Can we get connected with teaching students how to evaluate sources?

How do librarians teach how to evaluate sources?  The Washington State University Libraries call it the CRAAP test.  I like the CRAAP model of organizing the problem at hand: there is simply so much not to trust that gets delivered to students through their favorite search engine, the kind that display paid ads as preferred sources.  A high degree of skepticism can also be applied to results that do not contain explicit advertising .   Here are a couple results from my own computer using Google and Bing.  What topic did not care to provide any advertising whatsoever?  DEPRECIATION BASICS.  70%  the students at my school are aiming for a business profession.  But there is no history on my computer of looking up this topic.



Interesting how both search engines have the same link as the the top result, yet below that there is also quite a difference. So how do we want students to approach the notion of trusting one of these results or using it to contribute to the answers it will provide for  their assignment, paper, class discussion,  or group assignment?

Here’s a short course in images for a class I did last spring about what goes into describing a framework for assessing the value of discovered research resources:







Yes, some dedicated librarians and I establish all the possible problems that might exist in a source on the web. But how to get the learner (the student, sometimes the faculty) connected with a laundry list?

This what I tried last spring:  for the last 20 minutes of the session I asked students to work in pairs, then I showed them three qualitatively questionable web sites.   I passed out a rating scale sheet and asked them to try some of the CRAAP criteria and be prepared to share their opinion.  After a few minutes with the first site, I lead a discussion which asked for volunteers to talk about their evaluation experience, even if it was only the rating score.   The lesson on evaluating sources was one of five classes that qualified students to take an open book quiz and earn my institution’s co-curricular credit for an 80% correct answer rate on a 25-question quiz covering all units.  I hoped the quiz would bring them back to review the material a second time, or perhaps even use it during the quiz.  In case you were wondering, 31 students completed the extra-curricular classes and the quiz.

Now, it is much easier to program this kind of extracurricular activity and avoid the time-consuming but more connected work of doing a similar activity in a class-coordinated setting.  As the only current qualified information literacy teacher and simultaneously the Library Director, I did not try to get into a classroom, particularly if I could not get into every classroom. So I opted to find shared-purpose, peer-supported, interested-powered students. But what they were doing was not openly networked or production-centered.

Of course, I didn’t hear about connected learning for a couple more months.   Can someone suggest how we can bring making and sharing into my next iteration of information literacy curriculum?  I have a personal learning network that might have great ideas…



2 thoughts on “Can we get connected with teaching students how to evaluate sources?

  1. Hi Charles. I’m at the very beginning of the journey of thinking about how we can teach evaluation of sources connected-learning style. Earlier this year I created an online ‘checklist’ for evaluation of websites, potentially for use in a connected-learning context, but haven’t tried it out yet with students. The problem with it from a connected learning point of view is that I created it using a survey tool (qualtrics) making it difficult to share results. My idea was that students could use the checklist, and then share their thoughts and experiences via other means. This is the URL if you are interested ….



    • Funny how we use Qualtrics for all sorts of things. I even created a “library game” using Qualtrics last spring for a Game Festival on campus here.

      If you try to build a model of the checklist with Google Forms, then you can make the form result page publicly viewable at a stable URL.

      Thanks for your comment.


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