How many of you use tools like the CRAAP test to teach students how to evaluate information? I have too, and even developed my own version at one point. There is a problem with the CRAAP test and similar tools though–they use a broad set of criteria to apply to any type of source, which really doesn’t do much more than promote procedural thinking about information. I liken it to the keyword approach to teaching word problems in math–it’s a horrible method because there are way too many exceptions to the rules and students never really learn to solve problems, only apply procedures. Bottom line, trying to simplify a student’s interpretation down to a set of keywords or criteria that can be applied to any type of problem (math or information) is moderately effective at best.
A better approach? Schema-based instruction.
Schema-based instruction is a method for teaching word problem-solving in math that has been proven much more effective than the keyword approach, especially for students with learning differences. But it is an effective method for all students (why it’s not taught more is a puzzle). Students learn how to identify word problem types first, then use an appropriately tailored strategy for solving each different type of problem. In a nutshell, it works.
I think this is an excellent approach for evaluating information as well. By first having students identify what type of information they are looking at, and then having them use a specific evaluation strategy for that type of source, students may be more likely to achieve a greater level of information literacy. I think it may also improve their appetite for better quality information (not just whatever pops up in Google). Another benefit of this approach? It supports metacognitive thinking.
For example, providing students with a graphic organizer as a scaffolding tool will help them identify and begin to differentiate between types of sources. This will teach them to look at information from a schema perspective rather than looking at all information as the same (thus, thinking more like a librarian).
An even better approach would be to have students identify the differences on their own (with guidance of course), and then construct their own graphic organizers that they can use as tools. Strategies for evaluating each type of source can then be further developed and dissected as students enter the upper-level courses in their majors.
The schema-based approach to evaluating information is more in line with the new ACRL standards than old standbys like the CRAAP test. It’s time to go beyond procedural thinking to support students’ metacognitive thinking about information practices.