Information and News Literacy Pedagogy

A Learner-Centered Lifespan Approach

by James H. Wittebols (Author)
©2023 Textbook 144 Pages
Series: Lifespan Communication, Volume 12


Living in a post-truth world during an era of information wars, making sense of events is increasingly challenging for everyone. The fact that today’s politics has found many retreating to ideologically “safe” spaces online where their world view is not contested makes the need for news and information literacy more significant. A contemporary world where disinformation and propaganda lead to a distrust of news sources calls for a new way to approach information and news literacy. Digital technology has seemingly made information and news easier to access, but it has also made sorting quality from nonsense a challenge.
This book presents a different approach to news and information literacy which uses a flipped classroom method to create a student-centered learning experience. The course is guided by the educational philosophy of Paulo Freire and draws on theory and research from psychology, education and news and information literacy. The course begins with an exercise which reveals the role confirmation bias plays in how students judge the adequacy of news and information they retrieve through online search. The course engenders greater confidence in mastering the pitfalls of the Internet as students emerge empowered with self-knowledge as well as a better understanding of the Internet.
The book is relevant for news, information and media literacy teachers, especially at the secondary and collegiate levels, curriculum specialists, continuing and adult education specialists and anyone who wants to better understand how we process news and information in the digital age.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Introduction: News and Information Literacy for a “Post-Truth” World
  • 1. A Different Approach to News and Information Literacy
  • 2. Flipping the Classroom to Empower Students
  • 3. Student Centered: Recognizing Confirmation Bias and Its Role in Curiosity
  • 4. Website Analysis for Critical Information Literacy
  • 5. News Literacy After the Print Era
  • 6. News and Information Literacy and the Information Wars
  • Index
  • Series index

←vi | vii→


Writing a book is a “magnificent obsession” for an author. It becomes something always at the back of one’s mind and you never know when an insight that clarifies a messy issue will pop into one’s head. I am completely responsible for any errors in the book and for the theory and data on which this book is based. This book is greatly enriched by the educational philosophy of Paulo Freire. I first encountered Freire’s work as a graduate student and over the years have tried to integrate his approach into my classes. Now 35 years later, this course represents my best effort at bringing his work to university students. I am greatly indebted to his work and to colleagues over the years who have also worked with Freire’s pedagogy. This accomplishment did not come without the input and encouragement of colleagues at the University of Windsor. As a course that developed over several iterations, the Centre for Teaching and Learning at the University of Windsor was immensely helpful in encouraging the development of the course. An early meeting with the director of the Centre, Erika Kustra, and learning specialist, Jessica Raffoul, raised my spirits after a couple of frustrating efforts with the course. Jessica has been especially helpful in directing me to relevant journals in the scholarship of teaching and learning and read a draft of this book early on to offer me assurance that I was on the right track. I thank the University of Windsor for a Fall 2021 sabbatical which greatly facilitated the organization and writing of this project. Finally, I would like to thank all the students who have taken Information Searching and Analysis. They are the stars of this course and made this book possble through the way they embraced the course. Student comments at the end of most chapters were the inspiration for this book.←vii | viii→

←viii | ix→

List of Abbreviations

Confirmation Bias (CB)

Critical Information Literacy (CIL)

Flipped Classroom (FC)

Information Literacy (IL)

Information Searching and Analysis (IS&A)

Procedural New Knowledge (PNK)

Self-Directed Learning Readiness (SDLR)

←ix | x→

Introduction: News and Information Literacy for a “Post-Truth” World

The impetus for the course on which this book is based was rather modest in the early 2010s. Students using the Internet for their coursework were exhibiting naïve trust in the digital search for news and information and a utilitarian orientation to using the Internet—getting it done over getting it right. Both were problematic in getting a more complete information profile about contemporary and historical issues. Experience with a course unit created to help students analyze websites for their integrity in one course only served to encourage the creation of a whole course which would help students master the promises and pitfalls of Internet search for news and information.

As this course has developed over the last decade, the information system the Internet has become has fostered even more challenges—not just for students but for all those who use the Internet as their source for news and information. As many discovered the power and reach of the Internet, it became a wellspring for digital propagandists and disinformation specialists to flood peoples’ social media feeds and email accounts with the messaging that taps into their cognitive and emotional lives to cajole, persuade and even bamboozle them into buying a product, or supporting an agenda, idea or candidate. Everyday citizens have been roiled as the Internet has become saturated with propaganda websites designed to look like trustworthy local news sources (Columbia Journalism Review, 2021). ←1 | 2→Online advertisements purchased by international interests are used to distort political discourse and create mass misunderstandings of the socio-political world.

Thus, the elements of a successful critical news and information literacy course titled Information Searching and Analysis (IS&A) are important not just for high school and college students but for all those who want to participate in the social discourse of democracy. The techniques described here can be adapted to informal education contexts across the lifespan. A unique assignment that has students self-assess their tendency to engage in confirmation bias (CB) makes the course different from other approaches to news and information literacy as the assignment encourages people to begin to confront their own tendencies that can result in self-deception.

Underlying the desire to help students to independently evaluate the results of internet searches and news found online was a recognition the education philosophy of Paulo Freire (1970) would be key in developing this course. Freire’s approach emphasizes problematizing issues that people generally take for granted. This method fits perfectly into the course’s philosophy—to get students to approach search and information more critically. This is a sentiment found with some frequency in the literature on critical information literacy (Elmborg, 2006; Jacobs & Berg, 2011; Swanson, 2004). Freire uses the “fish out of water” analogy to get students to question what they know about the world: The only environment the fish knows is water; when the fish experiences something other than water, learning ensues. The fish out of water is experiencing cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957), a situation in which a person’s world view is disrupted by new information which contradicts or supplants their current view. By “extraordinarily re-experiencing the ordinary,” (Shor, 1980, p. 93) and questioning the taken-for-granted attitudes about the Internet, students could become more critical users of the Internet and apply it in their daily lives not only as students but also as citizens and consumers.

Freire’s literacy methods dovetail nicely with two elements of this course that have students becoming more actively involved in their learning and becoming more self-aware of their relationship to the issue at hand (1970; 1973). The use of a flipped classroom approach helps to put students at the center of what they are studying. Freire defines a very different role for educators that reflects a flipped classroom approach. Flipped classrooms emphasize class time for activities, not lectures and prioritize experiences for students over exams. In a flipped classroom, it is possible for educators to eschew their expertise to become facilitators of student learning.


ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2023 (January)
information literacy news literacy critical information literacy confirmation bias flipped classroom nformation and News Literacy Pedagogy A Learner-Centered Lifespan Approach James H. Wittebols
New York, Berlin, Bruxelles, Lausanne, Oxford, 2023. X, 144 pp., 1 table.

Biographical notes

James H. Wittebols (Author)

James H. Wittebols is Professor of Political Science at the University of Windsor. He is a sociologist who taught media literacy for 17 years at Niagara University before developing the critical news and information literacy course on which this course is based at Windsor.


Title: Information and News Literacy Pedagogy