Thinking Skills Guide Preface Introduction to the Model Scope & Sequence How to Use the Model

EVALUATING EVIDENCE

A skill used to determine whether information is reliable and valid.

Student Definition
Deciding if information is reliable and important.

Synonyms
Critical Analysis, Information Discrimination, Judging

Why Teach
This skill provides students with tools for thinking critically about what they think, hear, or read. Students will be able to process conflicting and contradictory information. Students will also be able to decide which evidence is pertinent. This skill facilitates informed decision making.

Applications

  • Choosing information sources
  • Conducting research of any kind, in or out of school
  • Deciding how to vote
  • Deciding which evidence to consider in making social choices, e.g., whether to tell a joke, whether to use drugs, whether to participate in a demonstration
  • Evaluating consumer information
  • Sitting on a jury

Objectives
Students will be able to:

  • Determine whether information is substantiated or unsubstantiated.
  • Determine if information is pertinent.

  • Metacognitive Objective
    Students will be able to:
  • Reflect upon their thinking processes when using this skill and examine its effectiveness.

Skill Steps

  1. Identify the information.
  2. Determine if information is reasonable by discovering whether it is:
    • Understandable
    • Reliable
    • Valid
    • Current
    • Authoritative
    • Objective
    • Consistent
    • Pertinent
  3. If the claim does not seem reasonable, determine if it can be supported in its present form. If it cannot be supported, the claim is unsubstantiated.
  4. If support is reasonable, the claim is substantiated.
  5. If the support is unreasonable, the claim is unsubstantiated.

  6. Metacognitive Step
  7. Reflect upon the thinking process used when performing this skill and examine its effectiveness.

Vocabulary

  • Common knowledge - knowledge that is generally accepted in a population, whether or not it is true.
  • Debrief - review and evaluate process, using both cognitive and affective domains to achieve closure of the thinking activity.
  • Metacognition - the act of consciously considering one's own throught processes by planning, monitoring, and evaluating them (thinking about your thinking).
  • Pertinent - having a direct bearing on the topic, suitable
  • Reliability - the state of being dependable or repeatable
  • Validity - the state of being well founded, sound, and true

Possible Procedure for Teaching the Skill

  1. Tell students they will be learning how to evaluate evidence.
  2. Relate a personal story about a time when someone tried to convince you to do something that could have been harmful to you. Describe the process you went through, or perhaps should have gone through, to identify the unsupported claims the individual was making. Have students recall similar incidents in their own lives and share them with the class.
  3. Define and practice applying the characteristics of "reasonable": reliable, valid, current, authoritative, objective, consistent, pertinent, and understandable (see Background Information).
  4. Explain to the students that the process they engaged in models (or should model) the evaluation of evidence process.
  5. Describe situations in which you will expect students to use the process.
  6. Discuss with students the principle of information not being self-evident, and explain that this is an indication that the information is new and unexpected. Explain the concept of "common knowledge." Using a newspaper article, have students identify statements that are not self-evident and discuss why the information is unexpected. In other words, is there something about the statement(s) that "jumps out" and suggests the need for formal evaluation by the "evaluation of evidence" process.
  7. Explain the principle of new information being reasonable, given its context. Provide examples.
  8. Present students with different types of unreliable or unsupportable information. (Overgeneralization, oversimplification of causal relationships, lack of identifiable source, slanted information, appeals to the emotions, euphemisms, meaningless claims, vague or ambiguous claims).
  9. Have students practice the evaluation of evidence process on information from a newspaper article, advertisement, or news broadcast.
  10. Debrief students on the process, the definition, and the importance of this skill.

Integrating the Skill into the Curriculum

Present students with a current newspaper article about a topic of interest. In small groups, have them identify information that is not self-evident. Discuss why these statements are not evident to students, emphasizing that they do not fit in with their background knowledge- they are not in the students' domain of common knowledge. Also, discuss that the domain of common knowledge of one group of people might differ from that of another group of people. Then select a few of the identified information statements, and in small groups have students determine whether they can be supported or not. If a claim cannot be supported, have the students attempt to label the type of information. If the information can be supported, have the students identify whether proof has been presented to them. Discuss with students when they may or may not wish to use this process.

Have the students watch television commercials, and then identify unsupportable information in the commercials. Also identify unreliable information. Label the type of information presented in the commercials. Identify the proof that has been presented.

Have students evaluate evidence in a story or a reading.
(See Barefoot Island, Ginn Publishing Company, Skillpack and Studybook)

Background Information

As an information user locates potentially useful bits of information, a screening process takes place. First, the information must pass tests of relevance established by the search questions. Next, it is scrutinized in terms of such factors as currency, authority, objectivity, consistency, and potential for being understood. As students mature, they gain skills in applying these and other tests of usefulness beyond an initial conclusion simply because it seems to make sense. Skill in applying each of these tests must be learned and reinforced through experience. Together they develop the individual into a critical evaluator of information.

Part of the evaluation process that must be learned early relates to the learner's personal style and familiarity with the subject under study. A piece of information that is of great utility to one student may be worthless to another working on the same question. There can be no understanding of information that does not relate to what is already known.

Concurrent with interpreting and evaluating information, the student selects the most useful parts of the gathered information. By scanning and skimming, the learner wastes little time with bits of information that are not useful in answering the central question.

Additional Resources

Information Skills Curriculum Guide: Process, Scope and Sequence. Washington Library Media Association Supervisors' Subcommittee on Information Skills, September 1987.

Marzano, Robert A., and Daisy E. Arredondo. TACTICS for Thinking. Colorado: Mid-Continent Regional Educational Laboratory, 1986.

Related Skills

Attributing
Classifying
Comparing and Contrasting
Determining Cause-Effect Relationships

 

Inferring
Managing Attention
Observing Actively
Prioritizing


Thinking Skills Guide - Evaluating Evidence