High school pupils operate in a macro (country-specific), meso (school-specific) and micro (personal) context and their information needs are always experienced in a context - sometimes as imposed school assignments or else self-generated, e.g. as everyday life information needs. Pupils source their information through various information channels and there is sometimes a perceived risk to acting on incorrect information. Compared to adults in information-intensive professions, researchers have found that pupils tend to be unconcerned about the credibility of information. Based on a literature survey, a trust model was compiled from a number of other models and adapted to serve as an information channel credibility model portraying the pupil in context with his/her perception of information channel credibility. The model was used as a framework for a study on high school pupils’ perceptions of information channel credibility and factors influencing their perceptions.
The study was guided by the following research problem:
How can school pupils’ perceptions of information channel credibility inform school-based interventions?
In order to find answers, the following sub-questions were addressed:
• What has been reported on perceptions of information credibility and information channel credibility, with specific reference to school pupils, students and adults, as well as professionals in information-intensive environments?
• How can trust models guide a study of pupils’ perceptions of information channel credibility?
• What factors influence school pupils’ perceptions of information channel credibility?
• What school-based interventions could be recommended to address the shortcomings in the perceptions of pupils that can prepare them to meet the information requirements of adulthood?
A self-administered print questionnaire was used in May 2015 to survey the perceptions of 548 South African high school pupils from three different schools covering the range of the socio-economic spectrum from wealthy through to pupils from poor, unemployed home environments. The study was conducted with grade 8 and grade 12 pupils (entry and exit grades for South African high schools) from a city in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the principals of the three schools. The results are reported as descriptive statistics supported with inferential statistics and qualitative analysis where relevant.
The findings are that pupils’ perceptions of information channel credibility are affected by the perceived risk of acting on incorrect information, their previous experience and the context (i.e. type of information need, whether the need is imposed or self-generated and pupil demographics) in which the information need occurs. Pupils used a level of metacognition with regard to information channel credibility. The model proved useful to guide data collection that can guide school-based interventions. It holds potential to be further adapted to actually reflect school-based interventions.
School-based interventions are suggested to encourage responsible assessment of information channel credibility, including the simulation of risk by means of mark allocation for metacognition about information channel credibility, intentional exposure of pupils to a wide range of information needs and exposure to highly credible as well as less credible information channels.