Scaffolding Performance in IR Instruction: Exploring Learning Experiences and Performance in Two Learning Environments

Kai Halttunen
2003 Journal of information science  
In order to design information retrieval (IR) learning environments and instruction, it is important to explore available pedagogical solutions and their impact on learning experiences and performance in learning situations. The particular focus of this study is the demonstration how pedagogical solutions like scaffolding and anchored instruction can be implemented in IR instruction and what effects it has on learning experiences and performance compared to a more traditional learning
more » ... t and instruction. The study of these solutions is a novel approach in information science. The 65 participants of an introductory course on IR were selected for this study, and the analysis illustrates their learning experiences and performance. The method for empathy based stories (MEBS) as well as course feedback questionnaire and log files of search exercises were used to collect data. The results indicated that anchoring and scaffolding are promising strategies to make learning experiences meaningful and create learners' ownership to one's learning. Performance analysis indicates that scaffolding with an instructional tool, the IR Game, with performance feedback and scaffolding and anchoring by tutors enables students to construct more ( effective queries. Results of the study, in terms of the benefits of anchoring and scaffolding, are not categorical because the range of intervening variables and the difficulty of setting up a field experiment which tried to be naturalistic but at the same time tried to focus on a specific aspect. Introduction Web and CD-ROM mediated information systems and sources have made information retrieval (IR) a commonplace activity. These IR activities include selection of relevant information sources, construction of queries representing information needs and search requests, interaction with IR systems and evaluation of search results. Searching is done with computerized IR systems. Everyday users are afforded with the same opportunities and tools as information specialists by using emerging information systems such as the Web. IR know-how is needed in several task situations like education, business and everyday activities. The commonality of IR activities has risen interest in user behavior in information searching activities, but it has produced very little, if at all, research and development in the area of teaching and learning IR. Webber and Johnston [1] have argued that research into information seeking behavior does not seem to have had much influence on how information searching is taught. They hypothesise that users of information systems are taught in much same sort of way as 20 years ago. The contribution of the research described in this paper is to provide new approaches and methods in to field of IR instruction. The present research introduces two pedagogical solutions, scaffolding and anchored instruction, and describes and evaluates their implementation in IR instruction along with participants' learning experiences and performance. ( 2. The field of IR instruction IR instruction is routinely organized in different levels by schools, universities, libraries, online vendors, consultants etc. Besides the commonality of IR skills, they are a key area of expertise for information professionals. A wide variety of textbooks about the basics and principles of searching has been published [2-5]. The educational material covers four main areas focusing on presenting (1) the context of IR as a part of information seeking activities, (2) basic principles of IR systems, (3) general search strategies applicable in all ordinary retrieval settings, and (4) specific search strategies for particular retrieval settings and information sources. The main goal of instruction is to develop learners' practical capability to perform successfully any search task appearing in the professional work situation. Research covering instruction of IR is disjointed, without solid background in either information studies nor educational research. Although different approaches to IR instruction have some common elements it is quite a fuzzy field of activities with different levels, approaches and stakeholders. The following paragraphs categorize these different approaches. Firstly, education of professionals in information and library science. This research has analyzed for example the amount of IR instruction in curriculum, presence and integration of IR instruction in different courses and differences between covered domain and instructional methods and materials. (See, e.g. [6, 7]). ( Secondly, there is a large amount of literature on user education in libraries. Bibliographic instruction covers some aspects of IR know-how. Research has concentrated mainly on teaching methods and implementation of computer-assisted tutorials as well as coverage of courses. (See, e.g. [8-11]). Thirdly, there are a few studies of instruction of IR in other domains than information studies. Examples of these are journalism [12] and education [13-17]. This rising trend of IR instruction especially in the educational field calls for solid research on IR instruction and learning environments. Fourthly, research and development in the field of information skills covers partly the same elements as previous approaches, but concentrates more on research oriented tasks in educational settings. Information skills cover more widely the research and information seeking process than IR instruction. Approaches like the information search process [18], information problem-solving [19-20], study and information skills [21], library research process [22] are well known examples of different approaches to information skills instruction. Fifthly, the concept of information literacy has gained increasing attention in recent years. Discussion about information literacy covers elements of information skills with some more emphasis on communicating, synthesis and creation of information. It also covers more economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information. Discussion of information literacy has clearly two different starting points, namely a normative, top down approach which presents requirements for information literacy education and information literate person [23] and on the other ( hand a bottom up approach which tries to describe and evaluate different empirical conceptions of information literacy [24]. Webber & Johnston [1] and Bawden [ 25] provide exhaustive review of the topic. Pedagogical solutions for IR instruction Two applicable approaches to IR instruction, scaffolding and anchored instruction are described in following subsections. Scaffolding The term "scaffolding" in nowadays widely used in instructional settings. Scaffolding refers to different kinds of supports that learners receive in their interaction with teachers, tutors and different kinds of tools within a learning environment as they develop new skills, concepts or levels of understanding. The term scaffolding was originally put forward by Wood, Bruner and Ross [26] as a metaphor to describe the intervention of peer, adult or competent person in the learning of the other person. The notion of scaffolding relies heavily to Vygotsky's concept of "the zone of proximal development (ZPD)". The socio-cultural approach based on the work of Vygotsky has had a major influence on the development of scaffolded instruction and apprenticeship models of learning [27, 28] . Scaffolding should enable learners to perform activities they were unable to perform without this support. Along with support the other important element in scaffolding is fading. Fading represents gradual removal of support when learners can cope with the task independently. Winnips and McLoughlin [29] have distinguished between initial and ongoing ( support. Initial support is given in the beginning of the task, and faded so that the student can learn to self-regulate. Ongoing support is provided during the task completion and is based on student input. Scaffolding can be implemented by human tutors or it can be embedded in instructional software environments. Gutzdial [30] has made a distinction between macro and micro level scaffolding. The macro level is concerned with the stages or collections of activities which the student undertakes. The micro level identifies the individual activities which the students undertake. Examples of initial and ongoing support at macro and micro level, as well as software-based and face-to-face scaffolding, are given in Chapter 4. Anchored instruction In many cases the search tasks in IR instruction are well specified. This exactness and predefined linguistic expressions can be seen as an obstacle for learning because they are not related to any meaningful real-world like situation. The more complete the specification of values for each instructional component, the less inclined teachers may be to map onto the unique features of particular students and communities. One solution to this problem could be anchored instruction, an instructional approach developed by the Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt [31] [32] [33] .They have tried to build an instructional design approach that provides some specific tools for instruction yet also leaves room for a great deal of flexibility. The basis of the approach is to build semantically rich "anchors" that illustrate important problem solving situations. These anchors create a "macrocontext" that provides a common ground for experts as well as teachers and students from diverse backgrounds, to communicate in ways that build collective understanding. Macrocontexts are In the traditional learning environment different operational search systems (an OPAC, an union catalogue, article reference databases and full-text databases) were used to demonstrate basic functions or IR systems. In the experimental setting instruction full-text newspaper articles from local newspaper along with press image database were used. These sources were used through the IR Game, a system which offers feedback to the searcher on the effectiveness of queries based on recall-base. Same two article reference databases were also used in experimental setting as in traditional instruction. Various ideas of scaffolding and anchored instruction were applied in the experimental learning environment. Detailed descriptions of these
doi:10.1177/01655515030295004 fatcat:46gedrlia5bfjhntwujh2jt52i