Learning how to effectively evaluate information is not only an inquiry skill—it is a life skill. Whether evaluating an apartment lease contract, selecting the best post-secondary program and school, or deciding which candidate to vote for in an election, today’s students will need to evaluate messages, media, print, and visual text throughout their adult lives to make informed decisions. Laying the foundation for good evaluation skills is key for all content areas.
The ability to evaluate information is vital for successful inquiry and developing new understandings. The quantity of information freely available is overwhelming, and students must learn early on to carefully review found information to determine its value in answering their questions or pointing them in a new direction. They must understand how to use evidence to support their conclusions. Students assess the usefulness of information by comparing and contrasting, classifying and categorizing, analyzing, making inferences, recognizing point of view and more.
Evaluating information is a skill frequently referenced across all Ohio Learning Standards. For example, the College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading ask students to “integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats,” and “delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text.” Included in the Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects 6-12, students in grades 6-8 are asked to “distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgement.” Students in grades 9-10 are expected to “assess to which extent the reasoning and evidence in a text supports an author’s claims.” Finally, students in grades 11-12 should “integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats to address a question or solve a problem.” Therefore, creating opportunities for students to practice evaluating a variety of types of text for varying purposes, strengthens their ability to read across all content areas.
INFOhio Resources on Evaluating Information
Research 4 Success: Selecting the Best: Module 3
IWonder: Do you want help with research?
INFOhio Success in Six: Explore Strategies for Reading Digital Texts
How to Understand the Bias of a Publication: Points of View Reference Center
Evaluating a Website: Points of View Reference Center
Using Inquiry to Drive Authentic Research - Learn With INFOhio webinar
Evaluating In Practice
You can incorporate evaluation skills into a larger inquiry or project-based unit, or as mini lessons providing students opportunities to practice reading and critical thinking. Consider incorporating primary sources to help students practice evaluating information. In their 2012 Reading Teacher article, “The Power and Potential of Primary Sources,” professors Timothy Rasinski and Denise Morgan promote the potential of primary sources in the elementary classroom. Rasinski and Morgan, along with the Library of Congress, promote a circular approach to evaluating primary sources in three easy steps: observe, reflect, and question.
By doing so, students can evaluate the quality, relevancy, and bias found with the primary source.
Regarding differentiation, if students need more support while reading the primary source, many EBSCO articles have enhanced text visibility features and read aloud options. To learn more about these features, explore GO! Ask, Act, Achieve Teacher Guide for Ask: How do I begin my research?
In addition to evaluating the relevancy of information, students need to learn to sift the good, from the bad and the ugly of websites. For middle grade students, consider using Kathy Schrock’s 5 W’s of Website Evaluation. Simple and easy to use, Schrock provides teachers and students with guiding questions to evaluate and reflect on the quality and content of information provided on a website. For secondary students, consider using the C.R.A.P test. Accessible through INFOhio’s R4S Module 3, the C.R.A.P test encourages students to evaluate the information found on websites against four criteria: Currency, Reliability, Authority, and Purpose/Point of View.
Regardless of which method you select, key evaluative characteristics can be found in each:
In their 2013 Reading Teaching article, “Comprehension at the Core,” Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis emphasize, “We teach them to ask questions to delve into a text, to clarify confusion, to connect the new to the known to build knowledge, and to sift out the most important information when making decisions,” (Harvey and Goudvis). This ability for a student to weigh the relevancy and importance of information to make decisions, draw conclusions or marshal support for an argument, is vital for all students to become critical consumers of information and media. How do you support your as they evaluate sources and gather evidence during the inquiry process? Share with us on Facebook and Twitter using #INFOhioWorks!
Information inquiry models and Evaluating Information