An essential part of online research is the ability to critically evaluate information. This includes the ability to read and evaluate its level of accuracy, reliability and bias. When we recently assessed 770 seventh graders in two states to study these areas, the results definitely got our attention. Unfortunately, over 70 percent of their responses suggested that:
- Middle school students are more concerned with content relevance than with credibility.
- They rarely attend to source features such as author, venue or publication type to evaluate reliability and author perspective.
- When they do refer to source features in their explanations, their judgments are often vague, superficial and lack reasoned justification.
Other studies highlight similar shortcomings of high school and college students in these areas. From my perspective, the problem is not likely to go away without intervention during regular content area instruction.