library and Generation Y

this article was written in 2004

Weiler, A. (2005). Information-Seeking Behavior in Generation Y Students: Motivation, Critical Thinking, and Learning Theory. Journal Of Academic Librarianship, 31(1), 46-53.

The research indicates that only a very small percentage of the general population prefer to learn by reading.

members of “Generation Y,” the generation born between 1980 and 1994.

The first model for study of information-seeking behavior in the general population was developed by James Krikelas in 1983. This model suggested that the steps of information seeking were as follows: (1) perceiving a need, (2) the search itself, (3) finding the information, and (4) using the information, which results in either satisfaction or dissatisfaction.
A second model developed by Carol C. Kuhlthau of Rutgers University stresses a process approach with an emphasis placed on cognitive skills; as they increase, so does information-seeking effectiveness. This model is one of the few that was developed based on actual research and not simply on practical experience.
Eisenberg and Berkowitz proposed a model based on the “Big Six Skills”—task definition, information seeking, implementation, use, synthesis, and evaluation. Their model is flexible and nonlinear in the same way that hypertext is, allowing for different areas and avenues to be explored out of sequence. In addition, seekers can go back to refine and reidentify the information need, implementing new strategies.

Critical thinking is a process that is widely acknowledged in the literature to be crucial to the learning process, to cognitive development, and to effective information seeking.

A more effective lesson on Internet information then, rather than specifically dwelling on “good” and “bad” Web sites, would be to present actual examples and to raise questions rather than giving answers, opening the student up to the next level intellectual development, “multiplicity.” Multiplicity is the ability to acknowledge that the world contains knowledge that the student cannot yet classify as right or wrong, knowledge which requires further study and thought (the so-called “gray area”).

Behavior Theory, first developed by B. F. Skinner in the 1950s, uses the concepts of “positive” and “negative” reinforcement to control behavior. This theory explains learning behavior very simply: Reward students who perform well, and punish students who do not.

The “Control Theory” of behavior was developed by William Glasser. The theory states that, rather than being a response to outside stimulus, behavior is determined by what a person wants or needs at any given time, and any given behavior is an attempt to address basic human needs such as love, freedom, power, etc.

The Myers–Briggs Personality Analysis test, developed by Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs, was developed using Jung’s theory of personality types in an effort to determine what type any given individual is. The personality type then determines the learning style of a given individual.

Multiple Intelligences

Gardner’s theory relates more directly to intelligence rather than to personality. Gardner states that intelligence is comprised of a group of different abilities, which originate in the stages of development each person passes through as they grow to adulthood. He identifies seven such intelligences—verbal–linguistic, logical–mathematical, visual–spatial, body–kinesthetic, musical–rhythmic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal—but he suggests that there are probably more.

Information seeking is a highly subjective process, one which students approach with prior knowledge, strongly held opinions, and differing levels of cognitive development. From the research it is apparent that, aside from personal preconceptions, issues of time and levels of difficulty in obtaining information are usually of more concern to students than issues of accuracy. It is still unclear, however, whether this is because they are not concerned about the accuracy unless their instructor is, or because they are assuming most information is by nature accurate.


More on Generation Z and Generation Y in this IMS blog:

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