Case studies: individual and group ILEs


The conscious processing that occurs during learning is both dense and dynamic. As outlined earlier, observation, concurrent verbal protocol analysis, and discourse analysis were used in this research to collect data. As the object of research was the independent learning experience and the purpose to understand the experience, every utterance and action was recorded and coded to give us a picture of‘learning in action’.

In the research underpinning the model presented in this book, ILEs of approximately 90-minute sessions were used (individual, pair, and group learning settings), as this was the learning time period that was most familiar to the research subjects (university students in a system where 90-minute lectures, seminars, and tutorials were the norm). All verbalisations (using VPA and discourse analysis) were transcribed, and all observable actions were noted and included in the transcription. This is unlike some qualitatively coded projects, indeed some grounded theory projects, where the researcher(s) may code and analyse only those elements they seek to understand. This project required an understanding and a mapping of all that was occurring during the learning process.

This provides for quite dense reading that not all readers would inflict upon themselves. Therefore, in this chapter, annotated extracts of learning experiences with some discussion are provided, which will hopefully still allow the reader to experience both the richness and complexity of the contextualised learning experience. For the readers who would like to follow entire ILE episodes that are fully coded, please refer to Appendices В, C, and D at the end of this book.

A very short example

I mentioned earlier that the picture of processing in ILEs can be very dense and dynamic, rendering it difficult to represent. What does that mean? Well, ‘dense’ here refers to the fact that movement through the processing categories, and between dimensions and sub-elements of those categories occurs with high frequency, often occurring at a micro-second level (though not always this quickly, as we will see).

Table 6.1 Microsecond Coding

Learner is writing (Observed)

“No good”

(Verbalised - VPA)

“Gotta rewrite this paragraph” (Verbalised - VPA)

Learner is re-writing (Observed)

Cognition: Learner is engaged with his essay content

Metacognitive monitoring: Learner realises his writing is not adequate

Metacognitive control: Learner decides to stop and go back

Cognition: Learner is engaged with essay content again

Here is an example of a three-second learning period. A learner was working on an essay. During this three-second learning period, the learner can be observed moving through four different states: from cognition to metacognitive monitoring to metacognitive control and back to cognition as shown in Table 6.1.

In this example, the occurrence of cognition, metacognitive monitoring, metacognitive control and re-occurrence of cognition took place within a couple of seconds. So, while learners stay engaged in single categories of processing for longer periods of time (sometimes seconds, other times minutes), there is also a very fast interplay between different dimensions and sub-elements of processing, resulting in very dense coding, often at the level of single words. Therefore, the recording of movement and processing at such a low time frame brings density to the data.

This example also illustrates the need to show the data analysis and coding as contextualised excerpts. In the above example, the learner utterance of “No good” is coded as ‘metacognitive monitoring’. Metacognitive monitoring is a metacognitive activity that interrupts the learner’s cognitive processing - in this case, the learner made a judgement on his ability within the learning task being undertaken - i.e. he decided that his writing was ‘no good’. This led the learner into a metacognitive control decision, which was to rewrite the paragraph, which changed the course of the learning. Viewed out of context, neither the logic nor accuracy of this coding decision would be apparent. Also, at other intervals during learning, the same utterance (‘No good’) could be part of another type of processing (e.g. affective processing). So rather than coding the language used to designate codes, it is the purpose of the language used ‘at that moment’ that is coded. The presentation of case studies allows this to be visible and understandable, whereas for example a ‘coding list’ does not.

In this chapter, two case studies are presented. The background to the learning task undertaken in the case studies is also given. As a result of the length of the learning tasks in this study, the case study transcripts cannot be presented in their entirety. Therefore, extended excerpts from each case study are presented (full transcript examples are presented in Appendices B-D). Running alongside these excerpts are the memoing and coding processes of the research

(memos are in italics). The excerpts in each case study, though not consecutive, are sequential.

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