As previously mentioned in the Methodology post, a group of Year 4 Geography students were involved in an information learning activity (ILA). This inquiry-based project required the students to research an African country and present their knowledge as a documentary movie. During week 3 and week 9, fifteen students participated in both questionnaire no. 2 and no. 3, to assist the classroom teacher and myself in learning more about the students progression during the inquiry learning process. The data collected from students who only completed one questionnaire has been excluded from the final results in an effort to keep consistency. Questionnaire 1 was omitted from this process also, due to the time-frame of the project and the potential of over-surveying the students. To view the information collected from the students in the below info-graphic images, click on each graph to enlarge.
For question 1, fifteen students were asked to indicate their knowledge of an African country, by way of writing in full sentences. Their unlimited responses were then coded into the categories of fact, explanation and conclusion statements. Unfortunately many student responses were written in point form, making it hard to code the results at times. Note taking was practiced often in relation to this geography project, and by default students used it during the questionnaires even after being asked to write in full sentences. This lack of sentence structure may have hindered the possibilities of more explanation and conclusion statements being shared.
The data featured in figure 1, illustrates the students’ responses from questionnaire 2 and 3. When looking at the results, two areas stand out. The substantial increase of factual statements from 35 responses in questionnaire 2 to 97 responses in questionnaire 3, and the minimal conclusion statements given by students. Firstly, the increased fact data reflects that students were firmly seated in the functional level of doing from the Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy model (Grantham, 2014), as they were recognizing, listing, and describing the information found during their research sessions. These results could also imply that the students considered their fact collecting to be the most important part of the research process. Secondly, with only two conclusion statements shared, students lacked in showing their conceptualizing (Grantham, 2014) of the data, and didn’t reflect a connection between the information, by way of deconstructing and comparing the meaning of their data collected.
For question 2, students indicated their interest in their chosen topic by selecting one of the four responses provided. The data shown for questionnaire 2 in figure 2, demonstrates the willingness of students’ tuning in (Gourley, 2008) to the project, with 14 out of 15 either ‘quite a bit’ or ‘a great deal’ interested. The very nature of an inquiry-based project is to engage the learner and allow them to navigate the pathway, and I believe this notion is fairly represented in the numbers for questionnaire 2.
By the end of the project, most students remained interested in their topic, with only two students tuning out and one other remaining uninterested. A potential reason for the loss of interest in these students could have came from their feelings of disappointment (Kuhlthau, 2004) in regards to their final presentation. The documentary movie may not have turned out as they had imagined and were left feeling disheartened. Interestingly, these same students shared that they felt frustrated and confused for extended periods of time during the exploration phase of the project. For most students though, the main motivation for staying on track was the opportunity to design, create and edit a movie. From informal conversations with some of the students who struggled with the script writing phase, creating (Grantham, 2014) a documentary movie was seen as a major reward, which assisted them in sustaining their involvement.
For question 3, students were asked to comment on their level of knowledge about their chosen country. Figure 3 shows that out of the nine students who responded with ‘quite a bit’ for questionnaire 2, only one perceived to have learned more in questionnaire 3 by answering ‘a great deal’. This data implies that these students involved did not build knowledge and learn by constructing their own understanding of their encounters (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2007). However, it is more likely that these students were unaware of their lack of knowledge at the beginning of the inquiry process when questionnaire 2 was given, and by week 9 when questionnaire 3 was administered, they had most definitely collected more knowledge along the way. When looking at the increase in information shared by these students in the open-ended questions this notion is logical. When comparing the quality and quantity of the data shared, these students had built on their prior knowledge. Most of the students who responded with ‘not much’ in questionnaire 2 (5 students), later shared that they had learned ‘a great deal’ about their country during the project. This data reflects that this group of students were perhaps more aware of their current knowledge at the time of the questionnaires and were able to reflect more accurately.
To fully understand the results for question 4 and 5, we firstly need to see how the emerging themes linked back to the Australian Curriculum’s Inquiry Skills Sequence for geography, adapted by Lupton (2012). Figure 4 also displays the student responses, which were unlimited. Between the two questionnaires, 77 student responses were then coded into the three categories of literacy skills, technology skills, and data collection. Acknowledging the close relationship and similarities between the student responses and the Inquiry Skills Sequence allows us, as educators, to recognise were more focused support needs to be for the students, and how inquiry-based projects such as this one, can be re-designed for future student success.
For question 4 and 5, students were asked to identify what tasks they found easy or hard while conducting their research. The students were not limited to making only one comment, and so the data displayed in figure 5 represents how frequently each theme was mentioned in the student responses. For example, questionnaire 2 shows 14 comments making up almost half of the student responses relating to data collection being easy –
“finding countries that border Zaire”
“a lot of information about the population and the people”
“pictures of native animals”
“finding the oceans and the natural vegetation”
“researching for maps and images”
While comparing the two bar graphs in figure 5, it is important to consider that questionnaire 2 collected 30 comments, when questionnaire 3 collected 47 comments. It is interesting to see that students had more to share about their experience after it was completed. With this increased self-awareness (Kuhlthau, 2004) the students were able to reflect and think about the ideas they encountered during the inquiry process, enabling them to construct their own knowledge and meaning required to successfully complete the project (Kuhlthau et al., 2007).
In questionnaire 3 of figure 5, the data also displays the students stronger sense of skills required within their increased self-awareness (Kuhlthau, 2004), as the student responses spread more evenly over the three categories. This growing knowledge occurred as the project progressed, while students experienced tasks such as making sense of website information, writing scripts from dot points into their own words, and creating movies using new software. The same four students remained consistent in their responses relating to the literacy skills being hard, which was to be expected as they all struggled with low level literacy skills. The substantial increase in the categories of ‘technology skills easy’, ‘technology skills hard’ and ‘literacy skills easy’, implies that the students had not given much thought to the skills required for the project to begin with, but were able to rise to the challenge through the ongoing support of their classroom teacher.
“The script was the hardest because it was hard to make dot points into sentences.”
“Looking for the right website was hard.”
“I didn’t have a laptop for 2 weeks.”
“The narration and the script writing was hard.”
The above results were specific to questionnaire 3 only, as students were asked to consider what they had learned from doing their research project. The graph displays each student’s single response to the question. Similar to question 4 and 5, themes emerged from the student responses that reflected their experiences. Topics such as curriculum content in the fact recall tasks, ICT skills development in Movie Maker, information literacy in the research tasks, and personal development in the new interest area, all appeared and were represented in the student quotes featured below:
“I learnt how to use Movie Maker.”
“I learnt research was a little hard.”
“Egypt is a hard country to research.”
“That Kenya is a fascinating country.”
“I learnt about natural habitats, physical features, climates, and all religions of Egypt.”
Once again, the high results in ‘more facts’ reflects that the students considered information recall as an important skill on the agenda of the project. It is also interesting to note that the whole class learned to use Movie Maker for this project, but yet only one student mentioned it as something new. I suspect this may reflect that the students of today are so seamless with the uptake of ‘new technology skills’, that they do not acknowledge it consciously, just like scratching your nose when it is itchy, whereas learning more information about a country on the other side of the world is extremely foreign, unusual and most certainly stands out as ‘new’.
For the concluding question of questionnaire 2 and 3, students were asked to reflect upon their feelings towards the research project through the description of their emotions. It is interesting to see that ‘confidence’ was the predominant response for at least 50% of the students in both questionnaires. I would relate this to the excellent level of one-to-one student teacher time, which was made available by the classroom teacher. The teacher gave regular verbal feedback to the students, and made suggestions to provoke forward thinking. It is logical to see that one third of students in questionnaire 2 felt confused, overwhelmed, or frustrated during the exploration stage of the information search process (Kuhlthau, 2004), however, with 94% of the students feeling confident and happy with their final project it is easy to say that they finished with a strong sense of accomplishment (Kuhlthau, 2004).
To view the info-graphic in presentation mode click here
Gourley, B. (2008). Inquiry Circle. Retrieved on 15th September, 2014.
Grantham, N. (2014). Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy Model, Fractus Learning. Retrieved on 20th September, 2014.
Kuhlthau, C.C. (2004) Information Search Process. Retrieved on 30th September, 2014.
Kuhlthau, C.C.; Maniotes, L.K. & Caspari, A.K. (2007). Chapter 2: The Theory and Research Basis for Guided Inquiry in Kuhlthau, Carol C. ; Maniotes, Leslie K. & Caspari, Ann K, Guided inquiry : learning in the 21st century, Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited, pp.13-28.
Lupton, M. (2012) Peer Review: Inquiry Skills in the Australian Curriculum. Access. June 2012. Retrieved 20th September 2014.
Todd, R., Kulthau, C.C., Heinstrom, J.E. (2005) School Library Impact Measure. A Toolkit and Handbook for Tracking and Assessing Student Learning Outcomes Of Guided Inquiry Through The School Library.