Students in Nova Scotia Schools Without Teacher-Librarians are not Achieving Department of Education Expectations for Information Literacy Skills

Gayle Bogel


A review of:

Gunn, Holly, and Gary Hepburn. “Seeking Information for School Purposes on the Internet.” Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology 29.1 (Winter 2003): 67-88. 24 May 2007


Objective – This study investigated whether the expectations for Internet searching strategies outlined in provincial curriculum goals are being met in Nova Scotia Schools. Twelfth-grade students in representative schools were surveyed as to their Internet information seeking strategies and their perceptions of the effectiveness of those strategies. The results are presented as six themes based on the survey questions.

Design – Survey questionnaire consisting of yes/no, multiple-choice, Likert style, and open-ended responses.

Setting – Twelfth-grade students from four high schools in one district in Nova Scotia. Total participants: 198.
Subjects – Questionnaires were analyzed from 243 general practitioners, practice nurses, and practice managers in four Nottingham primary care trusts as well as practices in the Rotherham Health Authority area.

Methods – Four research questions guided this study:

1. What strategies and techniques do students use that are helpful for information-seeking on the Internet?
2. What knowledge do students have of the different World Wide Web search engines?
3. How do students perceive their ability to locate information for school purposes on the Internet?
4. How do students learn how to seek information on the Internet for school-related assignments?

The survey was developed through a literature review of previous research. Each survey item reflected a theme and one of the four research questions. The survey was field tested in a pilot study with two twelfth-grade students, and two twelfth-grade English classes.

The sample was assembled by asking principals at the four schools to identify two classes in each of their schools that represented mixed academic abilities. Three schools chose English classes, and one school chose math classes participate in the study. All students had agreed to be a part of the study and only students present in class on the day the questionnaire was given were represented. No effort was made to include students who were absent.

Results were tabulated as percentages of responses, and presented in tables related to the themes of the four research questions.

Main results – Throughout the study, students reported very few strategies for effective Internet searching. They cited friends and family members rather than teachers as their main sources for support, and reported self-taught trial and error as the most common method of learning search strategies. Despite their lack of effectiveness, most students considered themselves “good” or “very good” at finding the information they need for school purposes. Most of the students used very few of the strategies associated with effective searching that have been stated in prior research studies.

  • Research Question One: Use of Strategies and Techniques for Information-Seeking on the Internet
    Only 15% of students used Boolean operators regularly.

    Over 70% of students did not know how to eliminate commercial sites, use particular features, limit searches to recently updated pages or limit searches to the title section of a Web page.

  • Research Question Two: Knowledge of World Wide Web Search Engines.

    Google was the overwhelming choice, with 66.7% percent of students reporting that they used it regularly. Other search engines were used from 0 to 22%.

  • Research Question Three:
    Students’ Perception of Their Information-Seeking Ability on the Internet

    81.3 % of students reported their abilities as good or very good.

    Only 5% felt their abilities were poor.

  • Research Question Four: How Students Learn What They Know About Information-Seeking on the Internet

    72.7% reported self-teaching strategies.

    39.8% relied on friends or classmates, 36.8 % relied on teachers.

    2.5% reported librarians as a source

    Of the students who reported self-teaching, 53% used trial and error, 6.6% used help screens and 4% searched for assistance. 80.8% of students who reported teachers as a source for learning information strategies were taught in computer-related classes, rather than in content area classes across the disciplines.

    Although only 72% of students reported having Internet access at home, 64% stated that they used the Internet more at home than at school to find information for school-related assignments. 46.3% of students with no Internet access at home rated their perception of searching ability as poor, compared to only 8.3% of students who did have Internet access at home.

Conclusion – The researchers state that actual practice in Nova Scotia schools does not reflect the standard instructional strategy of modeling as recognized by the Nova Scotia Department of Education. They feel that the results of this study show that very little modeling is being done by classroom teachers; that the modeling is instead being done by peers and family at home. This magnifies the disparity in effective skills for those who do not have Internet access at home. They also note that the goal of integrating search strategy instruction across the disciplines is not being reached.

The researchers suggest two ways to offer the needed instruction: compulsory classes in information seeking for all students, or the hiring of teacher-librarians to support instruction in the schools, working collaboratively in all disciplines. Research supporting the presence of teacher-librarians in teaching effective information literacy skills, including Internet searching, is noted.

Full Text:



Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (EBLIP) | EBLIP on Twitter