A comparative study of concept-based and procedural teaching methods in user instruction of the OPAC at the M.L. Sultan Technikon.
The purpose of this research was firstly to compare the differences in online performance between two groups trained to use the Online Public Access Catalogue at the M L Sultan Technikon using two different types of instruction, namely the teaching methods of concept-based and procedural instruction. Secondly, the objective of the research was to compare these two teaching methods in relation to first year students at the M L Sultan Technikon with differing levels of library experience, computer experience and English language experience. To meet the objectives of the research, literature was reviewed and analysed from various sources. Original research was conducted using the method of a quasi-experiment. A random sample of 120 students were split between two teaching conditions, with sixty participants in a concept-based teaching condition and sixty participants in a procedural teaching condition. Research instruments used were a background questionnaire to collect demographic information, a pre-and post test to evaluate significant differences between the teaching methods, an evaluation questionnaire to collect affective responses, direct observation, and transaction log monitoring of the searches conducted. In a one-hour lecture the concept-based group were taught general search concepts using model-based instruction techniques and the procedural lecture demonstrated methods of searching in a step-by-step fashion. Data analysis made use of Microsoft Access 97 and Excell 97 software to code and verify the data, and the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS), v9.0 to conduct statistical analysis. The research found that first year students were generally inexperienced in the use of the online information retrieval system. The majority of the participants in the study did not have any computer experience, and made use of English as a second language. Others, although not in the majority were found to have low levels of library experience. Performance on pre-tests were generally low for these participants while those who had experience in the use of libraries, computers and who regarded English as a first language were able to make fair use of the system for simple tasks such as author and title. This suggested that prerequisite competencies needed for online searching were, library literacy, computer literacy and some proficiency in the use of English. Performance on search tasks found no significant differences on simple tasks between the teaching conditions. However, variances in performance as a result of individual differences were found. On difficult tasks participants fared better with concept-based instruction resulting in significant differences in performance. The findings of this research supported the need for online instruction to novice end-users, taking cognisance of the need for suitable venues equipped with adequate hardware, provision of staff, and allocation of sufficient time for such instruction. The research proposes that model-based teaching be encouraged, especially for difficult tasks. In the decisions made however, instruction must take note of the background of participants. Further proposals for instruction and other related aspects are discussed in the research.