The Open UniversitySkip to content

Technological mediation of personal inquiry in UK GCSE geography: opportunities and challenges

Kerawalla, Lucinda; Scanlon, Eileen; Twiner, Alison; Jones, Ann; Littleton, Karen; Conole, Grainne; Mulholland, Paul; Collins, Trevor; Blake, Canan; Clough, Gill and Gaved, Mark (2009). Technological mediation of personal inquiry in UK GCSE geography: opportunities and challenges. In: CAL09 - Learning in Digital Worlds, 23-25 March 2009, Brighton, UK.

Google Scholar: Look up in Google Scholar


An aim of the Personal Inquiry (PI) project, underway at the Open University and University of Nottingham, is to explore the challenges and opportunities for technologically-supported personal inquiry within the institutional setting of the UK secondary school. Our developing view of personal inquiry learning coheres around three key themes:

1. choice (e.g. choosing a hypothesis)
2. relevance (to myself/my community/my world)
3. individualisation (e.g. my learning trajectory)

These themes are important if learners are to be motivated by, and engaged in, understanding themselves and the world in which they live.

We will report findings from a pilot study involving 76 pupils, aged 14-15 years, who undertook a location-based inquiry on urban heat islands (UHIs) for their GCSE Geography coursework. Detailed qualitative analysis of videotaped classroom observations suggests that several contextual features play a strong role in mediating opportunities for personal inquiry:

1. the institution (e.g. exam board criteria)
2. reporting conventions (e.g. presentation)
3. writing conventions (e.g. scientific terminology)
4. organisational logistics (e.g. data sharing )

However, teachers encouraged the creation of individualised pieces of coursework, and our analysis identifies 3 main ways in which this was achieved:

1. pupils writing in their own words
2. pupils making choices (e.g. ways of representing their data)
3. individual data analysis and conclusions

With regard to the relevance of the UHI topic, 88% of pupil respondents thought the fieldtrip was beneficial. However, 66% thought that UHIs were not relevant to their lives. Organisational logistics meant that it was necessary for all pupils to attend a single fieldtrip on a single topic.

These findings suggest a need for exploration of the possibility of increasing opportunities for choice, relevance and individualisation. In future work we will be addressing this through, for example, facilitating individual hypothesis creation and choice over data collection points and equipment.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item
Copyright Holders: 2009 The Authors
Project Funding Details:
Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
Not SetNot SetESRC (Economic and Social Research Council)
Not SetNot SetTLRP
Keywords: personal inquiry; Geography; GCSE
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS) > Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS)
Learning and Teaching Innovation (LTI) > Institute of Educational Technology (IET)
Learning and Teaching Innovation (LTI)
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS) > Languages and Applied Linguistics
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Knowledge Media Institute (KMi)
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Research Group: Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology (CREET)
Childhood Youth and Sport Group (CYSG)
Centre for Research in Computing (CRC)
Item ID: 25774
Depositing User: Lucinda Kerawalla
Date Deposited: 20 Jan 2011 10:48
Last Modified: 19 Dec 2017 10:30
Share this page:

Actions (login may be required)

Policies | Disclaimer

© The Open University   contact the OU