Barriers to Information Seeking by Secondary School Students In Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria.

Author:Ogba, Chidinma Onwuchekwa


Information seeking as an underlying feature in education is not done without an enabling environment where needed resources and services are provided. Understanding the barriers to information seeking of Secondary School Students is a big step towards understanding the information seeking behaviour of students in Nigerian tertiary institutions.

Secondary school students are teenagers (who are in between primary school and university or higher education) who are provided with different wide variety of subjects in order to prepare them to choose from a wide variety of discipline and a specialty of interest. This specialty of interest is what defines the type of career they study for at tertiary institutions. It is therefore assumed that they seek information and would have barriers peculiar to the type of environment provided in the secondary schools they were educated at.

This is exactly the reason behind Kuhlthau's theory of intermediation, mediation, instruction giving and help (which has been) termed the "zone of intervention"(Kuhlthau, 2004 & Meyers, Nathan & Saxton, 2007). In Kuhlthau's theory, teachers and teacher librarians play intervening roles which assist secondary school students navigate barriers to their information seeking. Kulthau posited that a teacher librarian attached to a school library collaborates with teachers in order to provide help to students that seek information in the library; as students seeking information would pass through period of uncertainty mixed up with affective, cognitive and physical actions(Kuhlthau, 2004). The affective, cognitive and physical actions determine their information behaviour.

Kuhlthau's theory was merged with six principles of Harris and Dewdney (Meyers, Nathan & Saxton, 2007) which provided a situational context for seeking information. This situational context provides the principles viz: information needs arise from the help seeker's situation; the decision to seek help or not to seek help is affected by many factors; people tend to seek information that is most accessible; the role of peer groups and friends determines if help is sought as students seek help from people they interrelate with; and expression of emotional support determines if information is sought or not and people follow habitual patterns in seeking information.

Information seeking is defined for the purpose of this study as tasks, attempts and actions carried out by a person to solve an information need or problem through his cognitive, emotional and physical actions done in any environment of his search. The environment of study for this research were school libraries and the focus groups for this research were JSS II and SSS II in Ado-Ekiti. The rationale for this selection was because JSS II students (at their level) are assumed to have adjusted to the activities in school which includes the use of the library while SSS II students are matured enough to use and seek information. Furthermore, they are the preparatory class for national examination (Junior and Senior Secondary Schools Examination).

School libraries are libraries that support the academic programs, visions and missions of a secondary, primary or nursery school through provision of diverse forms of resources and services that meet the information need of its users. The role of school libraries in the academic prowess of students cannot be overemphasized as they are significantly connected to higher scores in examination (Smalley, 2004; Ryan, 2004; Small, 2009 and Lance, 2011), however these are studies carried outside Nigerian environment; thus there are different distinctive environmental features that would affect information seeking and the type of barriers encountered.

Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State which is the location for this research is situated in the south west of Nigeria. It is the capital of Ekiti State. There are approximately 20 private secondary schools in Ado-Ekiti which are combinations of Junior Secondary Schools (JSS) and Senior Secondary Schools (SSS) (VConnect, 2014). Though privately owned, they are still under the control of the minister of Education who monitors their activities (Onyukwu, 2011).

Kuhlthau's zone of intervention is however a theory that is yet to be applied in secondary schools in Nigeria. Thus it is not known if this zone of intervention is a reality among the research focused group, it is not also known how secondary school students navigate their barrier, the types of barriers they meet and what informs their information seeking. Though it is assumed that Private Secondary Schools are provided with every resource needed for good academic work for students (since they are privately owned and take substantial amount as school fees compared to public secondary schools which offer free education and are owed by the State government). However, this is a mere assumption as it is not known if there are qualified teacher librarians, if students seek information and if they meet barriers; it is not also known if there are intervening roles played by teachers and teacher librarians in information seeking of students. These become problems to be solved in this study.

The Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to investigate the barriers to information seeking in private secondary school libraries in Ado-Ekiti.

Specific Objectives of the Study

This study is specifically carried out to:

  1. Ascertain what motivates Secondary School Students to seek information.

  2. Find out the types of barriers to information seeking in Private Secondary Schools.

  3. Determine how Secondary School Students navigate the barriers they meet during information seeking.

  4. Identify the intervening roles of school teachers, the teacher librarians (if any) in the information seeking of secondary school students.

    Research Questions

  5. What informs the information seeking of secondary school students in the library?

  6. What are the barriers to their information seeking?

  7. How do secondary school students navigate the barriers to their information seeking?

  8. What are the intervening roles of teachers, teacher librarians and the library to the information seeking of secondary school students?

    Research Design

    A case study survey design was used for this study. Data was gathered using focus group discussion (group interview); unstructured interview and observation. A pilot study was carried out with 25 teachers and teacher librarians using structured interview method. A random sampling technique was used to select 5 schools out of 20 privately owned ones in Ado. Junior Secondary School (JSS II) and Senior Secondary School (SS II) in each school were used as the sample to the study using a saturation sampling technique. Thus everyone present in the class participated in the group interview. The rationale for using a focus group to gather data is because it is quick, convenient, allows for interaction and involvement of all and the researcher is free to ask questions and point at students who might be shy to talk. Furthermore, the researcher can verify from class members the veracity of a response given by another. Besides, a barrier is something very visible and disturbing to information seeking of students, it is what a student mentions immediately asked; not what is shown for him to opt to choose or leave as some secondary school students would choose options that paint their school in a great view not minding ethical deliberations which they were informed of. The focus group interaction was recorded using a Camcorder tool, Galaxy Tab and Samsung (Android) Phone Voice Recorder. Two principals, a teacher in charge of the library and a student prefect were interviewed using face to face unstructured interview design. Thus the sample for this study was 252. Qualitative data analysis was applied; and data was analyzed by transcribing the recorded data and coding them. Like codes were arranged and placed under facets that represent them and evidences of research were selected for analyses. The observations which were written down were aligned with the transcribed data and analyses from the focus group discussions and unstructured interview...

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