Evaluating Sources through Problem-Based Learning

Submitted by Elizabeth Dobbins on May 15th, 2020
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Short Description: 

How can we facilitate first-year student engagement with critical Framework concepts, especially in a one-shot class? This active learning activity is designed to teach source evaluation in a 50-minute class. The activity, which incorporates elements of problem-based learning and uses a flipped classroom approach, was added to our institution’s first-year experience course. Prompting students to consider a local issue, the activity requires students to evaluate sources represented as “source cards,” choose sources they would use in the context of the assignment, and justify their decisions. Motivated by the challenge and relevance of the activity, students work cooperatively to consider questions at the heart of the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy. 

Learning Outcomes: 

Students will be able to:

  • Distinguish between various types of sources for a research assignment (book, blog post,
  • newspaper, journal article, etc.)
  • Evaluate the academic value of various types of sources by considering its currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose.
Individual or Group: 
Course Context (e.g. how it was implemented or integrated): 

At our institution, this lesson plan is integrated into the First-Year Experience course. Students complete pre-work before class, watching three instructional videos and responding to short-answer questions. This prepares them to participate fully in the in-class activity. 

Additional Instructor Resources (e.g. in-class activities, worksheets, scaffolding applications, supplemental modules, further readings, etc.): 

If interested in more background information on this activity, view the slides from a recent presentation on the lesson plan: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1uOFVP2NAYzOc9eyRj6EzPv8WUx55F-nTpY_tppNqkko/edit?usp=sharing

Assessment or Criteria for Success
Assessment Short Description: 
Students watch three instructional videos (available at http://guides.lib.campbell.edu/cufs100) and answer short-answer questions before class. Instructors and/or librarians can review these for student comprehension. Instructors/librarians can gain informal assessment during the in-class activity through the debriefing discussion and group "presentation."
Potential Pitfalls and Teaching Tips: 
  • This activity may work best in smaller classes sizes (approx. 20 students), as it is easy to break into groups of 2-3 students. This also allows for more discussion after the activity.
  • This activity requires minimal 'maintenance' by instructional librarians. The source cards should be updated periodically to remain relevant. 
Suggested Citation: 
Dobbins, Elizabeth. "Evaluating Sources through Problem-Based Learning." CORA (Community of Online Research Assignments), 2020. https://www.projectcora.org/assignment/evaluating-sources-through-problem-based-learning.