A friend of mine just questioned me on Facebook, “(With) the increase in access to media/information … are people more adept at separating fact from fiction or are they more willing to let others make that decision for them?”
I quickly made a snide reference to recent elector events as evidence, but continued by blaming education. There is so much about the ways that teachers must teach that actually discourages students from critically questioning the information that they encounter. We (educators) teach them to learn and believe what it is that we teach and not to question what they have learned. Teachers are forced into this mode of instruction because schools have become a one-right-answer world. It is because of high-stakes testing and teachers are responsible for their students knowing those one-right-answers.
But what if critical evaluation of the information we encounter really was a core part of what we teach. Here are some ways that teachers might encourage their students to develop critical habits.
- Research the author(s) of your textbook and start the year introducing students to what you’ve learned. Explain how the author’s background gives them the authority to write such a textbook.
- Tell students that not everything in the textbook is true. Explain that part of their job this year is to find its inaccuracies and support their finds.
- Use as much content from the Internet as you can. As you present the content, explain the process you used to finding it and the criteria you used to validate the information.
- When discussing students’ work or their answers to questions, get in the habit of asking, “How do you know that’s true?” Encourage students to have supporting evidence for their answers and the ideas that they share.
- Encourage students to ask you, “How do you know that’s true Mr. ######?” Be ready to answer with supporting evidence. If you don’t have the supporting evidence, ask you’re students to give you a day to research it.
- When you get it wrong, apologize and describe to you students what you learned in the process of getting it wrong. Make use of all wrong answers.
- Talk about your own interests and the research that you conduct to learn more about your interest. Practice contemporary literacy in front of your students
- When you encounter false information or a manipulative message, bring it into your classroom and provide the evidence that proves that it is incorrect. Ask students what they think someone might have to gain by spreading false or misleading messages.
Tell your students that the world as we know is,
Is not the same world the we knew.
What more, it’s not the same world that we will know.
They (your students) are going to be the explorers and discoverers of that world.