Skip to main content

The alchemy of learning : an inquiry into how students come to understanding

1 June 1997


This purpose of this qualitative study was to answer one particular research
question in the high school classroom: How do students go about constructing (or are constructed by) meaning from the curricular inputs of the classroom? Simply put, this investigation presupposes that students are subjected to an incredible variety of materials which their instructor has designed to serve some function to advance the student's education. And, as such, the student must "do something" with that material which is transmitted to them. My research was an attempt to deduce just what it is that students "do" with the information given to them. This inquiry took place at a rural 9-12 high school located in the Pacific Northwest. The participants were enrolled in two English classes: a senior advanced placement class and a junior English class. Information was gathered in the classrooms through a variety of methodological approaches including observation and interviews. In order to protect all of the participants' privacy, all names have been altered. After collecting, organizing and evaluating an enormous amount of material, no clear patterns or frameworks of understanding emerged. At the outset of my research (during the proposal stage), it had been my suspicion that classroom material (i.e., texts, readings, lectures) was absorbed by the students and ascribed some sort of meaningfulness by the student. However, I came to conclude that the information itself seemed to do as
much towards shaping the students' beliefs as the other way around.


Files are restricted to Pacific University. Sign in to view.