November 14, 2017
"An important goal is to empower students to do this as part of their routine media consumption and not just their classwork – and to do so with respect for their intellect, individuality, and opinions."
Have students work collectively or individually to analyze the content of a piece of media (written/ video/ etc.). They can look for:
This year, I have moved from debates that focused on individually pre-prepared speeches to a “big debate” format. Students have two weeks to compile evidence and arguments on either side of a topic. (We negotiate the topic to be used in class.) On debate day, they are split into two groups, both sides of which must compose arguments on both sides using the evidence and arguments that they have brought in. I also see them looking up additional evidence and arguments while they discuss within their groups the best ways to approach the topics. After about 45 minutes, I flip a coin to decide which group will be Pro and which will be Con. They are expected to present the side quickly thereafter. I’ve seen a lot of hard work and serious discussion with this format. Grading is through a self-assessment worksheet to augment my observation of their participation.
Having students turn in a list of proposed sources or annotated bibliography early on gives instructors a chance to check on the type of sources being used.
The suggestions I’ve given here primarily apply to current events, which are a big part of my teaching, but I think there can be room for this sensibility in most classes. Issues around types of sources and authorial intent are relevant in most fields, as is the need to discern fact from opinion. History gets used and abused with persuasive and even misleading intent. Many prey on the general lack of mathematical, and especially statistical, sophistication of the general public. It is similarly easy to bring to mind issues where science gets used and abused, including everything from GMOs to climate change to vaccination and medicine. Especially in our General Education courses, we hope that our students will at least leave with the ability (and maybe even the inclination!) to critically assess claims and evidence related to those courses.