Information Use and Meaningful Learning

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This study investigates how high school students use information to learn. Conducted within the broad conceptual framework of a constructivist adaptation of learning theory, the study defines the "success" of students' infonnation seeking as it relates to their meaningful learning experience as a whole. In order to study students' information seeking as a meaningful learning experience, four foreshadowing questions were set out: 1) How do students initially understand information and information sources? 2) How do information structures of information sources affect students' understanding about their topics? 3) What strategies do students use for restructuring information? and 4) How is students' inforn1ation use reflected in their products related to learning tasks? Within the methodological framework of naturalistic inquiry, the study used a combination of concept maps and interviews as a unique method for investigating changes in students' understanding based on their use of information. Twenty-one high school juniors in an honors class in persuasive speech were observed in their library media center while perfonning required learning tasks; eight of the students, their teacher, and the library media specialist were interviewed. Data were analyzed both manually and with the support of data management software. Overall, the findings suggest that students' learning in an information-rich enviromnent is dynamic and that students learn interactively and serendipitously. Several streams of analysis suggest more specific findings within these larger ones. To structure part of the analysis, Mayer's (1999) three processes for meaningful learning-selecting, organizing, and integrating--were extended to include two additional processes particularly important in infonnation seeking: gathering and using. Findings suggest that all of these five processes are intertwined and dynamically related and the process of "using" information had a particular effect on students' understanding about their topics as they created their final products. Additionally, four types of changes were identified as students conducted their information seeking and created their final products: simple, analytic, organizational, and holistic. Analyzed within the framework of the revised Bloom's Taxonomy ofEducational Objectives (Anderson and Krathwohl, 2001 ), the data revealed that students' learning progressed through all six levels of the taxonomy as they engaged with information.