University Students' Information Seeking Behaviour in a Changing Learning Environment This is by Eeva-Liisa Eskola of Abo Akademi University. It was published in Information Research, Volume 4 No. 2 October 1998.
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The theoretical basis of this study is partly in theories and conceptions of learning and partly in that research in information seeking, needs and uses which emphazies the user and takes the social context into consideration.
The need for changes and improvement in the quality of education has become apparent also in Finland in the higher education during this decade. The reasons have been the growth of information, a growing number of students in higher education, demands on output and productivity from the society, and the criticism against existing university policy. University policy has been critizised both in national evaluation reports of Finnish universities and in the OECD-report on evaluation of Finnish universities from 1994. Generally the development in scientific research in learning and knowledge has influenced the need for changes also in the university pedagogy. (Sallinen 1995, 10-12)
The old educational system has been critizised for its conception of knowledge. In the education learners have received pieces of information which have no connection with the real life. For that kind of information and knowledge is little use in the modern society. Instead there is a need for knowledge and skills for problem-solving and critical and creative thinking (Voutilainen et al. 1991, 19-21). The old static conception of knowledge has to be replaced with a dynamic conception of knowledge. According to the dynamic view knowledge is something continuously changing and growing when individuals are actively using and producing it (Voutilainen et al. 1991, 9-10).
Instruction and study are always based on some conception of learning. Two main traditions in the conceptions of learning are the empirical/behavioural and the constructivist conceptions. The constructivist conception of learning has during the last decades challenged the behavioural one. The constructivist conception has its roots in the rationalistic epistemology and in "image of man" of evolutionary theory. It has been influenced by pragmatics (Peirce), functionalistic psychology (James), progressiv pedagocics (Dewey) and symbolic interactionism (Mead). Representatives of these approaches emphasized the critical role of action in the existence of human beings generally and also in learning. The constructivist conception has also been influenced by the ideas of Gestalt psychology, Bartless' theory of schemes, Piaget, Vygotsky and the cognitive approach (von Wright 1994).