Monday, September 23, 2013

Evaluations via Blind Textual Analysis

It's evaluation time in lots of my classes. As I'm sure many librarians would agree, this is one of my favorite units to teach. I like to take it one step further than just giving students ideas on how to evaluate sources.

First Steps
I find that I need to provide at least some framework for students to evaluate sources. I typically will share with them several criteria. Many in our field have snazzy names for these criteria. (I'm looking at you, CRAAP test.) I take a somewhat simplified approach. I simply ask students to critically think about a source; ask themselves if this source good enough to earn a place in your paper?

Here are the slides, in which I offer some framework to evaluate sources:

Providing Source Material 
Once students have this very basic framework, I like to introduce them to raw source material. Here are three quotes from various sources, which I have used in class. When presenting these, I have a different student read each paragraph. Can you spot where each are from?

Source One: 
State schools, also known as public schools or government schools, generally refer to primary or secondary schools mandated for or offered to all children by the government, whether national, regional, or local, provided by an institution of civil government, and paid for, in whole or in part, by public funding from taxation. The term may also refer to institutions of post-secondary education funded, in whole or in part, and overseen by government.
Source Two:
Public schools in the United States have become predominantly liberal and atheistic government institutions that employ 3 million people and spend $411.5 billion annually at a cost of $10,770 per student. Liberals censor classroom prayer, the Ten Commandments, sharing of faith in classrooms during school hours, and teaching Bible-based morality. Mandatory homosexual indoctrination is common as early as elementary school in more liberal states. The failures of underperforming public schools are paradigm of socialism, along with landfills and the Canadian healthcare system. 
Source Three:
Since the mid-1800s, most Americans have had access to free public education at the elementary and secondary school levels. The availability of universal schooling is based on the notion that all children have a right to a basic education. However, concerns about the quality of public education in recent years have led to significant changes in the nation's public school system. Some people consider these changes a long-overdue remedy to a failing system. Others worry that the changes will undermine the nation's commitment to providing equal educational opportunity to all Americans.
My favorite part of having students read these three paragraphs comes after they finish the second one. I ask them to raise their hands if they went to public school. Normally 3/4's if not more raise their hands. Then, I ask how their "mandatory homosexual indoctrination" went. Sure that's a comical moment, but it opens the door to a discussion of face validity and how a simple critical reading can prevent a students from using a bad source.

The first quote came from a wikipedia and is actually my choice. The second came from Conservapedia. The third quote is from a subject encyclopedia in Credo Reference.  Many students tend to like the third quote best.

Next term, I want to use a source from a left-leaning organization to reduce bias. Rational Wiki seems to be a good place to find that type of information.  

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Julius! This looks like a great lesson.