What Role Does Information Play after School?

The dissertation in library and information sciences examines how young people find strategies to handle flows of information, advice and expectations they are faced with when graduating high school.

“To some information might feel threatening or lack importance altogether,” says Frances Hultgren, who has been studying how high school students approach information about study and professions choices. The background to the study is the lively debate in Swedish media about those choices. The debate portrays Sweden as a dynamic society that, through its education politics, tries to face the challenges that globalization processes and fast technological innovation lead to. The syllabus for high school, for example, emphasizes that the students are expected to be able to find their way around a complex reality with a large flow of information and a fast pace of change. The students’ ability to think critically, to analyze various options and to realize the consequences of those options is therefore important.

The result shows that there are four different approaches to information seeking: Students focusing on specific professions seek information about paths toward the chosen profession and try to find information on the specific knowledge, skills and social attributes their job requires. The students who have developed an interest in studying use information seeking as a tool for making connections between higher studies and the future job market. That is a tough task since the labor market is portrayed as ever changing. But to many students study and professions related material is uninteresting. They feel that they need time to reach insights about themselves and their opportunities, by getting practical experience of the world outside of school. The expectations from the grown-up world to plan your future is seen as an obstacle to realizing the teenage years.

“Some youngsters, who carry negative memories from high school, feel that the requirement to seek information about their future is threatening as it can confirm their vulnerability.”

21 high school students from various programmes in a average-sized Swedish city were interviewed during their final year in school. The ambition with the study is to open up for discussion about the role of information seeking in young peoples lives. Its purpose is also to function as a base of study in academic and professions counseling.

“That’s where you can develop long-term educational methods that help the students develop an information competence in the field of study and professional choices,” says Frances Hultgren.

Dissertation Title: Approaching the Future: a study of Swedish school leavers’ information related activities.
Author: Frances Hultgren
Name of Faculty Opponent: Assoc. Professor Pamela McKenzie, The University of Western Ontario, Kanada.
Time and Place for Dissertation: Friday the 5th of June 2009, kl. 1.00pm, Room M404, at the University Borås.