Information -seeking strategies and science content understandings of sixth-grade students using on-line learning environments.
This study examined the information-seeking strategies and science content understandings learners developed as a result of using on-line resources in the University of Michigan Digital Library and on the World Wide Web. Eight pairs of sixth grade students from two teachers' classrooms were observed during inquiries for astronomy, ecology, geology, and weather, and a final transfer task assessed learners' capabilities at the end of the school year. Data included video recordings of students' screen activity and conversations, journals and completed activity sheets, final artifacts, and semi-structured interviews. Learners' information-seeking strategies included activities related to asking, planning, tool usage, searching, assessing, synthesizing, writing, and creating. Analysis of data found a majority of learners posed meaningful, openended questions, used technological tools appropriately, developed pertinent search topics, were thoughtful in queries to the digital library, browsed sites purposefully to locate information, and constructed artifacts with novel formats. Students faced challenges when planning activities, assessing resources, and synthesizing information. Possible explanations were posed linking pedagogical practices with learners' growth and use of inquiry strategies. Data from classroom-lab video and teacher interviews showed varying degrees of student scaffolding: development and critique of initial questions, utilization of search tools, use of journals for reflection on activities, and requirements for final artifacts. Science content understandings included recalling information, offering explanations, articulating relationships, and extending explanations. A majority of learners constructed partial understandings limited to information recall and simple explanations, and these occasionally contained inaccurate conceptualizations. Web site design features had some influence on the construction of learners' content understandings. Analysis of data suggests sites with high quality general design, navigation, and content helped to foster the construction of broad and accurate understandings, while context and interactivity had less impact. However, student engagement with inquiry strategies had a greater impact on the construction of understandings. Gaining accurate and in-depth understandings from on-line resources is a complex process for young learners. Teachers can support students by helping them engage in all phases of the information-seeking process, locate useful information with prescreened resources, build background understanding with off-line instruction, and process new information deeply through extending writing and conversation.
Hoffman, J. L. (1999). Information -seeking strategies and science content understandings of sixth-grade students using on-line learning environments. PhD. Dissertation. The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
Type of Publication
Hoffman, Joseph L.
The University of Michigan
Number of Pages
Nation(s) of Study
United States of America