7 Sept 2015

Conference Report: EARLI Biannual Conference, 25th – 29th August 2015, Limassol, Cyprus

EARLI Biannual Conference, 25th – 29th August 2015, Limassol, Cyprus

There are times when looking at what other professions are doing can enhance your own work and knowledge. I just had such an experience while attending the Biannual Conference of the European Association of Research into Learning and Instruction (EARLI), which was mainly attended by educational researchers. This year’s theme was “Towards a Reflective Society: Synergies between Learning, Teaching and Research”. With its emphasis on societal growth and change, sustainability and reflective citizenship, it delivered a vast mix of cutting-edge research and practical applications. Almost 2000 researchers from all over the world gathered in sweltering Limassol in Cyprus, and it was soon “fifty shades of red”, at least for delegates from northern countries, me included…

The ancient site of Kourion
© Eva Hornung

The following is a short summary of some of the presentations I attended. The only way through the maze of keynotes, papers, poster, symposia, round tables and demonstrations was by following the colour-coded categories of interest, in my case centring on workplace learning and professional development. Themes that came up again and again were “transformation”, “trust in the professions”, “transparency” – all issues librarians can also relate to.

The first session that caught my eye was one on information literacy. Interestingly, none of the presenters had a LIS background. The first study was about web search patterns. Unsurprisingly, better selected search terms lead to better task performance. The second on web search behaviour of second-level students looked at different task complexity levels. No matter what task, the higher ranking hits on the results page of the search engine were more likely to be viewed. Again, something information professionals are only too aware of. The next study examined contradictions between two web pages, which at first glance both looked trustworthy. The researcher concluded that students should be taught how to evaluate web pages. Well, that is something we do rather well!  The last paper was on concept mapping in learning and how signalling of macro-information can help. In the discussion that followed these presentations I pointed out the contributions library and information professionals are making in information literacy research, and there was genuine surprise!

Another interest of mine is informal and work-based learning. One researcher I’ve been following is David Boud, who is based at the University of Sydney. He had conducted a secondary analysis of published research on Australian work places from the last 12 years. He was interested in finding out what influenced and triggered learning in these studies and found that: a) the work needed to be done and b) there was a need to insert oneself into the everyday practice of the workplace. Boud called that the “paradox of informal learning”: it is embedded in practices of everyday work and is intrinsic to it, but it is often invisible to those involved and not acknowledged or valued as “learning”. There can be resistance or even counterproductive effects in the efforts of formalising it. The implications of this review were, according to him, a need to explore the tensions between practice view and the framework of professional bodies as well as a focus on learning-conductive work rather than educational and training opportunities. He concluded that learning occurred whether pursued/acknowledged or not!

The Public Library of Limassol – currently under renovation 

© Eva Hornung

There were a number of social events, all of which provided amble opportunities for mingling and networking. I also paid a visit to the local public library, which is currently being housed at the Municipal Gallery, as its own building is undergoing renovation. Despite most of the signage being in Greek (obviously), I was happy to detect that colleagues there were also using the Dewey system, so felt right at home. The Gallery itself has a fantastic Modern Art collection of Cypriot and other local artists, but I was most impressed by its National Liberation Revolution tribute collection, which vividly recalled the bloody struggle for freedom. As a fan of ancient history I was delighted to join a tour of the sites of Paphos, and also managed to visit Kourion, Kolossi Castle, the Limassol Limassol District Archaeological Museum and the quirky Folk Art Museum. Thanks to the John Campbell Trust conference bursary this was very educational and enjoyable trip, which sparked many new ideas in me!

If you’re interested in finding out more about the conference, check out the following links:
About the organisation: http://www.earli.org/home 
The conference web site: http://www.earli2015.org/
The programme: http://www.earli2015.org/media/attachments/EARLI2015-WEB-BOOK.pdf 
The book of abstracts: http://www.earli2015.org/media/EARLI2015/docs/EARLI2015_bookOfAbstracts.pdf
The John Campbell Trust Travel/Conference Bursary: http://www.cilip.org.uk/cilip/membership/benefits/advice-and-support/grants-and-bursaries/john-campbell-trust/john-campbel-2 


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