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Tip: Helping Students Understand Bias in Sources
Resources to help students learn about evaluating sources, identifying false news stories & disinformation tactics, and recognizing logical fallacies & bias.
If you work with students doing secondary research, you’ve probably encountered issues with helping students to recognize whether the sources they are using are “good” sources. While deciding what makes a good source is going to have nuance within different contexts, helping students to recognize what to look for in the sources they read is the first step.
Resources for learning to evaluate primary sources
I have used this presentation - and apologies that it’s a Prezi; it’s an older creation that I haven’t had a chance to move into Google Slides yet - to help students understand how to evaluate sources for authorship, currency, objectivity, and accuracy. Similar to my presentation is the C.R.A.P Test for evaluating sources (handout here) that asks students to evaluate based on currency, reliability/relevance, authority, and purpose/point-of-view. Both of these resources are appropriate for college-level students who are more at the beginning stages of learning how to do research and evaluate sources they find.
If you’re looking for a more in-depth treatment of the topic, here are three books that are written for a post-secondary student audience. The first is an OER book, Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers, by Mike Caulfield. He also has an article on SIFT (Stop, Investigate the source, Find trusted coverage, Trace claims, quotes, and media back to the original context. A set of five freely adaptable 30 minute lessons for students - “Check, Please! Starter Course” - is available as well.
Other recommended books include the following:
Who’s Your Source? A Writer’s Guide to Effectively Evaluating and Ethically Using Resources, by Melissa M. Bender & Karma Waltonen
Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking, 12th Edition, by M. Browne & Stuart M. Keeley, Bowling Green State University.
Resources for learning about evaluating news media
Bad News is an online game site built by a team of researchers and media experts across Europe that engages students in learning about how false stories proliferate (there’s also a version for secondary students).
In Bad News, you take on the role of fake news-monger. Drop all pretense of ethics and choose a path that builds your persona as an unscrupulous media magnate. But keep an eye on your ‘followers’ and ‘credibility’ meters. Your task is to get as many followers as you can while slowly building up fake credibility as a news site. But watch out: you lose if you tell obvious lies or disappoint your supporters!
Factitious has a short online game where students read a series of articles and then determine whether or not the article presents accurate facts or is from a satire site. They also have a pandemic edition of the game.
You’ve probably seen versions of this Media Bias Chart floating around before; I think it remains a good starting point for discussions about who decides what is bias in news media. Other resources that focus on identifying media bias or fact checking media include Media Bias Factcheck, AllSides (curates news articles across the political spectrum), and for secondary students, Fake News: What is “fake news” and why should we care?
For more reading…
For learning specifically about logical fallacies
Project Implicit talks about implicit bias across a range of topics
For historians, Bunk History is: “a shared home for the web’s most interesting writing and thinking about the American past. Join us to explore the multi-dimensional connections between past and present.”