Game On: Levelling Up with Research

This semester my blog posts have been non-existent, and I do apologise. I’ve been busy.

I know that this is not about a lack of time, but rather an indication of my priorities, and sadly my blog has slid down the list has I have been continuing my PhD study, while also teaching LCN616 Inquiry Learning for the QUT Master of Education course as well as planning an Open Networked Learning seminar, drafting conference and journal papers and trying to squeeze in some research assistant work.

I have missed blogging. I have missed having the space to write and reflect, and I have missed the sense of connection I feel when others comment on or tweet my post. I have missed feeling as though I am contributing, rather than just taking from the pool of wisdom so freely shared by my PLN. I haven’t stopped thinking about potential blog posts…and I will not stop blogging…but posts may be slow as I finish up this hugely busy year.

Teaching Inquiry Learning has been a wonderful learning experience. I really enjoy being inspired by my colleagues (who are students in the course, but who I prefer to think of as equals. I learn so much from them, it is not a hierarchical teacher/student relationship – we are truly learners together). As they participate in Inquiry Learning, they create web artefacts which not only share their journey of understanding about inquiry learning, but also contribute to the larger professional conversation about this pedagogy.

One of the models we investigate is Kulthau’s Information Search Process.

Further information available on the Information Search Process here.

Actually, let me rephrase – we don’t investigate it, so much as live it. This model is interesting in that it not only details what we do in each stage of the research or information seeking process, but also how we think and how we feel. Almost every inquirer this semester has found alignment with their own learning experience and this model, and I know that during my PhD research I am constantly moving between the stages Kulthau outlines. I discover new ideas and become excited and optimistic about where they will take me, then, as I begin delving into the research, I become overwhelmed, frustrated and doubt my ability to ever get on top of what seems like so much ‘stuff’ – the more I dig, the more despondent I can get, as I start to wish I had never opened this can of worms. I gird my loins, and start reading more deeply…and slowly parts start to fall into place. Sometimes I can work with this information, and create something meaningful, other times I realise that I have gone in the wrong direction, and I return to my pile of stuff and begin again. Each time I write a significant ‘chunk’, I feel renewed confidence – “I can do this!”. Sometimes this lasts for days, sometimes mere minutes, as I then discover new information that either adds to my argument (yay!) or contradicts it to the point that once again I feel I know nothing (boo!).

Have you been there? Have you seen students experience this?

I wonder when we teach information seeking and research to our students, whether we acknowledge the substantial emotional ups and downs we can experience while we problem solve. How many times have you seen students become overwhelmed while researching, doubting their ability to respond to an assignment, feeling frustrated, angry and confused by the amount of information they must wade through. With Google providing us with ridiculous amounts of content, this exploration phase can seem to go on forever, and for those with weaker searching skills, it can seem completely impossible to manage. How many students have felt these emotions, and simply given up, deciding it is not the task, but themselves that are causing their negative feelings, and only engaging at a surface level for the remainder of the task. Research shows that those who are engaging more deeply with the research (and potentially learning more) are more likely to go even deeper into the pit of despair that can be the exploration phase.

To bring the ISP to life for your students, I have designed an infographic (below) which you are free to use, reproduce and share in your school and beyond. You can download a printable PDF version also, or access online in a presentation mode for teaching. Hopefully this will be useful to begin a discussion about the process of research, and to highlight that it is an emotional process as well as a cognitive one. I think we need to draw students’ attention to this, so they feel less alone and realise that feeling overwhelmed is normal, and that we all feel it when we are seeking information.

4 thoughts on “Game On: Levelling Up with Research”

  1. So, my hesitation at committing to do my Masters next year isn’t just me feeling anxious? Entering the field of Research is making me question my abilities – your infographic has shown me that there is a path I can follow that will assist me in my quest. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Your comment made me feel so happy! You are definitely not alone in feeling apprehensive at the beginning of a research journey, and I am so glad that the infographic is useful for you! Definitely investigate Carol Kuhlthau’s work on the information seeking process if this area interests you. All the best with your studies, and please keep in touch!

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