We are at slightly different stages with the three different groups at the moment and earlier in the week I was involved with introducing the Investigate stage to the last group. An important part of this lesson is introducing them to CRAAP testing (for which we very successfully used the resources developed for the Year 9 Chemistry inquiry earlier in the year). This has been particularly powerful for this inquiry because we have been able to explain why they need to be very critical of their sources – beyond the usual and obvious arguments about why you should always use credible sources for academic work. Since the first Express stage in this inquiry is a debate, we explained to students that they should be ready to attack or defend the source of the information as well as the information itself. Not knowing which side of the debate they will be on until the moment they stand up to deliver their opening statements has focused their minds very powerfully both on providing credible arguments for both sides, but also on analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of those arguments so that they are ready to attack or defend them – a critical skill they need for their exam. An interesting side-effect has also been that they haven’t felt the need to attack each other’s sources in the actual debates, possibly because they have all made a real effort to use credible sources so there are no dubious facts being peddled. This whole experience actually reinforces a broader point about not necessarily giving students full instructions for their Express phase until Construct has been completed, which keeps the focus on the understanding not the product.
Students have generally been very engaged with the CRAAP testing process, and picked up the idea very quickly as we stepped through an interactive CRAAP test together. One student this week was brave enough to challenge my scores at the end. I gave the Breitbart article zero for Accuracy, Authority and Purpose and he felt that was unfair, essentially because they had put the effort into making it look credible (date, author, linked evidence, named quotes and a decent-looking chart). It was actually a wonderful opportunity to reinforce John Royce’s point that you cannot accurately assess the credibility or a source using information from that site alone. It may look good, but that doesn’t make it true!