Developing Online Research Skills in a Lower Secondary School: The Viewpoint of Students

In my dissertation (Alamettälä, 2022), I investigated how lower secondary school teachers (n=3) developed their instruction practices of online research skills after having been introduced to a pedagogical framework, Guided Inquiry Design (Kuhlthau, Manioites & Caspari, 2015), and examined the short- and long-term effects of the intervention on students (n=58). It was a longitudinal study: I followed the same students from 7th to 8th grade. During these two years, the students participated three teaching intervention courses that focused on different subtasks of online research: information search, evaluation, and use. The control group received standard instruction based on the curriculum. The results showed that the intervention had a positive effect immediately after the intervention, but this effect did not last until the following year (Alamettälä, 2022). Therefore, it is important to investigate how the students themselves experienced the intervention and how they reflected on their own working and learning after the intervention courses.

There are only a few intervention studies related to teaching of online research skills or information literacy skillsin lower secondary schools and even fewer investigated students’ experiences. My study provided students’ perspective on the topic. In this paper, I focused on how the students themselves experienced the intervention and their own actions during the intervention courses.

The research questions are:

  1. What kind of new competencies did the students feel they achieved during the intervention?
  2. How did the students indicate they worked during the intervention?
  3. What kind of challenges did the students report that they had during the intervention?
  4. How do students’ learning experiences, classwork, and challenges correlate?

I collected the data between 2015 and 2017. Through the questionnaire I surveyed students’ learning experiences, classwork, and challenges during the intervention courses. I analysed the data using quantitative methods.

The results showed that, concerning online research skills, the students reported most learning during the first intervention course. However, , the students reported learning more than online research skills in that they also learned subject content and working practices. According to the students, their classwork was quite exemplary; they felt that they had followed teacher’s instructions. The students did not report about any major problems. Most challenging for them was planning the work and using the inquiry log.

Correlation analysis show that good classwork was linked to positive learning experiences. A negative correlation was found between classwork and perceived challenges: the better the classwork, the fewer the challenges. There was no significant correlation between learning experiences and challenges in either direction. The same results were observed after each intervention course.


  • Alamettälä, T. (2022). Development of online research skills among lower secondary school students: The roles of formal instruction and personal factors. [Doctoral dissertation]. Tampere University. Retrieved from
  • Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L. K., & Caspari, A. K. (2015). Guided inquiry: Learning in the 21st century. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Tuulikki Alamettälä
University of Oulu, Finland

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