Is it true? Helping students assess information credibility

Juliana Miner, Psyche Ready

Session Information

Year: 2017 | Time: 1:00pm-2:30pm | Location: PANEL & ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION: Johnson Center (Room G)




FULL ABSTRACT: George Mason strives to involve undergraduates in research and scholarship, and one of the first steps in this process is determining the reliability of sources. Students use the internet to inform and direct almost every aspect of their lives, both as emerging citizens and as scholars. The proliferation of “fake news” and “alternative facts” makes it difficult for students to feel confident that they can assess the credibility of the information they find online, no matter how digitally savvy they may be. 

The demonstrated activity, which is applicable to a wide variety of disciplines, is a civic online reasoning exercise recently piloted in an introductory public health class, based on materials developed by Dr. Sam Wineburg at the  Stanford History Education Group. The task is designed to help students differentiate between unreliable online sources and credible ones. Participants will complete the task and discuss the results, comparing them to both Stanford and GMU undergraduates. We will then review a “best practices” process for students to use to better enable them to assess the validity of online resources with confidence. This process includes a written assignment that encourages students to reflect and think critically about the information that flows across their social media feeds and appears in their Google searches.   

Faculty who attend this session will be able to teach a one hour, highly interactive class that helps their students identify unreliable information and “fake news”, develop a process for finding credible online sources, and improving their overall digital literacy.

The skills developed in English Composition are more important, perhaps, than ever before. “Fake news” has been in the headlines nearly every day during 2017. College students, in order to participate in intelligent conversations for both their personal and professional well-being, need the skills to be able to evaluate and assess information, especially web-based information, and to understand the significance of evidence-based arguments. I’m presenting a lesson plan based on small-group evaluation of a variety of online sources that are fake news, exaggerated claims or clickbait headlines. This lesson plan, based on the avalanche of recently published information on web literacy, and practiced in my own Advanced Composition classroom, is designed to give students a very “real-time,” interactive way to develop these skills, learn more about the world around them, and develop the confidence to engage as an active participant in that world.


active learning


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