Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Article Note: On how undergrads perceive information use

Citation for the article:

Maybee, Clarence. "Undergraduate Perceptions of Information Use: The Basis for Creating User-Centered Student Information Literacy Instruction." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 32.1 (January 2006): 79-85.

Read via ScienceDirect.

Maybee argues that current information literacy pedagogy, which is usually based on skills, fails to adequately address the learners' needs. The author urges the adoption of a user-centered approach to teaching; he draws on the work of Christine Bruce on relational learning. Bruce is the author of the book The Seven Faces of Information Literacy. There's another book to add to my perpetual reading list. Back to the article, Maybee suggests that knowing how undergraduates conceptualize information will help educators enhance learning.

In the literature review, Maybee refers to various lists of attributes for an information literate person, much of this drawing from ACRL. Maybee further refers to Bruce's work, but he also looks at others. The author's method for the study was phenomenographical. To illustrate what this means, Maybee uses the following example:
"For example, a phenomenographer would ask, 'How do people experience information literacy' not 'What is information literacy?'" (81).

Interviews were the primary data gathering method. The interview questions were:
  • "How do you use information to complete class assignments?"
  • "How do you use information outside of your coursework?"
  • "Tell a story of a time when you used information well."
  • "Describe your view of someone who uses information well."
  • "Describe your experience using information" (81).
Actually, these are questions that I would like to ask some of my students now. I'd be curious about some of the answers, which I think might enable me to work on improving our program. If I ever write something for "serious" publication, replicating some of this study here would be something to consider for me.

The study identified three conceptions of information experience. First, in terms of sources, where "information use is seen as finding information located in information sources." Second, in terms of processes, where "information use is seen as initiating a process." Third, in terms of a knowledge base, where "information use is seen as building a personal knowledge base for various purposes" (81).

The article's bottom line, as suggested by the author in the discussion,
"To enhance information literacy, educators should be attempting to conceptualize information use in a variety of ways, which learners could then use to address their various information needs" (84).

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