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The information-seeking behavior of grade-three elementary school students

Valerie Nesset

(Submission #19)


Recent cognitive research has established that there are considerable and rapid intellectual changes throughout childhood, meaning that previous studies and/or models outlining the information-seeking experiences of older students and adults do not identify, explain or address many of the information behaviors unique to younger elementary school students. The findings of a study of the information-seeking behavior of grade-three students in a Canadian elementary school identify and explain the barriers faced by these children when seeking information, how they used information in an educational context, how they can be helped to better exploit the information resources available to them, and informed a model specific to this user group.

The study presents a three-phase model of the students’ information-seeking behavior. The first phase is called Preparing because in this stage the students are instructed in such areas as vocabulary, writing, concept-mapping, etc. in order to prepare them for the next two phases, Searching and Using. The Preparing phase is unique to this model—while other models of information-seeking behavior recognize the presence of an information need and/or possible motivators that drive and shape information seeking they do not address them in detail. The second phase, Searching, is the shortest phase of the model and the least important in terms of the teacher’s learning objectives. This is in direct contrast to other models where it forms the main focus. The final phase, Using, is a very important phase for these young students as it involves exploring and learning such concepts as information evaluation, extraction, synthesis, and interpretation and presentation of the findings.

The study advocates in the early grades of elementary school teaching basic information literacy skills, integrating print and electronic resources, designing assignments that exploit all information formats, and appropriately allocating resources, whether financial, intellectual, or physical to achieve these goals.


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