Collaborative Information Source Evaluation: Research/Inquiry Circles and the CRAAP Test

info evaluation activity collage

Last week, students completed the gentle entry-level phase of pre-search (see the end of this post for more detailed reflections); teacher Sarah Rust and I felt it would be helpful to introduce information and source evaluation skills to our students before moving forward into the next round of pre-searching.    We grouped students into collaborative “research” or “inquiry” circles based on their initial topic interests.  We plan to use these research circles as a medium for workshopping with small groups as we move deeper into research and inquiry; these groups will also help us move into collaborative learning experiences.

On Thursday, October 2, we grouped students and then introduced them to the CRAAP test with this terrific video from the Academy of Art University; while this structure for evaluating information originally was designed for online resources, we discussed how it was important to evaluate ALL forms of information, including ones traditionally considered authoritative.    We talked about the messiness of information evaluation and context  of authority using the framework of the CRRAP method. Using the recent Secret Service security breaches as our research topic, students then were asked collaboratively look at seven different information sources we posted on our project LibGuide and to work together to evaluate each information source using the CRAAP test as their guide.   We asked them to use this checklist to guide their assessment and to tally their scores for each source.  Students worked together all period and for about the first quarter of class on Friday, October 3.

After students finished up their assessments on Friday, we instructed each group then posted their score on a dry-erase board on our Verb easel; we labeled each whiteboard with a sticker for the source so that the “parking lots” for their scores would be easy to post.

Each group then came up to the easel and shared/defended their assessments of each source.

As they did this, I took rough notes about how each group scored sources and notes of any comments or reasoning they shared.  You can see my notes below:

Sarah, Jennifer, and I were fascinated by the students’ responses.  Just a few things some students/groups noticed:

  • Databases may be great, but if they are only providing background information and not answering one’s research question, the content there may not always be the best fit.  We were impressed they made this distinction.
  • One group commented that they would like to know if the journalists for the Washington Post article had previously written about problems with the Secret Service security issues or if this was their first effort on writing about that topic.  Again, we were happily surprised they were this discerning in their evaluation.
  • Several groups noted that just because a source was government publication, it was not necessarily credible since they might be interested in putting a certain spin on the value and integrity of the Secret Service; this level of questioning could be a reflection of previous instruction elsewhere that values interrogating all sources, but we also wondered if that stance might also be a reflection (at least, in part) of the politically conservative nature of the community.
  • Discussions emerged about different news publications and outlets and how their reputation to lean left or right might impact the objectivity of the articles or news videos.
  • Several students indicated they would like GALE to include more information about the authors of reference articles in databases like Opposing Viewpoints in Context.
  • Scores were pretty consistent from group to group within specific class periods and across both class sections.

We were incredibly happy with the way students engaged with each other and the assessment task as groups.  Our goal was for them to have an opportunity to debate and wrestle with their evaluation of each source within their groups and to share that thinking out loud with the larger class; this approach accomplished that outcome.  I definitely would introduce information evaluation in this way again, and this springboard activity seemed to fit a wide range of prior experiences with these concepts.  As we’ve engaged in pre-search “phase 2” this week, we’ve incorporated this CRAAP framework into their metagcognitive learning activites.  I’ll share more about those processes in a new blog post next week.

Follow our journey:

Hashtag:  #rustyq

Our LibGuide

Blog post 1:  Inquiring with Students: What Do or Can “Good” Research Projects Look Like?

Blog post 2:  Beginning Our Research and Inquiry Experiences with Pre-Searching

Blog post 3:  Sticky Notes as Formative Assessment for Information Literacy Instruction: Coding Student Responses

6 thoughts on “Collaborative Information Source Evaluation: Research/Inquiry Circles and the CRAAP Test

  1. This is awesome, you guys! Steph Harvey and I are having such a good time following you. We are revising our Inquiry Circles book and would love to point to your work. Smokey Daniels

    1. Wow, thank you so much!!! I’ve been a fan your work and Stephanie’s for many years (I taught high school English before becoming a librarian). It’s exciting to have opportunities to introduce your structures and strategies to our students and teachers and to then implement them as a team. I so appreciate the work both of you have done over the years and how you both continue to inspire me and push my thinking. I’d be honored and delighted to share our work for the new edition of the Inquiry Circles book. We’re hoping to go deeper with this work in the next few weeks, so stay tuned! Again, thank you so much for your example and taking time to respond here.

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