Types of Information
By types of information, I am referring to a way of classifying course content in terms of the students’ perspectives on its structure and use. Because it depends on perspective, this taxonomy is an illustration of how cognition is situated or distributed in the sense in which cognitive scientists such as Norman and his colleagues (e.g., Rumelhart and Norman 1988; Norman 1990, 1993; Zhang and Norman 1994) use the terms. The situatedness is derived in this case from the fact that students categorize course content simultaneously in terms of what the content itself affords and their own conceptual schemes.
Classifications of content in terms of informational structure are not entirely new in educational research. As discussed briefly in Chapter 2, there is a similar effort in epistemics to describe how students’ conceptualizations relate to their learning. To recapitulate the main findings, these studies found that students who hold more interrelated and more dynamic views of the material have better results. By contrast, those students who tend to see course content as independent inert pieces of information seem to have more difficulty. However, some of these studies have added a caveat to this general trend. They have seen these properties not just as products of the student’s approaches to content but also as a function of the way the professors organize content and tasks in their classes. This is a point made by Pintrich and Garcia (1991, p. 378): “Rather than two types of learners it is possible to hypothesize that there will be students who have different patterns of goals and use a variety of different cognitive and metacognitive