Deciding if information is reliable and important.
Critical Analysis, Information Discrimination, Judging
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
- 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
Students will be able to:
- Determine whether information is substantiated or unsubstantiated.
- Determine if information is pertinent.
Students will be able to:
- Reflect upon their thinking processes when using this skill and
examine its effectiveness.
- Identify the information.
- Determine if information is reasonable by discovering whether
- If the claim does not seem reasonable, determine if it can be
supported in its present form. If it cannot be supported, the claim
- If support is reasonable, the claim is substantiated.
- If the support is unreasonable, the claim is unsubstantiated.
- Reflect upon the thinking process used when performing this skill
and examine its effectiveness.
- 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
Possible Procedure for Teaching the Skill
- Tell students they will be learning how to evaluate evidence.
- 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.
- Define and practice applying the characteristics of "reasonable":
reliable, valid, current, authoritative, objective, consistent,
pertinent, and understandable (see Background Information).
- Explain to the students that the process they engaged in models
(or should model) the evaluation of evidence process.
- Describe situations in which you will expect students to use the
- 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.
- Explain the principle of new information being reasonable, given
its context. Provide examples.
- 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).
- Have students practice the evaluation of evidence process on information
from a newspaper article, advertisement, or news broadcast.
- 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)
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
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
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.
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.