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#1 It All Starts with Task Definition

Note: This is the first of a series on the Big6™, the most widely used approach to information Michael B. Eisenberg is dean of the
Information School of the University of
problem-solving in the world. Students go through the Big6 stages—consciously or not— Washington. Mike, and his co-author Bob
when they seek or apply information to solve a problem or make a decision. In addition to Berkowitz, created the Big6 approach to
considering the Big6 as a process, the Big6 can be viewed as a set of basic, essential life skills information problem-solving, and Mike has
that can be applied across situations—to school, personal, and work settings, and in school worked with thousands of students (preK
through higher education), as well as people
to all subject and grade levels. Students use the Big6 Skills whenever they need information in public schools, business, government, and
to solve a problem, make a decision, or complete a task. communities to improve their information
and technology skills. Mike has written
Each article includes a brief overview of one Big6 stage by Mike Eisenberg, followed by numerous books and articles on aspects
articles by two exemplary Big6 teachers, Barbara Jansen and Rob Darrow, offering practical of information science and librarianship,
information literacy, library media work, and
uses of the Big6 in elementary and secondary situations, respectively. Melinda Tooley and information technology. He can be reached at
Mike conclude the set by introducing a specific function of the new software product, Big6™ or www.ischool.
TurboTools, relevant to that Big6 stage. Visit
for Big6 titles, posters, and bookmarks.
It seems simple really, “Define the for nature, options, scope, end
problem; identify the information product, grading, time and effort,
needed.” But classroom teachers amount of information, and types
and library media specialists will of information.
tell you that Task Definition is the The Big6™
n Have students analyze a wide
stage of the Big6 that gives students
range of assignments without 1. Task Definition
the most difficulty. When faced
actually having to complete them.
with a project, homework, project, 1.1 Define the information problem
report—even a quiz or standardized n Have students apply Task Definition 1.2 Identify information needed in
test, students should be able to: (and later the full Big6 process) to order to complete the task (to solve
n understand the nature or type of non-school situations such as buying the information problem)
the assignment a gift or choosing a product, winning
a sport or game, or selecting a TV 2. Information Seeking Strategies
n select among options
show or video. 2.1 Determine the range of possible
n narrow the scope sources (brainstorm)
n determine exactly what they are n For important state tests, have
2.2 Evaluate the different possible
expected to do students become familiar with and
evaluate instructions, format, and sources to determine priorities
n envision what the end product (select the best sources)
will look like styles of questions in advance. Use
the same instructions, format, and 3. Location and Access
n know how they will be graded style in classroom tests.
n estimate how much time and 3.1 Locate sources (intellectually
effort will be required n Help students learn to use Big6 and physically)
planning tools such as Barbara 3.2 Find information within sources
n consider how much information
Jansen’s Big6™ Assignment
will be needed 4. Use of Information
Organizer (available on the Big6
n determine the types of for Kids Web site: < 4.1 Engage (e.g., read, hear, view,
information to seek out. kids>) or the new Big6™ Planner tool touch) the information in a source
Students can improve their task in Big6 TurboTools (see page 37). 4.2 Extract relevant information
definition capabilities through direct from a source
Imagine a highly successful Big6
instruction, emphasis, and practice. school or classroom: whenever 5. Synthesis
Here are some ideas for teachers students are faced with a new
to use to
5.1 Organize information from
problem, task, assignment, or test, multiple sources
teach Task they are able to figure out what
Definition: 5.2 Present the information
needs to be done, how to do it, how
n Present long it’s going to take, the types and 6. Evaluation
various amount of information required, and 6.1 Judge the product
assignments what a successful end result will look (effectiveness)
and have like. Will that help them succeed? 6.2 Judge the information problem-
students Absolutely, and that’s the goal—for solving process (efficiency)
analyze every student in every situation.
By Michael B. Eisenberg

Of special interest to grades... K-5 6-8 9-12 LIBRARY MEDIA CONNECTION FEBRUARY 2005 33