Formal and Informal Learning Environments

Formal and Informal
YALSA Research Agenda Priority Area 4
ALA Midwinter 2012
YALSA Research Forum
Annie Downey
University of North Texas
The Research Agenda
• “For those doing research on 21st century library
services for young adults, a singular challenge lies in
exploring the intersections of formal and informal
environments (along with friendship-driven and interestdriven pursuits) with library-related activities as varied as
adolescent development and literacy acquisition” (Harris,
• An example of this type of intersection
• Quest to Learn
Harris, F. (2011). Gimme shelter: Informal and formal learning environments in
library land. Retrieved from
Key Points / Topics of Inquiry
• Think of learning when designing spaces – intentionally
creating learning spaces
• Technology in learning environments
• Digital divide
• Access to technology AND access to specific resources
• Inventory of technologies being used (also how usage relates to
income, gender, and ethnicity)
• Data driven understanding of technology use
• Effect of filters
• Tech skills of YAs
• Online learning - in formal learning environments
Key Points / Topics of Inquiry
• Interest-driven learning
• Value of informal learning
• Limitations created by the structure of formal learning
environments can affect informal learning (such as setup of
space, filters, etc.)
• Supporting informal learning in formal learning environments
Learning Environments Defined
• “The social, physical, psychological, and pedagogical
contexts in which learning occurs and which affect
student achievement and attitudes” (from Learning
Environments Research: An International Journal published by Springer)
Computer Labs
Online classes
Science centers
Field trips
Social media
Research Methods
Structured Observation
Text and Speech Analysis
Focus groups
Critical approaches
Statistical analysis
Combination of qualitative and quantitative is common and
often preferred for this type of research
• A long history in learning environment research
• Many valid instruments to use
Learning Environment Inventory (LEI)
Classroom Environment Scale (CES)
Individualised Classroom Environment Questionnaire (ICEQ)
Questionnaire on Teacher Interaction (QTI)
Constructivist Learning Environment Survey (QLES)
What is Happening in This Class? (WIHIC)
Distance Education Learning Environments Survey (DELES)
• Questionnaire data is often used in conjunction with learning
outcome data
• A good history and summation of the above instruments: Fraser, B. J.
(2002). Learning environment research: Yesterday, today and tomorrow. In S. C. Goh & M.
S Khine (Eds), Studies in educational learning environments: An international perspective
(pp. 1-26). Singapore: World Scientific.
Ethnography and Observation
• Can be simple or very complex
• Check out articles in the field of educational anthropology for
• Examples from academic libraries
• Studying Students: The Undergraduate Research Project at the
University of Rochester
• Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries (aka ERIAL
• AnthroLib Library in Zotero has more examples – includes
examples of using ethnography techniques for online
Pew Research
• Use their reports or other publications for background
information, stats, or ideas
Teens, Kindness and Cruelty on Social Network Sites
Generations 2010 (datasets are also available for download)
The new normal in the digital age
Speaking the language of the next generation
Reading, Writing, & Research in the Digital Age
• More:
• Use their data for your own study
• Trend Data for Teens
• Data Sets
Kaiser Family Foundation
• Focused on major health care issues, including the effect of
media on health
• Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds
• is the third in a series of large-scale, nationally representative
surveys by the Foundation about young people’s media use. It
includes data from all three waves of the study (1999, 2004, and
2009), and is among the largest and most comprehensive publicly
available sources of information about media use among
American youth.
Additional Quantitative
• The GFI® Software 2011 Parent-Teen Internet Safety Report
• This survey is a probability sample – designed to be nationally
representative - of 535 pairs of teens ages 13-17 and their
parents in households with Internet access.
• UNESCO ICT in Education
• International perspective
• Some data available; more forthcoming
Designing a Study - Tips
• Choose your method
• Your question should guide you
• Be very clear on your what you want to find out
• Familiarize yourself with the method you have chosen
• Make sure you understand the important concepts
• Do a GOOD literature review
• can be before or after you choose your method
• Can be very helpful when trying to develop your question
• Sample size: how many people should I study?
• Quantitative - formula-based
• Qualitative – no clear boundaries; supposed to reach saturation
Designing a Study - Tips
• Analyze your results
• Evaluate the quality of your study
• Quantitative
• Reliability
• Validity
• Qualitative
• Credibility
• Transferability
• Dependability
• Write it up and submit for publication
Resources for Research Help
• Research Methods Knowledge Base – covers the basics of
• Open Learning Initiative’s Statistics and Probability course –
full, free stats course from Carnegie Mellon University
Annie Downey
Head, Research and Instructional Services
University of North Texas Libraries
Denton, TX
[email protected]

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