILN … and there’s FB, there’s Evernote… I feel sometimes in a way there is too many places and technology that I have to keep a handle on and make
While R1 considered learning new technology to be a part of the Inquiry process, she felt that some support might have been beneficial;
But I guess that is a part of the inquiry isn’t it? That you flounder around and find it our for yourself… but it could have been good to have a few tips earlier on
Allen and Greeves (2005) address this concern in their article, saying that students participating in an IBL course need to be supported by the lecturer and be assisted when they experience difficulties. Levy (2012) supports this, adding that it is especially important when students are working in groups or have problems with information literacy.
Information and literacy models.
Several of the articles reviewed in the annotated bibliography and for this section of the blog, stressed the importance of choosing appropriate models for Inquiry Based learning in universities. Lee (2012) believes that basing all IBL teaching and learning on a model means that the unit can be analysed, assessed and compared to IBL courses in rival universities. However, trying to fit all disciplines to one IBL model may present challenges, as not all models are appropriate to all subjects (Lee, 2012, Levy, 2012). Levy goes on to say that it is vital for the teaching of content to support the development of skill and research, and must be reflected in the model chosen.
While there is no information available in regards to whether or not the design of this unit is based on Information Literacy or Inquiry models, it is possible to evaluate how the unit stands up against established IBL, information literacy and critical thinking models. The following section of this post will break down teaching and learning in this ILA and compare it to two models.
Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy builds on Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy, but takes into account digital ways of learning, presenting and aspects of information literacy. It also includes collaboration, which other versions do not do, but considers it as a separate element as it beneficial to learning, but not necessary (Churches, 2009). The following table looks at each step in the model and how the ILA has met those steps. The table will then be followed by a discussion of some of the conclusions reached in the table.
|Lower order thinking skills
||Recognising, listing, describing, identifying, retrieving, naming, finding, locating
||At this stage in the student’s education and career, it is assumed that these lower order thinking skills already exist and do not need to be covered in the unit, but were essential to complete assignment, especially the essay section. The students would have encountered many of these skills in the selection, exploration and formulation stages of their project (Kuhlthau, et al, 2007). However, according to the interviews, some students struggled initially with some of the skills required, such as using Boolean operators and ICTs.
||Interpreting, summarising, inferring, paraphrasing, classifying, compiling (Churches, 2009)
||Interpreting, carrying out, using, executing(Churches, 2009).
||Students had the opportunity to apply what they were learning in their own classrooms and libraries;
‘I have learnt that what young people are reading is very relevant to what we are doing in the classroom… we start asking them questions about what kinds of things they are doing on FB and what sorts of things they are looking at on the internet and the type of texts that they are reading’
||Comparing, organising, deconstructing, attributing, outlining, finding, scrutinising (Churches, 2009).
||The skill of analysing was crucial to writing many of the required blog posts. For example;‘Play a video game or watch a young person play a video game for at least half an hour and analyse the learning experiences involved’ or ‘’Compare the popular culture text offerings of an accessible public library and school library’ In both cases, student had to use some of the knowledge they had encountered over the semester to deconstruct elements of what they were observing or investigating in order to see how the compared to other ideas or activities.
||Checking, hypothesising, critiquing, experimenting, judging, testing, detecting, monitoring (Churches, 2009).
||Evaluation was carried out by commenting on each other’s posts. Here, students were required to critique each other’s work, if not in a formal sense. Formally, students were asked to reflect on their learning, which is evaluation of their own progress and how they have understood the concepts and creates personal meaning from these concepts.
|Higher order thinking skills
||Designing, constructing, planning, producing, inventing, devising (Churches, 2009).
||Students were asked to establish and publish their own blog and posts. While there was an element of creation, the actual blog posts concentrated on evaluating, analysing and applying.
|CollaborationCollaboration is not officially included in the taxonomy, it has added to the digital version to stay up to date with the need to collaborate in the workplace (Churches, 2009). Students were required to construct their blog in a small group and to choose a theme and focus between themselves. After this process had taken place, the student’s individually produced and published posts.
The ILA required students to use some of the lower order thinking skills such as remembering and understanding to help establish a background for the higher order thinking skills and to prepare them for assignments and class activities. Some of the activities students could choose from to complete their blog did not go beyond the analysing stage, but a majority of the activities were higher order thinking skills.
While Bloom’s taxonomy is a model for looking at higher and lower order thinking skills, GeST Windows is an information literacy model which focuses on how information literacy is informed by sociocultural factors and the effect that this may have on learner’s experiences (Lupton & Bruce, 2010). The model views information literacy through three windows; the Generic, Situated and the Transformative window. Information literacy may be experienced as these windows being separate, opposing each other, or inclusive (Lupton & Bruce, 2010).
The Generic Window
In this window, students may experience information literacy as;
- ‘Skills and processes used for finding and managing information’ (Lupton & Bruce, 2010, p. 11).
- Measurable skills
- Not effected by the user
- Experienced as information retrieval classes, ICT skills and library classes (Lupton & Bruce, 2010).
As discussed in the section on Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy, some of these information literacy experiences were assumed, despite some student’s having difficulties with ICT and information retrieval skills. This is evident in Questionnaire 1, where only 7% of students used Boolean operators when they were researching. Students may have experienced this in the initial stages of the project where they were exploring ideas and concepts and making decision about where they wanted to go over the semester (Kuhlthau, et al, 2007).
The Situated Window
The Situated window sees students experience information literacy as;
- Contextual, that is based in their work or lives
- A variety of texts, including images and film
- Meaning is constructed through interaction with information
- Personal (Lupton & Bruce, 2010).
Teaching and learning in this subject is mostly based in this window. Students were constantly required to relate their research and writing to their own lives, students and work and information took on a personal focus. Students were also asked to interact with different kinds of texts, including video games, movies and television shows, as well as traditional printed sources of information. Some of the responses from the students in the interviews demonstrate meaning constructed through interaction with the information. For example, R1 talked about how she thought about games after learning about them;
‘I think I am more interested in the topic after researching and writing about it, particularly about using games… I think they are very motivating for kids at school… and the reading I was doing about that for my last blog post and that sort of thing… I was amazed at how much you can learn and how you can use these games and how many things are out there that you can use that don’t even cost any money… it was really interesting to see how games are being used in different schools’
The Transformative Window
Students encounter information literacy in the Window as being;
- Used to change self and society
- Challenging to the norm.
- Has outcomes; personal or for society (Lupton & Bruce, 2010).
While student may not have enrolled in the unit to change an aspect of society, as described in Limberg’s (2000) article about how students seek information, information encountered in the unit definitely helped them challenge elements of the education system considered to be normal. According to the interview, this change happened toward the end of the semester when they had explored topics such as using games and software in the classroom, and discovered that this was disabled or banned at their schools.
Lupton and Bruce (2010) stress the importance of having a model that is inclusive and sees information literacy as a continuum, rather than an exclusive set of elements. Their reasoning is that to be critical, an individual must also have a set of generic skills which allow them to find and explore information (Lupton & Bruce, 2010). While not necessary an information literacy model, this exclusivity can be seen in Bloom’s Taxonomy, where each of the thinking skills stands alone and not concession is given to their independency. GeST Windows are the best fit for how students have experienced learning and information in this unit. Each experience of information literacy was at least based in the Generic or Situated Window, and students had the opportunity to explore the topic in a Transformative way as well.
The unit is already ticking several Inquiry Based learning boxes;
- Students have the opportunity to create new knowledge (Lattas, 2009)
- Students select topics that interest them (Oxenford, et al, 2012).
- Students collaborate
- Students have autonomy from the lecturer (Cox, et al, 2008)
So the unit would not have to undergo drastic change to meet IBL criteria. However, according to the critical evaluation and some of the points raised in the interviews, some changes could be made to support students
In the interviews, students commented on how some assistance with technology would have been useful. Cox (et al, 2008) supports this view, saying that while students are largely autonomous from the lecturer, they still need to be supported, particularly with ICT, Information literacy and working in groups (Cox, et al, 2008 and Levy, 2012). It was clear from the structure of the unit, and the class blog that students were well supported throughout the semester; the following things could be implemented to enhance this support;
- Support for ICT skills and problems by peers through a separate blog or Facebook page. This would mean that students were solving problem collaboratively.
- Master classes conducted separately from main classes and tutorials for students who need extra help with technology
- Links with Librarians, beyond the Faculty Librarian, to assist with information retrieval and information literacy skills. This Librarian could be present at tutorials to answer questions and to support students with directing their research and technical information literacy skills
Real Life problem solving
Students did have the option over them semester to explore their own interests and to observe and interact with young people. However, more could be done within the unit to allow students to identify problems, issues, or areas of interest in the workplace and to create solutions to these problems. This would allow students to follow up on the Transformative Window (Lupton & Bruce, 2010) aspect of their course, which they had began to interact with at the end of the unit. Some suggestions would be;
- Implement extended units which would enable students to formally explore issues if they wanted to, beyond the semester long unit. This unit could be offered as an option.
- Provide students with opportunities to observe and interact with students if they felt it would enhance their understanding and to document this observation in their blog.
- More opportunities to embark on semester long projects and to present the findings publically. This would give students the chance to fully explore areas of interest and to identify and help to solve problems that are based in the profession and have some effect on it (Levy, 2012). This could be carried out collaboratively, and would have to remain as an option, as it may not be feasible for some external students.
This blog post has positioned the ILA in current literature regarding Inquiry Based Learning in a tertiary setting and conducted a critical evaluation using Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy and GeST Windows models. The evaluation has found that the unit already meets several criteria of Inquiry Based Learning, however several recommendations have been offered, and are designed to give students extra support through the unit.
Completing this evaluation has made me think about my own information seeking in this unit and what kind of thinking skills I have used or developed over the semester. This will be discussed further in the next blog post, where I will reflect on what I have learnt, and my attitudes to the topic.
Allen, P. & Greeves, H. (2005). Inquiry Based Learning- A case study in Asian Studies. HERDSA News, 27(1), 21-23. Retrieved form http://www.herdsa.org.au/?page_id=141
Churches, A. (2009). Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy. Retrieved from http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/Bloom’s+Digital+Taxonomy
Cox, A,. Levy, P., Stordy, P., Webber, S. (2008). Inquiry-based learning in the first-year Information Management curriculum. ITALICS, 7(1). Retrieved from http://www.ics.heacademy.ac.uk/italics/
Kulhlthau, C.C., Maniotes, L.K. & Caspari, A.K. (2007). Guided Inquiry; Learning in the 21st Century. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Lattas, J. (2009). Inquiry-based learning: A tertiary perspective. Agora, 44(1), 12-46. Retrieved from http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=033484430965006;res=IELHSS
Lee, V.S. (2012). What is Inquiry Guided learning? New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2012(129), 5-14. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1002/(ISSN)1536-0768
Levy, P. (2012). Developing Inquiry-Guided Learning in a research university in the United Kingdom. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2012 (129), 15-26. doi: 10.1002/tl.20003
Levy, P. & Petrulis, R. (2012). How do first year university students experience inquiry and research and what are the implications for the practice of inquiry-based learning? Studies in Higher Education, 37(1). pp 85-101. doi 10.1080/03075079.2010.499166
Limberg, L. (2000). Is there a relationship between information seeking and learning outcomes? In Bruce, C. and Candy, P. (Eds.) Information Literacy around the world: Advances in programs and research (pp.193-207). Wagga Wagga, CIS, Charles Sturt University.
Lupton, M. & Bruce, C. (2010). Windows on Information Literacy Worlds : Generic, Situated and Transformative Perspectives in Lloyd, A. & Talja, S. (Eds). Practicing information literacy : bringing theories of learning, practice and information literacy together, Wagga Wagga: Centre for Information Studies, pp.3-27.
Oxenford,C., Summerfield, L., & Schuchert, M. (2012). Marymount University: Inquiry- Guided Learning as a catalyst for change. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2012(129), 71-80. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1002/(ISSN)1536-0768