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Information seeking in tertiary settings: The challenge for educators

Shelda Debowski
Murdoch Business School, Murdoch University
Information seeking is a key competency which any university student should acquire during undergraduate study, and which will be needed by young professionals as they embark on their careers. While the fact that we live in an information world is widely acknowledged and accepted, the impact of this setting on the ways in which students work with information in universities is largely undiscussed and unexplored. Most of the assignments that we set tertiary students assume effective information seeking skills have been well established. This appears a reasonable assumption, as most of these students have attended high schools where they were taught a range of information retrieval and interpretative skills. On entry to university, where a range of additional information sources must be accessed, and more advanced skills should be integrated, many are provided with additional library orientation and information seeking skill programs. Following this, it is expected that students will demonstrate their skills in a range of ways within their tertiary courses of study, and beyond, within the workplace. But are they effective information seekers? Probably not! While this may be due to the ways in which students are taught and guided on how to seek and use their information sources, it may also be due to the inadequate information seeking competencies of their teachers!

This presentation will therefore explore two issues: firstly, the question of whether students are well-versed in information seeking, and secondly, the challenges facing tertiary teachers if they are to be both models and mentors in setting standards and guidelines relating to information seeking. The presentation will draw on recent research to outline the ways in which students use and retrieve information, and the types of problems they encounter during this process. The implications for tertiary teachers will then be explored, in terms of assignment setting, the use of the Internet versus database searching, the measurement of quality outcomes, and mechanisms to test for synthesis and evaluation. The session will be highly interactive, and will include a self review component for participants relating to their own information seeking skills and understanding.

Please cite as: Debowski, S. (2003). Information seeking in tertiary settings: The challenge for educators. In Partners in Learning. Proceedings of the 12th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 11-12 February 2003. Perth: Edith Cowan University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2003/abstracts/debowski-abs.html

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Last revision: 13 Jan 2003. This URL: http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2003/abstracts/debowski-abs.html