How does the challenge of undergraduate research and inquiry construct or influence students’ experience? And how do students interpret the opportunities of conducting undergraduate research and inquiry and how do they act as learners? These questions were scruti-nized by quantitative and qualitative research at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).
Surveys completed by students and teachers at the KIT in 2016 were used as a basis for exploring different modes, attitudes, expectations and motives of learning. For example, a differentiation of the modes of “learning through research content” and of “learning through research processes” (cf. Healey and Jenkins, 2005) could be confirmed with factor analysis with both, the data of students and of teachers. Regression analyses then underscored the assumption that students with a metacognitive orientation clearly appreciate opportunities of “learning through research processes” while students who expected to get guidance by teachers did not share this appreciation. The samples of the quantitative survey consist of 1482 students and 550 teachers.
Referring to the qualitative stu ... mehrdy, results of three selected interviews are discussed. This interview data provides the ground for in-depth comparisons of learning experiences through inquiry. Thus, the role of metacognition for students’ learning experience was further scrutinized. Theoretically, this was inspired by Deanna Kuhn (1996) who defines two poles of knowing, describing a scope of cognitive skills for research and inquiry: “At one pole, knowing prevails because the knower never has considered otherwise; at the other pole, knowing is an ongoing process of evaluation, which the ever-present possibility of new evidence and new arguments leaves always uncompleted.” Based on the interviews, trajectories of students challenged to critically reflect on existing knowledge and their own ideas were recon-structed. There was evidence that the three students faced a challenge to reflect not only issues “about good thinking,” but to engage “them[selves] in the practice of thinking” (ibid.). However, reasons why the students did not accept and meet this second challenge entirely became obvious. One major reason was found in the subjective interpretation of the learning tasks. The interpretative horizon regarding the tasks’ meaning was limited by output- rather than process-orientation. The students believed that they were evaluated by their learning product rather than by getting involved with inquiry and the practice of thinking. Due to this, they felt stress which can be seen as an effect of the students’ lack of metacognitive orienta-tions: Given that someone is un-experienced with reflecting one’s own thinking, the opportunity of engaging oneself in the practice of thinking and inquiry does not appear as meaningful as the alternative to orientate towards learning results. Thus, the feeling emerges of being under pressure to complete the task rather than to go deeper into it. Vice versa, the effect can be observed that learners are distracted from reflecting deeper because of the inhibition of the feeling of pressure. Against this backdrop, also limits of this research and of combining the methodological approaches are discussed.
Jenkins, A.; Healey M. (2005): Institutional Strategies for Linking Teaching and Research,
Higher Education Academy, York.
Kuhn, D. (1996): Thinking as argument. In: Smith, Leslie (Ed.): Critical Readings on Piaget. London, New York: Routledge.