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Information seeking behaviors and attitude to information among educational practitioners Matheson, Helen Joyce Castleden


This study investigates the personal, professional and psychological characteristics of the users of information; their purposes for seeking information, the sources they use, the characteristics of sources that are important to them, and the problems they encounter in seeking or using educational information. In addition, an attitude to information scale, developed to measure users' affective response to information, was analyzed to determine the extent to which it reflected a 'hierarchy' of growth and development. A questionnaire was designed, pilot tested, revised and mailed to a random sample of teachers, administrators and support personnel in the schools and district offices of education in the province of British Columbia. Responses from 1,037 educators were analyzed. Position and attitude both had strong correlations with experience, education, and information dissemination. Sense of isolation was not significantly related to position or attitude, but did differ from region to region, although not on a simple geographic distance factor. The fifteen-item scale designed to measure attitude to information was analyzed to determine whether a 'hierarchy' of development and growth of attitude could be confirmed. Although a five-level taxonomy was not confirmed, a less concise, three-level hierarchy was confirmed. Fifteen possible purposes for seeking information were rated as to their importance to respondents. These ratings were used as a basis for grouping the nine position categories into four classes. In addition they were analyzed to identify the effects of Position on Purposes. A significant and complex relationship was revealed by this analysis. Thirteen sources of educational information were rated on frequency of use. The results of analyses indicate that different position groups do use different sources when they seek information; It also showed that while the use of nearly all sources increases with post-graduate university study, there is little or no difference between those who have no university degree and those who have no more than a bachelor's degree. For only one source, "educational journals", did frequency of use change with increased years of experience; but the rate of dissemination reported and the total score on the attitude to information scale were both directly and significantly related to frequency of use of sources. Multiple regression analyses of sources extended and illuminated these bivariate relationships. Attitude, dissemination and position (measured using three planned contrasts) were significant in explaining the variance of nearly all sources. Experience, education and isolation were each significant for relatively fewer sources, and at a lower level of significance. Eleven characteristics of information sources were rated by respondents according to importance. All characteristics were considered important by all groups (all means >2.5, the midpoint of the scale). Least important were "is free or inexpensive" and "provides access without involving others"; most important were "is authoritative, accurate, reliable and objective" and "is likely to have the information I need". Attitude to information was highly related to importance of characteristics. Ten problems were rated as to the difficulty they cause. Only one, "finding time to look for or read information" had a mean greater than 2.5, the midpoint on the scale. This suggests that respondents did not see most of the problems as barriers to getting information. Position was not a major factor in explaining the variance of problems, indicating that problems are idiosyncratic, related to the level of use of sources or to personal style of users, but not to position category. The final item on the questionnaire was an open-ended question asking for a personal statement of an "ideal" information system, The 673 responses were tabulated and reported as frequencies, and 27 categories were developed. The most commonly cited characteristics of an "ideal" information systems were 1) computer retrieval and/or ERIC, 2) improved district libraries, 3) improved school libraries, 4) time to seek and use information, 5) courses and workshops, and 6) information personnel in the district.

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