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 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.


  2. 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:


  3. 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.


  4. 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).


  5. 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.


  6. 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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