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Understanding GED Students as an Information User Group

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1 Understanding GED Students as an Information User Group
Becky Croxton, CPCC Library Services/UNCG MLIS Program John Wicker, CPCC GED/Basic Skills Instructor This presentation will summarize findings of a research study conducted with GED students pursuing their GED at Central Piedmont Community College. Ask question -How many of you represent GED programs housed at community colleges? In what other types of environments are your GED programs housed?

2 Purpose of Study To develop a deeper understanding of GED students as an information user group. Inform information service providers on how to better meet the needs of GED students. Inform information service providers of the characteristics and needs of GED students and the many barriers with which they are often confronted. Findings can be used to guide information service providers as they develop services and products for their patrons.

3 The Facts In the United States, 30 million adults:
Did not complete a high school education and Were not enrolled in an education program (2000 Census) 776,728 adults worldwide took some portion of the GED in 2008. 493,490 (63.5%) adults met GED passing standards in 2008 Sources: 2000 US Census Data General Educational Development Testing Service, 2009, p. 1 Recruitment, retention, and actually passing the GED battery of exams once enrolled in a GED program continues to be a challenge.

4 Analytical Framework Robert Taylor’s (1991) Model of Information Use Environments: Set of people Settings (where information seeking & exchange takes place) Problems Resolution to problems Expanded this model to include: Barriers to information

5 Study Methodology Test One-on-one interviews with 15 students* enrolled in the CPCC Harris Campus GED Program. Students were selected for participation by their GED instructor. Each individual participated in a short (10-15 minute) one-on-one interview with the researcher and asked a structured set of questions. Interview methodology chosen to encourage participants to elaborate upon their answers with the hope of gaining a richer set of data than may have been possible with paper-pencil survey questionnaire. * Represents approximately % of GED student population at Harris Campus at any given time.

6 Findings Who are GED students at CPCC? Age:
Range: 17 – 62 years Median age: 27 years Average age: 33 years Number of years since leaving high school: Range: 6 months to 45 years Median years: 10 years Average years: 16 years Race/Ethnicity White: 7% African American: 67% Hispanic: 2 % Asian: 2 % Gender: Female: 60% Male: 40% According to the literature, the average test taker is 25 years old and the average number of years since leaving high school is 8 years. What we found in our study was that the average age of the GED students at the CPCC Harris Campus was 33 years with 16 years being the average number of years since leaving high school. Therefore, we found that that at the Harris campus we are presented with a slightly older population than was described in the literature. This is noteworthy because many adult learners age 25 years and up can scarcely remember how they did academic tasks the last time they went to school and just getting into the swing of things can be a major challenge. These types of learners may need a bit of extra hand holding as they: Learn to be students again At the library – as they learn to navigate campus libraries, the online catalog, and online resources

7 Percentage of Respondents
Findings Settings When you have questions about the GED program, where do you go (or who do you ask to find the answers)? *Respondents were able to cite more than one source for information. Source of Info Percentage of Respondents GED Instructor 67% Campus Information 40% Family/Friends 27% Computer/Internet 13% CPCC Library 7% Students seek the majority of info from their GED instructors. GED instructors at CPCC present themselves in a facilitating/coaching role rather than being in a position to grade (as in traditional classroom) Perhaps this allows students to develop a trust relationship with their GED educators – allowing them to be sources of support. These findings have implications for campus information desks, libraries, and other information service providers as well. If information providers position themselves as a secondary line of coaches rather than people who may be viewed as intimidating authority figures, this may help GED students in their quest for information.

8 Percentage of Respondents
Findings Settings (continued) When you need help or information to prepare for the GED tests, where do you go (or who do you ask) to find the answers? *Respondents were able to cite more than one source for information. Source of Info Percentage of Respondents GED Instructor 73% Computer/Internet 33% Books Campus Tutors 13% Self Teach Friends/Family 7% It comes as no surprise that GED instructors are the primary source of info when students prepare for tests. As a library person, it was interesting that 33% of students use computers and books to help prepare for GED tests. This is relevant to libraries suggesting that the resources we’re able to provide may be desirable for GED students.

9 Percentage of Respondents
Findings Problems (which lead to information needs) Why did you decide to enroll in a GED program? *Respondents were able to cite more than one reason for enrolling. Reason for Enrolling Percentage of Respondents Educational (interested in attending college or technical program) 73% Employment (better job opportunities) 60% Personal reasons 13% Preferred GED over High School 20% These data are interesting to me because the numbers of people stating educational reasons (73%) for pursuing a GED at CPCC was slightly higher than reported in the literature for the same measure (60%). In addition, in our study 60% reported needing the GED for better job opportunities. In the literature this number came in at 50%. Can speculate: ~ higher numbers pursuing the GED for educational reasons may be due to the fact that the GED program is housed at a community college. ~ elevated number seeking GED for employment reasons – may be due to current economic recession.

10 Percentage of Respondents
Findings Barriers to information What are some challenges you have faced in completing your GED? *Respondents were able to cite more than one challenge. Challenge Percentage of Respondents Academic Skills Barriers Subject specific 60% Lack of Computer Expertise 13% Situational Barriers Work schedule 33% Child Care Financial Transportation 20% Of note here – 60% of students reported subjected specific difficulties – most notably math. Several students indicated they used tutors for assistance – though these tutors have limited hours and never a guarantee of getting same tutor from week to week. This is a terrible flaw in the CPCC tutoring system. 13 % indicated lack of computer expertise. In addition to GED study books, libraries must consider adding basic subject materials to their collections (particularly math, reading, and writing) Library staff must also be willing to provide individualized support to those students interested in using the library.

11 Findings Problem solution – enroll in GED program, remain in program, and pass all 5 exams. Retention continues to be an issue: 27% of those interviewed have enrolled in GED programs multiple times throughout adult lives We must find ways to offer support and services to students beyond the classroom – may make a difference in willingness and/or preparedness to complete the GED program and pass the exams.

12 Percentage of Respondents
Findings Problem solutions (continued) CPCC libraries, though poised to be part of the problem solution, largely go unused by GED students. Have you ever considered the CPCC library as a place to go for information which might help you? Response Percentage of Respondents Yes 20% No – Never thought of it 60% Considered, but never used The numbers were surprising to me because at the CPCC Harris Campus – the GED lab and the library are just steps apart and the GED students pass by the library frequently throughout the day, but most never considering stepping foot inside. Libraries must actively market themselves to GED students. GED instructors/facilitators should encourage students to visit the library. Libraries and other support services must realize that they can’t just use the “build it and they will come” approach to developing services. They need to tailor these services and products specifically in response to the stated needs of their students.

13 Lessons Learned Using the “Build it and they will come approach” doesn’t always work when developing services or products. Tailor services and programs according to the stated needs and preferred information seeking methods of your students or patrons.

14 Lessons Learned Demographics: Over half of GED students interviewed were ages 25 and above. Research suggests -- Adult learners may need a little bit of extra hand holding as they learn the ropes of going to school again, including utilizing the library and online resources.

15 Lessons Learned Settings: Students seek majority of information from GED instructors. Research suggests that students respond well to GED instructors who act in facilitator/coaching role. Library/information service staff must position themselves as facilitators/coaches as well. Students may then begin to develop trust relationship, thereby facilitating the exchange of information.

16 Lessons Learned Students find value in studying with books and computers. While libraries have these resources available, libraries go unused by the majority of GED students. Libraries need to consider actively marketing their resources to GED students. GED programs must consider suggesting the library to their students. Libraries & GED must partner for their students’ success!

17 What’s next? Help connect GED students to opportunities beyond the GED. Libraries can advertise their recommended web sites to these students, highlighting jobs and career info, educational info, and financial aid.

18 Lessons Learned Addressing barriers confronted by GED students
Situational Barriers: Continue to offer flexible hours and no-cost services. Academic Skills Barriers Increase collection of basic subject specific materials (particularly math) and advertise these collections to GED students Develop ways to help students overcome lack of computer expertise.

19 Proposed Products Informational Flier:
Information tailored specifically for GED students to be distributed to GED students at program registration. Accessing Your Library Step-by-Step Basic instructional guide including information on: Creating a CPCC username and password What to do if you forgot your password Navigating the online library catalog Accessing Learning Express Library Accessing Librarian Tested Web Sites

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