2-page proposal file

“Me” learning: A constructivist approach to Web evaluation
Candice Benjes-Small, Lisa J. Vassady, Jennifer R. Whicker, McConnell Library, Radford University
Abstract: The ability to critically evaluate websites to determine the credibility and
appropriateness of the source is an essential component of establishing an information
literate student. A review of the literature suggests that the old school method of
providing a checklist of criteria for web evaluation, utilizing criteria similar to those used
to evaluate traditional published sources, has proven ineffective as students are unable
to use it to effectively evaluate ambiguous sources and instead use it as a black and
white measure for sources made up of a variety of shades of gray. Furthermore,
students have a tendency to memorize the criteria, without being able to effectively
apply them, leading to simplistic strategies, such as deeming all .com websites as
unreliable. Seeking a way to address these deficiencies, we turned to a constructivist
approach. Constructivism is based on the theory that students learn best based on their
own experiences through active learning. It encourages students to do or interact
directly with a task, essentially teaching themselves, rather than being a passive learner.
Excited by the possibilities, we developed an exercise for Web evaluation that
emphasizes self-learning. In the class, we direct students to a particular website and,
providing minimal guidance, ask them to determine whether the site is credible.
Students examine the site and compile a list of reasons defending their determination.
The instructing librarian then facilitates a discussion related to the students’ findings;
this conversation organically leads to the development of general criteria for evaluation,
such as who, what, where, when, and why. But rather than framing this as a checklist,
these general categories are viewed as context-sensitive. Students can now use their
own experience to predict what criteria may be ideal for Websites on any particular
Meola, M. (2004). Chucking the checklist: A contextual approach to teaching undergraduate web-site
evaluation. Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 4(3), 331-344. doi:10.1353/pla.2004.0055
Metzger, M. J. (2007). Making sense of credibility on the web: Models for evaluating online information
and recommendations for future research. Journal of the American Society for Information
Science & Technology, 58(13), 2078-2091. doi:10.1002/asi.20672
Dahl, C. (2009). Undergraduate research in the public domain: The evaluation of non-academic sources
online. Reference Services Review, 37(2), 155-163. doi:10.1108/00907320910957198