Informal learning in the library; a student-based investigation

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As part of a qualitative study on students’ perception and use of informal learning spaces in an academic library, students were asked to comment on their learning behaviours and the manner by which the spaces in the library supported their learning. It became apparent during the course of the semi-structured interviews that the students themselves had never given any particular thought to the relationship between the spaces where they learn and the way that they learn, yet they were very aware of their learning and space preferences in the library. Students in the study reported being well able to determine their learning goals and complete them to their satisfaction in the library. They self-reported as successful learners. They knew when they were and were not learning. They also recognized where they could or could not learn. One of the more interesting conclusions from the study is that students seek a learning space that offers them mental, social and emotional comfort which enables them to be open to learning. This self-awareness goes beyond “I know it when I see it”, to “I know it when I feel it.” And it is not until they find that space which allows them to create and maintain their own self-regulated environment (Zimmerman, 1989), that they are ready to learn and achieve their goals. Investigating how, where and why students learn beyond the classroom holds potential for developing a better understanding of the approaches students have to learning, including their relationship to learning space. This paper presents a summary of the research study, including methodology and overall results. It explores the nature of informal learning in library spaces from the point of view of the students and offers some insight into the way students approach learning to achieve their learning outcomes. As students in post-secondary institutions are encouraged to undertake more and more learning activities beyond the classroom, through active, collaborative and/or individual learning, teaching and learning researchers need to further investigate students’ learning processes not only in the classroom but in informal learning spaces. Painter et al (2013) note that the “biggest challenge for learning space design researchers involves the fundamental question…”what is learning and how is it evaluated?” (p. 29). This paper looks at a study into informal learning and its concomitant processes and offers possible investigative routes towards improved understanding of the relationship between learning spaces, behaviours and outcomes. Painter, S., Fournier, J., Grape, C., Grummon, P., Morelli, J., Whitmer, S., & Cevetello, J. (2013). Research on learning space design: Present state, future directions. Society of College and University Planning. Zimmerman, Barry. (1989). A Social cognitive view of self-regulated academic learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 81 (3) 329-339.
ISSOTL17, Calgary Alberta. October, 2017
Library & Information Science, informal learning spaces, student learning behaviours, informal learning