Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Adults Do Better

Need proof that adults search and evaluate better than youth? These charts show how students in middle school and high school compare to teachers and librarians. The assessment is the pretest from a course we call "Investigative Searching 20/10."

To date, 449 middle schoolers, 414 high schoolers and 28 adults have taken the 10-item pretest that measures the ability to find critical information and evaluate its credibility. There are several differences that really stand out.

Middle School Results
Mean = 44.3%

Due to the greater number of respondents, the charts for middle school and high school resemble standard distributions. On average, high schoolers do better due to more experience and more advanced reading abilities.

High School Results
Mean = 50.8%

There is less of a range for adults--none of the extremes. It is likely that a standard distribution would be more apparent if the adult sample were as large as the youth sample. But the adults in the sample tend to be search experts: librarians and media specialists. Most of the current group is clustered above 50%, with fewer grouped lower. It would be interesting to see what other adults would do. Does just being an adult provide the advantage? Or is it one's profession in the world of information?

Adult Results
Mean = 58.2%

Are these the results you would expect? Do you think they are artificially low or about right? That's hard to say without seeing the pretest. Without disclosing specific items (in case you want to take the test), the 10 items focus on skills that have been described in previous posts, requiring the application of appropriate techniques to find the author of articles, the name of the publisher, the date of publication, other instances of the content on the Internet and references to web pages. This is difficult because it's not always obvious what technique may be needed (several must be tried)--and this requires knowing the techniques in the first place. What most people do is browse when faced with a search challenge. When browsing doesn't work, can they think of another technique to try?

We believe this is a fair test of one's search abilities. It reveals technical deficiencies--or at least the inability to apply them appropriately. If you'd like to try it out, the 'course' is open through the end of August. There is a fee ($25) but if you find the assessment useful and want to use it with students, we're open to talking about group rates. Here's the link: (sign in as a guest).

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