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Information Literacy Guide for Faculty: Frame: Authority Is Constructed and Contextual

Framework Defined

Authority Is Constructed and Contextual

  • Information resources are drawn from their creators’ expertise.
  • Credibility is based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used.
  • Experts view authority with an attitude of informed skepticism and an openness to new perspectives, additional voices, and changes in schools of thought.

Possible Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • recognize appropriate information resources per discipline.
  • determine attributes of authoritative information for different needs, with the understanding that context plays a role in authority-based attributes.
  • recognize that traditional notions of granting authority might hinder diverse ideas and world views.
  • acknowledge that oneself may be seen as an authority in a particular area, and recognize the responsibilities entailed.
  • recognize relevance of subject expertise as a kind of authority in order to gather appropriate articles for assignment.
  • distinguish between scholarly and popular sources in order to select appropriate sources for academic research.
  • thoughtfully find published primary sources in order to include first-person perspectives in their research project.
  • evaluate sources using a variety of criteria in order to cultivate a skeptical stance and a self-awareness of their own biases and world views.  
  • distinguish a news from an editorial article so they will understand that information is created for a purpose.
  • distinguish between different types of sources in order to find credible sources on their topics.
  • express a desire to find better resources in order to improve the quality of their resources.
  • explain why the authority of a source matters, in order to choose appropriate sources,
  • evaluate databases results in order to select relevant and credible sources.
  • evaluate an author's use of sources.
  • evaluate a source using specific criteria in order to determine whether it meets their information need.

Ideas to Incorporate into Classroom

  • Students are presented with a source (eg.an article about Facebook privacy) and brainstorm ways the source might be used for school, for work, and personally
  • Groups are given a source (book, article, blog post, ad, etc.) and examine it to determine what it is; who is responsible for it; it’s purpose (ie why it exists, not their purpose in using it) ; how it was created (eg was it reviewed by experts); what makes it credible or not for different kinds of uses
  • Jigsaw method: in groups of 4-5, students will analyze the authority of their assigned article, groups will break apart and share their knowledge with the other group
  • Brainstorming: in groups students will brainstorm criteria of authority with entire class
  • Chalk talk where students write adjectives describing scholarly articles on one board & popular  on the popular.
  • Case study: look at an article to have students vote with clickers on what type of source it is.
  • Distinguish news from editorial article
    • Pair students. Give printout of short news and editorial article from same source (for example New York Times) on same topic. Ask pairs paraphrase article & identify purpose
  • After discussing/presenting idea of evaluating information resources, give pairs or groups of students a resource/website and ask them to come up with criteria for determining if it is reliable.
  • Jigsaw groups have 1 popular and 1 scholarly source with question prompts to examine characteristics re: authority re-group with others to teach.
  • Provide students with sample resources (using different formats) and have them develop authority criteria together using Padlet.
  • Brainstorming in small groups on why they think a source is credible and use that as jumping off point for discussion
  • Give students articles on the same topic. Have them examine how the author affects the content. Include scholarly, magazine, Wikipedia, newspapers, etc., Also consider including articles from multiple scholarly disciplines.
    • Students can share in pairs, groups, as a class, etc.
  • Students in groups brainstorm evaluation criteria; share out and put in a Google Doc.
    • Back into group - use criteria to evaluate an article; share out findings

LibGuide Credit

The Framework content on this page and in this guiede was originally created by PALNI - the Private Academic Library Network of Indiana.  Adapted with permission.


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