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Using phenomenographic methods to support political information use


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Presentation for ECIL 2016, 10 October 2016, Prague.

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Using phenomenographic methods to support political information use

  1. 1. Using Phenomenographic Methods to Support Political Information Use Lauren Smith Department Of Computer and Information Sciences and School Of Education, University Of Strathclyde @walkyouhome
  2. 2. This study looks at the different ways in which the participants are aware of, acquire, engage with and apply political information
  3. 3. Phenomenography and information literacy Author(s) Topic Bruce et al. (2006) Different ways of approaching teaching and IL Boon, Johnston and Webber (2007) Conceptions of informationliteracy Williams and Wavell (2007) Secondary school teachers' conceptions of student IL Smith (2010) Young people’s experiences of information Nielsen and Borlund (2011) Students’ perceptions of public libraries’ role in learning, IL and librarians’information competencies Diehm and Lupton (2012) University students’ approaches to learning IL Forster (2015) Nursing, IL, ethics & professional competence
  4. 4. This study: • Participants were Year 10 students (aged 14-15) in a school in South Yorkshire, England • Although not legally allowed to vote, they had begun to engage in political discussion as part of the educational curriculum • 23 individual interviews and 3 focus groups
  5. 5. Analysis • Phenomenographic studies do not make use of predetermined hypotheses or coding categories • Examined the focus group and interview transcripts in their entirety • Identified common themes and theoretical concepts, coded as they emerged • Identified similarities and differences in the ways the participants experienced political information
  6. 6. Anatomy of the outcome space • Levels • Categories of description • Structure of awareness • Dimensions of variation
  7. 7. Outcome Space
  8. 8. Young people’s conceptions of political information are varied, and they and encounter a wide range of information sources providing them with the knowledge to form political opinions.
  9. 9. Dimensions of variation
  10. 10. Production of information Category of Description One Two Three Four Five Six Production of information Not perceived as being part of a system of production or the individual’s own repertoire of information PI external to individual - not processed Individual is part of the process of the production of new information Active sharing & production aiming for social change
  11. 11. Evaluation of information Category of Description One Two Three Four Five Six Evaluation of information PI sources & their content are not evaluated Superficial; PI taken at face value Evaluation of basic credibility PI is subject to critique & evaluation
  12. 12. Political information and agency Category of Description One Two Three Four Five Six Information and agency PI not connected to individuals’ conceptions of own agency Superficial acknowledge- ment of PI & agency relationship Activeuse of PI to help develop (perhaps illusory) ‘sense’ of agency PI viewed as necessary to create conditions for agency Engagement with PI connected to personal action
  13. 13. Conception of politics Politics as all issues affecting public life Politics as social issues Politics as... Politics as current events reportedin media Politics as formal processes
  14. 14. Categories of description Categories of description represent the different conceptions participants express about the research phenomenon; a ‘conception’ being a ‘qualitatively distinct manner in which the subjects were found to voice the way they thought’ about the phenomenon (Marton and Booth 1997, p.36)
  15. 15. Different ways of experiencing political information 1) ... A range of sources of information; 2) ... Something which is encountered out of context; 3) ... Something to fill a knowledge gap; 4) ... Something through which to gain meaning and context; 5) ... Something relevant to one’s own life; 6) ... Something which can help to achieve social change.
  16. 16. Political information as something to fill a knowledge gap • Deliberate acquisition of information to form an opinion and fill a gap • Information as external object to meet an internal need • Engagement with information beneficial but not essential • Educational and real-world outcomes • Political knowledge as a commodity • Not conceptualised as being part of a system • Evaluated based on existing predispositions and assumptions
  17. 17. Political information as something to fill a knowledge gap If I want to find out more about something I’ve heard on the news I’ll Google it, just to find out the basic facts so I know what’s going on. (P26 FG3) I can see the value of learning about politics but I wouldn’t want to do it at school unless I could do it as a GCSE. (P8 FG1) I hate it when my Grandad comes out with something, like when he’s watching the news, and I know he’s wrong, but I don’t have the facts to back myself up if I said anything to him about it. If I could say like, that’s not how many people are benefits cheats really or whatever because I knew the facts, that’d be good. (P7 FG2)
  18. 18. Political information as something through which to gain meaning and context • Potentially useful resources for sense-making • Develop opinions, beliefs, attitudes, understanding • Easy to manage amount of information • Does not challenge existing worldviews but develop considered opinions • Awareness that information production is a process and can be subject to critical analysis • Develop a ‘sense’ of political agency (albeit with existing biases)
  19. 19. Political information as something through which to gain meaning and context He [the sociology teacher] always brings up things in the news, like how does that fit in with what we're doing, like family or youth or something. (P15 FG1) The newspapers can be very biased because the editor or whoever it is who’s written that particular article writes it, so they put their own view into it. (P7 FG2) I wouldn’t want to be able to vote because I don’t know enough. I mean, what if I voted and I voted for the wrong party - the ones who lost? (P8 FG1)
  20. 20. Political information as something relevant to one’s own life • Actively use information to develop a ‘sense’ of political agency, taking an interest • Understanding the “right” political views • Broader ‘landscape’ of politics • Used to develop understanding of politics and society • Individual part of the production of new information • Critical assessment of information sources • Connection between information from academic lessons and everyday life acknowledged
  21. 21. Political information as something relevant to one’s own life It kind of annoys me, the fact that the Prime Minister is usually someone who's been brought up middle class, that's never had to pay for anything, so they don't quite know how our parents feel, they don't quite know what it's like to work and have to earn and stuff like that. (P18 FG2) I think the only time I care about politics, is if it affects me or my family. If it doesn't, I have no reason to care about it. (P23 FG2) Sometimes I think I know about something but…I’ll hear something on the news and it makes me realise there’s more to it…I learn from that…when I’m talking to my friends…I’ll tell them it’s different. (P27 FG2) I think it’s important to be thinking about things now because even though I can’t vote yet, I do want to. So I need to know what I think about things. (P3)
  22. 22. Political information as something that can help to achieve social change • Developinga consciousness of the structures of powerand systems of production • Information sharing and production with a view to enacting social change • Production of political opinion • Assess reliability of information • Understand impact of bias and misinformation • Connect engagement with political information to action: being informed enough to become involved • Focus on application of informationfor social change
  23. 23. Political information as something that can help to achieve social change On Tumblr you’ll see a picture and it’ll come with a little caption about it, and then everybody will talk about what they think about it, and they can have a debate on it… And there’ll be different things that they talk about, like…feminism and stuff I hadn’t learnt about before. (P9) I like going to village meetings even though I’m the youngest one there because it’s where you find out local things that you don’t hear about , even in The Free Press. I like to know what I can do about things, how I can help. Like the other day, with the protest against the building work, they were saying what you can write in letters to the councillors and that. (P26)
  24. 24. Levels of the outcome space Although hierarchical in structure, the outcome space is not a representation of developmental phases of political activism, but is a representation of the different ways in which the participants experience political information and how they reported using informationto become informed or take action.
  25. 25. Research outcomes focus on how the variation of experiences and different ways of thinking about a phenomenon can be used as ‘a powerful way of seeing’, which in turn can be supported by educators to become ‘powerful ways of acting.’ (Marton and Tsui 2004, p.8) Use of phenomenography
  26. 26. Inclusion and participation Understanding these experiences can help us influence the degree of complexity with which young people use information to help them form political opinions and participate in democracy.
  27. 27. Finding out about the specific contexts of learners and the sources of information they encounter can help instructors to tailor their work to the needs of their learning communities. The methods used in this research can be applied in practice. Tailoring our education
  28. 28. Finding out about where young people get information from about the world around them and how they assess the authority of these sources helps us develop theory and helps us understand how we can help them to critically evaluate information and make informed choices. Helping our young people
  29. 29. Acknowledging that beliefs and actions are influenced by heuristics, emotions and sociopolitical factors, and that non- ‘traditional’ sources of information can be just as (or more) valid in certain contexts than traditional authorities, enables us to view the role of information literacy (in theory and practice) in a different light. IL in a different light
  30. 30. What can we do to support more complex conceptions of political information? Drawing on critical pedagogy
  31. 31. Culture of praxis • Young people are conscious of power differentials • Learn more effectively when teacher seen as a ‘person’ • Scope to build strong relationships with students • Opportunity for a less hierarchical learning environment • Emancipatory practice that provides the conditions for both to “speak and be taken seriously” (Giroux 2005, p.27)
  32. 32. Supporting popular culture as an information source • The benefits of using popular culture as an information source can be harnessed rather than warned against as an ‘invalid’ information source • Finding out how students perceive and evaluate these sources to help them do so more effectively
  33. 33. Border pedagogy • Helping students to locate accurate information and to challenge the messages promoted by the mass media • Critically interrogate the reasons behind their own willingness to accept misinformation as accurate • Encourage them to consider whose voices aren’t being heard • Think about the reasons institutions of power support the dominant culture through promotion of inequality and fear of the Other
  34. 34. • Phenomenographic exploration offered participants the opportunity to voice their experiences of political information and their concerns and attitudes about social and political issues • The voices of all participants were given equal weight and taken seriously • The fundamental principles of the approaches may be a useful starting point for engaging in this kind of work Phenomenography in practice
  35. 35. Spaces for speech The process of involving students in focus groups where they were encouraged to speak freely, and participants were encouraged to challenge the statements being made by others, contributed to the development of participants’ learning about the issues they were talking about, such as benefit fraud and immigration.
  36. 36. Liberatory approaches • The library should provide a learning environment in which students feel in control of their learning (Doherty and Ketchner 2005, p.3) • Flexibility in the content provided • Use of current events and world issues as a focus of learning • Promoting activities which are relevant to learners • Active dialogue with students
  37. 37. Improving critical skills Supporting learners to critically analyse texts and other information sources can have a transformative impact on the learner, helping them to develop a “healthy and creative scepticism” which encourages them to pose problems, and to challenge the claims made (Kincheloe et el. 2010)
  38. 38. Mass media fails to make a distinction between an informed argument and an unsubstantiated opinion (Giroux 2011, p.83)
  39. 39. Cognitive schema Phenomenographic interviews and focus groups, or even casual discussion may help pupils to become conscious of underlying assumptions and biases that inform their worldviews and information behaviours, many of which may be limiting individuals’ capacity to learn and develop as critically as they may be capable of.
  40. 40. Critical consciousness Power awareness Understanding social history Critical literacy Analytically reading, writing and discussing social matters Desocialisation Examining internalised myths and values of mass culture Self-organisation/self-education Taking initiative in ongoing social change (Deans 1999)
  41. 41. Thank You @walkyouhome