The Notion of Relevance in Teacher Information Behavior

A. R. Diekema
Megan Whitney Olsen, Utah State University

Originally published by Wiley in Proceedings of the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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Educators use information to support their teaching, which is largely concerned with the transfer of information. To support this information exchange, teachers manage complex information environments that are continually changing based on outside influences. Decisions on when to go out and seek additional information, what information to incorporate, and what information to dispose of are all based on notions of relevance. This exploratory study found that notions of relevance are largely driven by the educational context and are therefore unique to this particular user group. Relevance is often prescriptive for teachers, that is, information needs are driven by curriculum and school policy. Teachers also appear to stack the deck when looking for relevant resources, increasing their chances for finding a good resource fit by drawing on shared experience and information from close colleagues. Resource selection is again curriculum based, but also has the interesting feature that teachers are proxies for relevance decisions that affect their students. Anticipated relevance is present in various aspects of teachers' personal information management (PIM), such as deciding whether to keep resources for future use, organizing their physical classroom space, and resource housekeeping decisions.