thing 5: Authority Is Constructed and Contextual

Recommended Resources, Readings, and Examples

Lenker, M. (2016). Motivated Reasoning, Political Information, and Information Literacy Education. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 16(3), 511-528. [paywalled]

Williams, K. (2017). When Information Professions Collide: Applying the ACRL’s Framework to News Media Consumption. Hack Library School

Choose Your Own Adventure Activity

Select one of the following activities to complete:

  1. Locate an example of an article or lesson plan that describes an approach to teaching using the frame Authority is Constructed and Contextual. In a comment, post a link to the article or lesson plan (or a citation if paywalled) along with a short summary of what you read. How could you adapt or build upon this approach at your own institution?
  2. Drawing inspiration from one of the recommended readings, draft your own lesson plan related to the frame Authority is Constructed and Contextual. Upload your lesson plan to Project CORA and/or the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy Sandbox, and post a link to it in a comment.


  1. I chose an assignment from the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy Sandbox. I selected “Evaluating Claims: Pseudoscience & Conspiracy Theories, contributed by Cristy Manor (Broward College, North Campus Library, Coconut Creek, FL). I chose this assignment because one of our English faculty has his students write a paper on pseudoscience. I wanted to make a comparison of how the assignment is done at my College, as our students find it to be a very difficult area to research. My interest was in seeing to the frame was applied to the topic. The assignment the librarian uses is for students to find evidence to support or oppose a pseudoscience or conspiracy theory claim. The results are presented in a two page paper. The process is for students learn how to create a search statement, evaluate sources, and identify appropriate sources (database and web) to support their topics. Ms. Moran also includes a nice adaptation of the CRAAP test for students to use as a source evaluation tool.The students are given the parameters for the types of information they should include in their papers. The searching exercise is done as a classroom activity. I would not change this assignment. I think that adding the conspiracy theory option, gives students more flexibility and is more interesting because they are based on facts (or are they?), rather than sticking strictly to a pseudoscience topic. It would be interesting to share this assignment with my institution’s English instructor to see if he would be open to adjusting his assignment to include conspiracy theories to broaden his assignment and perhaps make it more interesting.


  2. Here’s the link to the activity I created related to Authority is Constructed and Contextual, and it’s one component of a larger lesson plan that usually includes some database instruction. Another colleague and I have run this activity 3 or 4 times this semester and students have seemed to really enjoy it and get very competitive and engaged with the topic.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed this activity related to explaining peer review.

    I find that I always feel pressed when it comes to explaining the hierarchy of evidence. I want to be able to convey why scholarly publishing is held in a high regard while also underlining the fact that it isn’t infallible, it’s important to look at critically and ideally it’s seen for its part in a conversation versus an ending point. This is especially true when it comes to the biomedical literature my students access where the focus is not just on the quality of the study but its replicability.

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  4. I found this assignment when looking for ideas on how to use interactive software for website and news evaluation.
    LIN 175 – Week 5
    Critically Evaluating Information

    The assignment is very straight forward. Students review the Prezi and then evaluate articles about caffeine consumption. The assignment gives follow up material for further reading.

    For my classes, I would most likely convert the information out of Prezi as I have had students comment it is hard to follow. The interactive quiz about why the articles relating to coffee is great as it has students defend their position of why they would share or use the information. Depending on if the class is subject specific the quiz could be modified to fit the field of study. For example, a class that focuses on Global Diseases could highlight articles that give ‘stranger than’ diseases and see if students can identify which are credible. A follow up discussion could highlight predatory journals and the impact they have on peer review:



  5. My plan is taken from the ACRL Information Literacy Sandbox. The lesson plan I used is called Scholarly Article Autopsy which was created by Krista Bowers Sharpe. The creator suggests while it could work in a 1 1/2 hour class better it could with some changes work in a 50 min. class too. The purpose is to compare scholarly vs. non-scholarly articles . I’m tired of students thinking the difference is based on putting a check mark in a box but having no clue as to what else is going on. The class works in small groups of about 3. I think the group approach as long as it’s small works well because it encourages the group to move on vs. to procrastinate individually about what they say seems hard. The plan seems eminently doable but/and what we would have to do is really work one on one with faculty who teach research methods why this ‘autopsy’ is important. We encounter some who bewail how students perform but do not assume that librarians and/or library as an institution could play a part to improve this situation. I know Education on my campus has most recently suggested they have a real issue in this area so maybe a solution is to speak one on one, show them what we could do and see if we could get some takers.


  6. After looking through a few lesson plans in CORA the idea of using a jigsaw exercise made the most sense to me.

    The idea of providing students with articles to read instead of spending the time finding them may seem counterintuitive (to some faculty), but I think it allows the students to worry less about how to find things and to focus on the evaluation of a particular article. The jigsaw would allow students to teach each other and for me as an instructor to hear how they are thinking as I walk around and listen to what is being said in the discussion. Also I can provide a wide range of sources that will address the issues raised by Lenker about Motivated Reasoning and challenging some assumptions about what we read “objectively”.

    Even the title “Beyond the Checklist” is important. I feel like much of our instruction is a list of things the faculty want us to cover, with the introduction to a series of databases being the most prevalent form of lists. I would be careful to choose shorter articles or articles that the students could skim for important information. This would also allow for time at the end to show how I found the articles and to let the students try to find articles on the same spectrum as the ones provided in class. I have gotten to the point where I am more concerned about students understanding where information comes from and how it is dispersed and shared.


  7. I found this lesson in the ARCL Sandbox: Evaluating Online Information

    The contributor is Laura Costello. The Information Literacy Frames addressed are: Authority is Constructed and Contextual, Searching as Strategic Exploration

    I have used a similar document in a first-year writing seminar in the past. This lesson directs the students to ask pointed questions to evaluate any website. The pdf is something that can be shared with students and/or with faculty. If faculty are using an online learning management system, they may opt to post the pdf to their class site.


  8. I found an exercise in the book Teaching Information Literacy Reframed: 50 Framework-Based Exercises for Creating Information-Literate Learners by Joanna M. Burkhardt. On page 65 there is an exercise called “Political Pundits” in which students are asked to use a political candidates website to find and list their credentials. Then they are supposed to look at biographical information from a source for and a source against the candidate. They are to note differences in what was reported in each source. They are to decide what credentials make the candidate an authority. Also what biases they found in what was reported. Then they are to decide if the candidates are qualified to serve in office.


  9. I also chose a lesson from the ACRL Sandbox. I think that using these resources is a great idea!
    Here is the link to what I chose:
    The frames associated with this are: Authority is Constructed and Contextual, Information Creation as Process, and Information Has Value.

    It is a lesson by Spencer Brayton. The purpose is evaluating “the credibility of a news article from social media”. I liked this particular lesson because a.) evaluation of news articles is a hot topic (particularly when so much conflicting information about what is “real” or “fake”) and b.) students use social media to often find out about the current news (see Pew Report here: –62% of people get news from social media.

    This lesson is simple, yet effective in its simplicity. Students find a news article (it must be share-able to everyone) and then answer 4 questions relating to the claims made in the story. Then students are to determine if there is an expert opinion, how many likes, was it shared by a friend, or if it has emojis. From here, I imagine there would be a discussion or some sort of feedback, as some articles may be determined to have authority based upon credentials or some kind of local expert in that field, and others may not be able to determine the expertise. From there, maybe as the instructor you would discuss the idea of likes, thumbs up, etc. to see how students determine that that particular article has merit.

    Perhaps the class could determine together whether there is a threshold of the number of likes, or who shares an item, that determines the reliability. It would be interesting to have a counterpoint article ready–one that has lots of likes, shares, but then was determined to be false (see this case study:

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I hope to borrow from p. 33 of “The One Shot Library Instruction Survival Guide” by Heidi Buchanan and Beth McDonough. A vignette on that page by Shannon Robinson describes an activity which has students analyzing three different information sources which all happen to be by the same author.


  11. Avery, S. (2011). Sources Smackdown : Effectively Evaluating Information Sources. In T.R. McDevitt (Ed.), Let the games begin!: engaging students with field-tested interactive information literacy instruction (90-92). New York, NY: Neil-Schuman Publishers.

    I’ve adapted and used this as an activity in one-shot sessions for first year English composition courses. This came out way before the Framework, but I think it’s a good place to bring up authority to students who probably never thought about it before (or see authority as good/bad black/white). I don’t currently have the book with me, so I can only explain my adapted version. Also I’ve switched jobs since I’ve used it last so I can’t link to a LibGuide for a more visual explanation.

    I create a tab on the class LibGuide that has 5 (or however many manageable groups needed to split the class up) subsections. I split the class up into that many groups and assign a letter and tell the groups to go to that letter on the guide. Each group has a different topic and 5 links. I tell the students to look at each of the links and decide (as a group) which resource is the most and least trustworthy and come up with a quick reason why. I don’t tell them that there is one link from each of these categories: blog post, peer-reviewed article, newspaper article, magazine article, and government website. They need at least 10 minutes to do this.

    Then, I go around to each group and have the group talk about their picks. Each group always picks a different type of article than the others for most/least trustworthy and they have really interesting reasoning. I never tell them they’re wrong, but listen and highlight the good thought processes they use to come to this conclusion. I tell them that there’s no right answer, but each resource has their positives and negatives depending on what they’re using it for. This usually is a great jumping off point to show them a database that collects a variety of types of resources (magazine, newspaper, scholarly articles).


  12. I’ve been mentioning “fake news” in some of my IL sessions on evaluating sources. I have come across Vanessa Otero’s media bias chart peridiocally, and wanted to incorporate it in my instruction. This lesson plan from the ACRL Framework Sandbox, “Fake News” is on a Continuum, by Darcy Gervasio, is useful in helping students identify if a news source may be more liberal or conservative. By having students research the news source and placing it on board based on that research, it helps them to think more critically about that particular source.

    I would build upon this lesson by having students create with their own chart, based on the news sources that they currently use, or have heard about.

    I would also include an exercise in searching Google as though in another country (,, etc.) to help students understand that they may get different results from Google depending on which location from which they are searching.


  13. Cristy, it’s great that you’ve already contributed lessons to the Sandbox and Project CORA! I love this lesson: the real life scenario frames the activity well, and your questions for evaluating an expert’s qualifications could lead to some interesting discussion.



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