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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Unpacking homework : Brazilian school children's information interaction ecologies Figueiredo, Vanessa Da Silva


Homework is part of the routine of many primary school children around the globe. Children and, sometimes, more knowledgeable others (e.g., caregivers, family members, peers, teachers) “unpack” homework descriptions to understand the information needed. Seeking and retrieving information to complete homework involves handling contextual constraints (i.e., opportunities and limitations) across school and home settings. While school and home settings enable and limit how children complete homework, we have a limited understanding of how context affects children's information-seeking and retrieval homework strategies. The discrepancy between how youth information interaction studies (YII) frame context and youth's real-life context has led to information systems (e.g., search engines, portals) that do not support youth's agency and information practices. This dissertation addressed this gap by analyzing the interplay between context and agency in information interaction involving primary school students engaged in homework through an ecological qualitative study based on the Cognitive Work Analysis (CWA) framework, using interviews, observations, critical incidents with nine Brazilian child-mother pairs, and interviews and photo-elicitation with five Brazilian elementary school teachers. The findings suggested that the environment, homework domain, homework activities, social organization and coordination, and personal characteristics enable and limit information interaction strategies of the Brazilian primary school children under analysis. To illustrate these findings, this dissertation presented a model representing the homework domain process. To evaluate what information-seeking and retrieval strategies to use, the Brazilian primary school children in this study encountered critical situations (unpacking levels) where more knowledgeable others' support was needed. Those primary school children needed help to analyze (unpack) unfamiliar problem-solving and decision-making situations. A framework representing a cognitive-work analysis in homework domains is presented here. This framework illustrates the relationships across the CWA phases to describe what contextual constraints researchers and designers should consider when developing tools (e.g., information systems) to support YII in homework domains. This study brings a rarely explored ecological perspective on youth information interaction by analyzing the interplay between context and agency in information interaction. Furthermore, this study provides guidelines to support YII in homework domains, which can help to inform the design of inclusive information systems.

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