This semester I started teaching source evaluation differently and wanted to share this approach in case it can be adapted for use in anyone else’s classroom.
Using the Assignment in Your Classroom
Step 1: Split the room into groups. This works really well in PCL 1.124 because they’re already facing each other at tables. Tell them the first thing they have to do is assign a recorder and a presenter. This gets their attention.
Step 2: Explain the exercise and pass it out on a half sheet of paper. It is interesting to see the types of things students write down, some of which they will have learned by the end of the exercise isn’t really helpful (for example, “if it is an .edu you can use it but if it is a .com you shouldn’t”). Here is the exercise – just click on it to make it bigger:
Step 3: Have a student explain the exercise back to you. This way students hear it two ways and it ensures they understand what they are supposed to be doing. I didn’t do this the first time and they didn’t really get it, but I didn’t know that until they were reporting out.
Step 4: Assign each group a source. I pre-pick the sources and put links to them on the SubjectsPlus course guide.
Step 5: Give them about 7 minutes to do the exercise and then have each group report out one criteria. As you add it to the board, ask questions and hold a discussion.
My experiences with it
This has worked well in every class in which I’ve used it (all freshmen classes, though). Sometimes I mix up the source types and other times I’ll stick to one or two types. I tie the types of sources I use to the assignment and learning outcomes for the session. It can be used as a viewpoint evaluation exercise, a web evaluation exercise, a scholarly versus popular exercise, or a more general source evaluation exercise.
I always do this at the beginning of the class, after I’ve introduced myself, gotten them logged on and told them the goals (LOs) and agenda for the class. It works nicely as an ice breaker, but more importantly, it lays the groundwork for weaving source evaluation in to discussion of tools. When they are doing their own searching during class, they can refer to the criteria list they generated and apply it to the sources they are finding.
I think you could do this exercise in a classroom with no technology and just hand out print sources.
In the honors classes I’ve taught, they gotten really into it and don’t want to stop talking. It brings up all sorts of issues they want to know more about including evaluating (or arguing with each other about) Wikipedia, figuring out how funding may impact a web site or figuring out which journals are more important than others (not really a freshmen thing but this exercise has led to that question). Other times it takes a while because they aren’t quite getting it but they always do eventually and I see that they have begun to move away from black and white criteria (all blogs are bad! don’t use opinions, etc).
It is really fun and establishes a nice connection with the students. If I start with this exercise, students seem to ask more questions during the rest of the class and seek out my help more readily.
While I would love to know how effective this is beyond what I can learn from anecdotal evidence, I only have that anecdotal evidence right now. I’d be interested to know what other people’s experiences are if they adapt this exercise for use in their own classroom.