|Abstract: ||Higher education requires intense information practices for knowledge diffusion, application, and innovation. Faculty assess and use a variety of documents when they teach their students. They make complex credibility assessments, and they use information with varying degrees of perceived credibility to achieve their teaching goals. Unfortunately, existing credibility research often stops once documents are selected. Our knowledge of the associations between credibility assessments and information use remains limited. Additionally, scholars agree professional tasks are associated with the genres of the documents used to accomplish these tasks. For example, instructional genres – including tutorials and lesson plans – are particularly useful to tasks related to educational pursuits. Despite the potential benefits that the identification of genres might provide in searching, navigation, and comprehension of information, researchers rarely exploit it to facilitate faculty’s document assessments and information use in support of their teaching.
To solve the above problems, this study aimed at uncovering the associations between credibility assessments and information use tasks with respect to document genres in the context of university teaching. Specifically, it investigated whether there were associations: (1) between the criteria faculty employed to assess the credibility of the documents they used to support their teaching and the genres of these documents; (2) between the credibility criteria they employed to assess and the information use tasks they performed to use these documents; and (3) between the genres of these documents and the information use tasks they performed. Understanding the above associations could enhance our knowledge of the roles of document genres in making credibility assessments and information use decisions in the context of university teaching.
This study took a mixed-method, bottom-up approach to uncovering the above associations. It first employed qualitative citation analysis to identify the genres of the documents faculty used in their courses based on the citations in their teaching materials (e.g., syllabi, lecture slides, lab notes, and links to resources). Customized genre repertoires that detailed the contexts in which different genres were used in Excel format were created. Semi-structured interviews were then implemented to collect data about the courses included in this study, the general criteria faculty employed to select documents for their courses, the tasks they performed to use the information in the genres this study selected for in-depth interviews, and the criteria they employed to assess the selected genres. Interviews were fully transcribed for qualitative content analysis.
The results of this study indicate the criteria faculty employed served as function enablers that bridged the selected genres and the information use tasks they performed to use these genres. Credibility was one of the function enablers that enabled faculty to use the selected genres to perform different tasks. It played different roles in different tasks. It played a leading role in teaching tasks that developed students’ advanced learning skills and helped students to continue their learning. It also played a leading role in information use tasks that involved subject experts, professional orginations, and diverse genres originated from heterogeneous sources. The results also indicate the information use tasks faculty performed served as inclusion and exclusion criteria for genres. The information use tasks determined the information characteristics of genres that mattered in faculty’s task performance.
This study shed new light on existing knowledge about genre-task associations by: (1) Exploring these associations in the context of university teaching; (2) Explicating these associations through the perception of credibility; and (3) Adding the criterion-genre and criterion-task associations to complement these associations. This study also enhanced our understanding of credibility in the context of university teaching. Finally, this study made several methodological contributions, including: (1) Transforming citation analysis from bibliographic records to research tools that engaged participants and ensured the accuracy of data; (2) Transforming citation analysis from bibliographic records to customized genre repertoires that preserved the contexts of information use; and (3) Developing rules to consistently select genres for investigating task-genre associations across disciplinary boundaries.