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Bridging Social and Private Interactions: Collaborative Information Seeking and Retrieval in Learning Contexts

Eric Meyers

(Submission #96)


Summary

Until recently, models of information seeking and retrieval did not take into account other searchers or peers in the social environment. Donald Case’s (2007)survey of research on information seeking, needs and behavior further illustrates this omission: in the research literature, other persons are portrayed as sources of information, but not actively involved in the search process as collaborators. The concept of Collaborative Information Retrieval (CIR), on the other hand, identifies that peers and other human intermediaries play an important role in information behavior. Researchers have documented the presence of collaboration in student information behavior in school libraries; however, the CIR concept has not been directly explored in K-12 education. Collaborative Information Retrieval in K-12 education may illustrate ways to improve the efficacy of our instructional programs in information literacy. In doing so, we must reexamine the theoretical concepts of intermediation in seeking and retrieval processes, specifically bridging two seemingly opposite metaphors for learning: acquisition and participation.

Research in the learning sciences has demonstrated the benefits of both social and private interactions in the learning process. Research in information science to date has largely focused on private interactions: the relationship of the individual user with information, employing individual sense-making capacities and knowledge construction, which correlates with the acquisition metaphor of learning. An emerging body of work has sought to describe social interactions with information, as groups seek to jointly resolve information problems. This new line of work correlates with the participation metaphor. Very little research has sought to understand how these two approaches are complementary.

This paper presents a conceptual framework and preliminary study design for the investigation of collaborative information seeking and retrieval in learning contexts. The purpose of presenting this work in its conceptual stage is to foster discussion of new research in youth information behavior, with a particular emphasis on the learning affordances of social interactions.

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