Towards an Information System Making Transparent Teaching Processes and Applying Informing Science to Education
Cartelli, Antonio, Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology
In a recent study the author reported the points of view of psychology and didactics in educational and vocational guidance and the following remarks were pointed out (Cartelli, 2004): a) psychological research achieved good results in helping subjects in their developmental and educational growth and produced many instruments for the analysis of their affective, relational and cognitive spheres; i.e., tests, surveys, questionnaires and many kinds of interviews, b) didactics, on another hand, developed many teaching strategies, which can be successfully applied all together or separately in everyday class-work on the basis of the data emerging from the systematic observation of students (i.e., the results of many experiences show that a careful planning of teaching can contribute to students' acquisition of a meaningful learning).
In the same work (Cartelli, 2004), pros and cons in the application of theories and methods of psychology and didactics were analyzed and the results of recent studies on guidance actions were reported. The main result of those studies was the evidence of elements having good effects in guidance actions for the help they gave to students, families and teachers in overcoming the difficulties they met. The list of these elements is reported below:
1. Methods and instruments of didactics and psychology must be jointly used in everyday schoolwork; they both are, in fact, involved in the analysis of students' learning and educational environments. In other words, teaching planning, mostly pertaining to didactics, must include guidance in the teaching-learning process (i.e., special jobs helping students in the development of self-guidance skills have to be planned together with teaching of the disciplines' topics); furthermore, instruments and methods for the analysis of students' evolution and involvement in school life, mostly pertaining to psychology, must be systematically used from teachers to find elements helping students in overcoming their difficulties and giving them the instruments for the planning of suitable guidance interventions.
2. The action research strategies must replace the hypothetical-deductive models often used in psychological and didactical approaches to guidance actions for interpreting phenomena.
3. The monitoring of teaching-learning (i.e., the screening of educational processes and of their actors) has to support the students' evaluation and assessment and the analysis of their relational and affective spheres.
The first point is the natural consequence of the diachronic-continuous evaluation of students' behaviors and processes involved in the guidance action, rather than the synchronous-ending evaluation of the same elements.
The second point strictly depends on the first one because of the features of the action research inquiry method. It is well known, in fact, that action research fully immerses the researcher in the reality he/she is studying and modifications he/she induces in the phenomenon under investigation are an integral part of this research method (Scurati & Zanniello, 1993). On the other hand, traditional (Susman & Evered, 1978) and more recent (Baskerville, 1997) descriptions of action research methods and techniques detail a five phases cyclic process, which can be easily identified with the one marking the planning and developing of every guidance action: 1) diagnosing, 2) action planning, 3) action taking, 4) evaluating and 5) specifying learning. And last, it has to be noted that very common consequences of action research strategies are: 1) people involved in the inquiry have a closer and wider message transfer rate while communicating among themselves, 2) researchers pay close attention to ethical considerations in managing their work.
Richard Winter (1996), in the following principles, described action research inquiry steps better than the above two remarks:
--relevant persons, committees and authorities must be consulted before starting any work, and principles guiding this work have to be accepted in advance by all,
--all participants must be allowed to influence the work, and the wishes of those who do not like to participate in the work must be respected,
--the development of the work must remain visible and open to suggestions from others,
--permission must be obtained before making observations or examining documents produced for other purposes,
--description of works and points of view coming form people not directly involved in the work must be negotiated with them before being published,
--the researcher must accept responsibility for maintaining confidentiality. …