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Teaching Critical Reading and Writing in the Era of Fake News

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Edited By Ellen C. Carillo and Alice S. Horning

This collection offers support for instructors who are concerned about students’ critical literacy abilities. Attending to critical reading to help students navigate fake news, as well as other forms of disinformation and misinformation, is the job of instructors across all disciplines, but is especially important for college English instructors because students’ reading problems play out in many and varied ways in students’ writing. The volume includes chapters that analyze the current information landscape by examining assorted approaches to the wide-ranging types of materials available on and offline and offers strategies for teaching critical reading and writing in first-year composition and beyond. The chapters herein bring fresh perspectives on a range of issues, including ways to teach critical digital reading, ecological models that help students understand fake news, and the ethical questions that inform teaching in such a climate. With each chapter offering practical, research-based advice this collection underscores not just the importance of attending to reading, particularly in the era of fake news, but precisely how to do so.

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3. The Fox and the OWL: Pedagogical Lessons from a Real-World Fake News Controversy

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JOSEPH FORTE

The recent focus on “fake news” in popular discourses suggests widespread anxiety about the ways that digital technology can be used to spread harmful falsehoods. A Pew Research Center study carried out in the wake of the 2016 presidential election found that 64% of American adults believed that made-up news stories have caused “a great deal of confusion” about current events (2016). A more recent survey suggested that a plurality of Americans (47%) find it “somewhat” or “very” difficult to determine the veracity of information they regularly encounter (Associated Press-NORC & USA Facts, 2019). Moreover, despite broad academic agreement on the importance of critical thinking, relevant research suggests current educational approaches may not adequately address the problem. For example, a recent large-scale study of middle school, high school, and college students documented astonishing failures in each age group to evaluate whether digital sources of information were reputable (Stanford History Education Group, 2016). In one exercise, fewer than 10% of high school and college participants could determine that a lobbying industry website represented a biased source of information (p. 5)

Fake news poses serious problems for educators at all levels. If students graduate university unable to make reliable judgments about the accuracy of the information they encounter every day, their lives’ horizons will meaningfully shrink. They will be easier to swindle, easier to deceive, and easier to mislead. Moreover, university courses that purport to teach critical thinking skills risk losing credibility, and administrators...

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