Learning in Simulations: Examining the Effectiveness of Information Literacy Instruction Using Middle School Students’ Portfolio Products

Terrance S. Newell

Abstract


Objective –This study compared the effectiveness of simulation-based and didactic instructional approaches in improving students’ understanding of information literacy (IL) concepts and practices.

Methods – The instructional approaches were implemented with two groups of middle school students (i.e., seventh and eighth grades) over a 4-week period. During the implementation period, all students were required to maintain a portfolio of their work. The portfolios were designed to capture students’ actions as they engaged in a common set of information-based problems. The contents of the portfolios were analyzed to examine the research questions that guided the study. Contingency tables demonstrated observed patterns of difference from week 1 to week 4. Chi-square analysis helped to determine whether a significant relationship existed between instructional approach and shifts in IL proficiency levels at the .05 level.

Results – There was a significant relationship between the simulation-based approach and increases in students’ ability to 1) recognize the need for information, 2) formulate specific questions that would help in finding needed information, 3) identify a range of information sources for meeting needs, 4) explain successful strategies for accessing needed information, 5) judge the accuracy, relevance and completeness of sources and 6) analyze information from a variety of sources to determine its applicability to a specific problem. Four major distinctions are believed to have caused the students within the simulated instructional environment to experience more proficiency level shifts: situated practice, authenticity, community of practice and an expanded landscape of resources.

Conclusion – The results of this study suggest that simulation-based instructional approaches have the potential to augment IL learning. The technology-based approaches may provide powerful learning environments (virtual worlds) that allow students to engage in the activities and practice of information specialists, instead of simply learning the facts associated with the discipline.

Keywords


information literacy; instructional approaches; instructional effectiveness; participatory simulation; content analysis; student portfolios

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