In this post, Catherine Bostock, one of our student researchers from the University of Lincoln, shares plans for her research project, which will involve testing the applicability of the findings of a recent article to a set of (anonymised) data on student annotation practices using the Talis Elevate tool.

For my element of the research project, I am going to analysing data, which involves observing student annotation especially in regard to social annotation. Kalir et al’s 2020 work will inform my analysis of student comments and interactions within readings. The article focuses on undergraduate student perceptions of social annotation, a reading methodology where the annotation of digital resources allows for “information sharing, social interaction and knowledge production” (Kalir et al, 2020). They found three benefits of social annotation, in respect to value for learning, and they found another three benefits of social annotation that came from reading social annotations. The benefits of social annotation for learning are:

  1. Comprehending course content: this refers to how social annotation helps students to comprehend their course readings in a more successful manner.
  2. Engaging with course content: social annotation made it more likely that students did the prescribed readings.
  3. Sharing ideas and peer interaction: social annotation enabled students to view other opinions.

The benefits of social annotation for reading include:

  1. Comprehending and clarifying course content: this refers to the fact that more difficult texts to comprehend became easier to consume when students used social annotation.
  2. Confirming ideas: this means that it is valuable to see other students’ views through social annotation, when they confirm one’s own opinions.
  3. Engaging with diverse perspectives: this proposes that it is beneficial to interact with different opinions through social annotation.

Behaviours that were specifically identified by students, in the study, that will be more specifically analysed in my research include the following:

  1. Looking for specific technical use of digital tools available through the social annotation tool, for example highlighting, as this has been connected to a better comprehension of course content.
  2. Students’ comments will also be looked at for critical engagement, as students commented on how social annotation encouraged them to critically analyse texts rather than just passively read the text. This, again, relates to a better comprehension of course content.
  3. Interaction between students in the social annotation context will also be noted, as students commented that such interactions were beneficial to their learning. This relates to importance of sharing ideas and peer interaction.
  4. It was found that some students provided a definition for certain unfamiliar terms in the text. Students commented on how they found this helpful. Therefore, I will look for occasions when students offer definitions. This links to the comprehending and clarifying course content category.
  5. Students expressing similar viewpoints will be looked for in the data, as students said confirmation of their ideas was beneficial. This relates to the confirming ideas category.
  6. It was found in the study that students benefited from different perspectives, which were delivered to them through peers debating ideas through the social annotation tool. Therefore, such debate will be looked for. This relates to the engaging with diverse perspectives category.

Reference: Kalir, J., Morales, E., Fleerackers, A. and Alperin, J., 2020. “When I saw my peers annotating”. Information and Learning Sciences, [online] 121(3/4), pp.207-230. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 November 2021].

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