Secondary School Students Ascribe Value to Presentation, Accuracy, and Currency in their Evaluation of Web-Based Information
AbstractA Review of:
Pickard, A. J., Shenton, A. K., & Johnson, A. (2014). Young people and the evaluation of information on the World Wide Web: Principles, practice and beliefs. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 46(1), 3-20. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0961000612467813
Objective – To measure the importance students place on criteria used to evaluate Web-based information.
Design – Online, self-report questionnaire.
Setting – Secondary school in the United Kingdom.
Subjects – 149 students aged 13-18 years, representing a response rate of approximately 21% of the 713 students sampled.
Methods – The authors used themes generated in a previous study of Web-based information evaluation (Pickard, Gannon-Leary, & Coventry, 2010) to create a 10-item questionnaire about the importance of criteria used to evaluate Web-based information. Criteria represented in the questionnaire included accuracy, authority (2 statements), currency (2 statements), coverage, presentation, affiliation, source motivation, and citations. Students used a four-point scale from “Very important” to “Not at all important” to indicate how significant they considered each criteria to be when they evaluated websites.
Students received an email invitation to participate in the study, with a link to the questionnaire in the school’s SharePoint environment. Two subsequent email reminders were sent approximately 8-10 weeks after the initial invitation to participate. Teachers at the school were also asked to promote the questionnaire in their classes.
Main Results – Over 75% of the 149 student respondents rated statements about presentation (n=116), accuracy (n=114), and currency (n=116) as “Very important” or “Quite important.” A majority of students (over 50%) rated the two statements about website authorship as being only “A little important” or “Not at all important” (n=92, and n=86). However, 62% of students (n=92) indicated that a website’s sponsoring organization is “Very important” or “Quite important.” The authors suggest there were some differences between responses from older and younger students, with older students more likely to rate statements about coverage, citations, organization sponsorship, and source motivation as “Very important” or “Quite important.”
Conclusion – The authors recommend that instruction about information evaluation for teenagers does not need to take a “back to basics” approach (p. 16), as most questionnaire respondents indicated they already find several criteria to be important when evaluating information. Instead, instruction should address student opinions and misconceptions about Web-based information in the context of their school assignments or other information needs. For example, students may be more motivated to learn about and apply evaluative criteria that are generated through discussion with their peers. Students may also be more receptive to expanding information evaluation criteria when they are researching topics they find interesting or important. Finally, the authors recommend that instruction should take into account the context or situations in which various evaluation criteria may be most important.
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