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Inquiry and INFOhio: Evaluating Information

Author // Mary Rowland Thursday, 07 October 2021

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, students today will need to evaluate messages, media, print, and visual text throughout their adult lives to make informed decisions. 

Successfully evaluating information is a vital part in the inquiry framework. A person who is information literate can evaluate information and participate in self-directed learning. These inquiry skills transcend all content areas and grade levels. The quantity of information freely available is overwhelming, and students must learn these key skills:

  • Assess the value of the information found to accomplish the specific purpose.
  • Evaluate the information and its source for credibility and accuracy.
  • Recognize the point of view of the author. 
  • Use information ethically. 

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 judgment.” 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

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 into lessons 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.

  • Use ISearch to find primary sources to support your curriculum. For example, search for primary sources on the American Revolution, by keying the search words into the search box.

amrevolutioninquiryblog

 

  • Select the Basic Sources tab. Using the limiters on the left, limit your results to “Primary Sources.”

  • Select “Paul Revere’s account of his ride."

  • After selecting the primary source, introduce students to this graphic organizer, Analyzing Primary Source Documents, located in GO! Ask, Act, Achieve: How do I evaluate my sources? (To edit, select File > Make a Copy, and then save it to your Google Drive. Or, select File > Download > Microsoft Word.) Use this graphic organizer to help your students evaluate the information they find within the source material. 

  • As students read the primary source, ask them to answer the questions on the Analyzing Primary Source Documents graphic organizer. These questions offer a circular approach and encourage students to evaluate the context of the primary source and think historically. This evaluative approach to reading primary sources allows students to:
    • Think about the author and the point of view. Ask students to include information that the student finds surprising or unexpected.
    • Question the purpose of the source and if the author intended for the source to be published.
    • Reflect on what they learn about the author or the event in the source.
    • Formulate new questions for further inquiry.

By doing so, students can evaluate the quality, relevancy, and bias found within 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?

Evaluating Websites

In addition to evaluating the relevance of information, students need to learn to sift the good, the bad, and the ugly from 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 the information provided on a website. 

Regardless of which method you select, key evaluative characteristics can be found in each:

  1. Timely Information: When was the website last updated?
  2. Quality of Information: What kind of information is available on the website?
  3. Authorship: What can you learn about the author?

Conclusion

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). The 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 students as they evaluate sources and gather evidence during the inquiry process? Share with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter using #INFOhioWorks!

Information inquiry models and Evaluating Information

About the Author

Posted by: Mary Rowland

Mary Rowland is a Professional Instructional Specialist with INFOhio. A former high school English teacher with 14 years teaching experience, Mary is an accomplished leader who facilitated professional development in her previous district on integrating web-based tools into the classroom, Google Apps for Education, and writing across the curriculum. During her career, Mary mentored student teachers and served on both the district and building leadership committees. She has earned a BA in English, an MS in Education: Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, and is a Google Certified Educator Level 2. Mary is passionate about supporting INFOhio’s mission to help Ohio’s educators integrate the tools and resources to strengthen education for Ohio’s students.

Mary Rowland
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