Section 8 – Information literacy and reflective learning The action research spiral – Evaluate
8.3. Evaluation of the learning activity. Feedback from students and from critical friends
Diana: I think the reason why we enjoyed this work is that we felt we had a common goal
Caterina: Working in group is in some way easier, in some way more difficult; you have to take in account different opinions, but you feel supported, you are not alone. Moreover, you have the opportunity to learn more, to learn from other people in your group.
8.3. Evaluation of the learning activity. Feedback from students and from critical
Both students and critical friends underlined the proportion between lecturing and students’ activity, which privileged interaction and self-learning
Silvio: The teacher did not explain everything, there was something we had to discover by ourselves, we were much more independent than usual
Francesca (critical friend): Some aspects were not treated during the lesson, but emerged while students were working, students discovered them by themselves. This is positive, since it encourages an active participation. In fact students appeared much more involved than usual. They asked questions and related contents each other.
Two students stressed the fact that they usually remember what they did by themselves, rather than examples and demonstrations offered by the teacher. This provides evidence that learning through independent experience and practice is vital for students, who perceive how to be self –directed leads to a more successful learning.
Arnaldo: You remember better when you try and do something by yourself Mario: I remember my attempts and mistakes…. and how I finally succeeded.
As just mentioned, the group work had a great success among students. This is considered one of the most valuable outcomes of this learning activity. Many students expressed their appreciation for working in group, even if it appeared sometimes stressing and painful.
There is a visible change in students’ opinion about team working in comparison with what students stated before this activity: many of their words illustrate a shift from individual effort to group work (Gamble, Davey and Chan, 1999).
Viviana: I did not appreciate the group work before this seminar. However, now I wouldn’t have done the research by myself, I enjoyed working in group.
Giacomo: Working in group in the afternoon was helpful to verify if we had really understood.
Caterina: I was really satisfied at the end. It has been stimulating.
The presentation itself appeared as a challenging and enjoyable activity. Students also felt that peer assessment encouraged them to compare and reflect on their own work, which is an important stimulus for self-directed learning .
Cesare: The presentation is different from the usual exam. You must defend your work, you must explain the meaning of what you did.
Caterina: I think I am likely to remember the final presentation: we were excited at the idea of sharing our work . The atmosphere was a bit tense, but it was a positive feeling
Reflective learning was perceived by students as a positive, even if unusual characteristic of this seminar.
Silvio: Some teachers had required us to do some thinking and evaluate our learning process. However, it was something different, it was something added on to the course. The difference here is that we were required to do this as a task.
The requirement of writing a learning journal produced different reactions in students.
Some of them found it a difficult task and apparently did not engage themselves very much, writing their journals in a quite hurried way, while many students expressed their appreciation for this assignment.
Federico: It was a means of learning. You know that you have learned if you are able to write what you have learned.
Caterina: It was helpful for clarifying what I was learning. Sometimes you think you have understood, but if you have to write it , this forces you to put your ideas in order. You need to concentrate yourself. Anyway, I am used to write…..
Diana: This was quite a surprising aspect of this activity, we were requested to express our opinions but also our feelings, this is not usual. You usually have lots of things to learn and very few time to reflect.
Some students expressed their difficulty in writing the journal, because “this is not usual anymore, nobody asks you to do such a thing”. They also stated that it was much easier to write the group research journal, related to the development of the team work, which is consistent with similar experiences described in literature (Thorpe, 2000).
Viviana: You know, when you are working with other people you have to express and defend your opinions and so you are forced to think….
Also according to one of my critical friends, the individual learning journal is a “difficult”
task for today’s students.
Lucia: I agree that sharing opinions and feelings with other people helps in expressing one’s own thoughts. Moreover, it is typical of students aged around twenty feeling the need to communicate each other in any occasions. Their life is a kind of permanent social event. They trust their peer much more than their teachers, they live their lives in group.
This is why I think that working in team has taken the most of them.
As regards the problem of managing time, which, according to the findings from focus groups, was considered the main negative factor in learning at the University, students expressed different opinions, but mainly agreed on the satisfactory scheduling of the activity and on the availability of the time needed to complete the research task.
Giacinto: This seminar has been very demanding, we had no time to waste, however, the time was enough to complete the work. We had been forced to use it in a fruitful way.
Caterina: We had time enough to finish our work…. but no more than enough!
We had to be accurate but also quick…
The learning material was generally appreciated both by students and by my critical friends. Most students found it clear and complete, while my colleagues recognised that having a printed support is helpful, not only for students, but also for the teacher, who can omit to illustrate every topic during the lessons, sparing time for more involving activities.
One student complained about the fact that I had provided printed copies of all booklets, while, in his opinion, it would be better to provide a digital version. Another student criticised the fact that the booklets were printed only on one side of the sheets. This is a waste of paper, he said.
Some students also expressed their appreciation for the serene atmosphere during the activity and underlined that this had favoured their learning.
Diana: The activity has been really involving, we have been challenged, both as individuals and as groups. However, we always felt encouraged and supported, we were not stressed. I think this has helped a lot..
Viviana: We had to work a lot, it was tiring, we also had to face problems, but it was exciting as well. Moreover, we felt free to express ourselves. I remember you told us that there was not only one way to do the work (the research task). This is the most positive characteristic of this course: we were not worried at the idea of making mistakes.
Caterina: It was a really exciting experience. We saw that there was a study, there was an effort so that we could really learn. It is the first time I feel this in such a strong way, I mean, that for the teacher it is so important that I learn.
Gemma: I didn’t expect that you remembered our names, all our names. That really impressed me. Your interest towards us was stimulating, I felt that you cared a lot of us.
8.4. Changes in students’ experience of information seeking and research process