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How do postgraduate students process information and learn?

A Malaysian researcher analysed the understanding of information processing and learning preferences among postgraduate students using the Grounded Theory

Information Processing Strategies and Styles in Instructional Design: a Grounded Theory Approach

Sohaimi Zakaria of UiTM studied the understanding of information processing and learning preferences among postgraduate students. He studied the students’ preference for reading academic materials, managing lectures, and taking down notes as part of their activities in learning and studying.

Seventy-two postgraduate students were interviewed at the University of Sheffield by semi-structured interviews. The results of the interview were analyzed using the Grounded Theory.

The grounded theory coding paradigm model guided data analysis into the following divisions: conditions, phenomena or strategies, actions or interactions, intervening conditions and consequences. Conditions refer to tasks that are attributed to information processing and learning: reading academic materials, managing lectures and note-taking; phenomena or strategies refer to the ways in which they perform their academic tasks.

Postgraduate students applied the following strategies in processing information and learning, which could be grouped together to show their learning approaches and style: Relating, Grasping, Elaborating, Reproducing, Isolated targeting, Passive behaviour, Collaborating, Overviewing, Sequentialising, Localising and Amalgamating. In the final stage of data analysis, Intrinsic and Extrinsic motivational factors became the central categories, which subsumed all of the other categories. The intervening conditions to their learning were their Styles and Language factors.

The strategies, however, were not common to all participants, but we broadly categorized them into different groups. The participants who adopted the Relating, Grasping and Elaborating strategies were engaged in meaningful learning endeavours, while those who adopted the Reproducing, Isolated targeting and Passive behaviour strategies were inclined to using their memory without giving proper attention to achieving the desired level of understanding. On the other hand, participants who adopted the Collaborating and Overviewing strategies tended to process information and learn in a holistic way, whereas those who adopted the Sequentialising and Localising tended to be analytical. Finally, the participants who adopted the Amalgamating strategy tended to process information and learn by combining holistic and analytic strategies in their search for understanding.

The findings have implications for the design of computer-aided learning systems and for further research in the area of computer-mediated instruction.


Sohaimi Zakaria
Department of Information Studies
UiTM, Malaysia

Megawati Omar | Research asia research news
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