Practice 8: Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
When students obtain, evaluate, and communicate information, they may do so through a variety of media, formats, and levels of complexity. As a result, different students will encounter challenges with different aspects of obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information. Instructional strategies that support students’ feelings of belonging cultivate a safe space for students to work through those challenges and ask for and receive assistance from their peers and teachers. Strategies that support belonging also encourage students to develop a sense of being part of a community of scientists and engineers, which is especially important for students who may not have a well-developed science identity or who may feel alienated from science [see Motivation as a Tool for Equity]. As students begin to feel a greater sense of belonging within their science classroom community and within science and engineering communities, they may feel more inclined to engage in obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information as a practice.
Reading comprehension and synthesis can be difficult for many students, and they may lack confidence as readers. In particular, scientific readings, especially NGSS-based readings, can be difficult, quite long, and formatted differently than traditional textbooks (e.g., main ideas may not be in bold face or in pull-out boxes). Understanding and evaluating the information in these readings may require a different process from what students are used to. Providing students with multiple strategies for identifying big ideas, main points, and potential flaws in reasoning, as well as annotating text effectively for future communication is important for students’ confidence as they try to understand these challenging texts. Students may also feel uncertain that they can effectively communicate new information about phenomena or design problems when they lack confidence in their own scientific understanding.
- Set norms where students have guidelines to follow for engaging in discussion – e.g., each student has a chance to speak, must offer at least one piece of evidence for their conclusions about scientific and technical texts. Provide opportunities for students to communicate their understanding in a variety of ways
A learning orientation is important to help students actively process and think critically about the information they are obtaining, evaluating, and communicating in service of figuring out phenomena or solving design problems. Students with an ego orientation or who are concerned about confirming negative ability stereotypes can be prone to using shallow learning strategies to “just get by” and avoid looking incompetent, especially when they lack confidence in their skills [see Motivation as a Tool for Equity]. Enacting this practice effectively should be less about the rote regurgitation of information that lends itself to shallow engagement and more about using higher-order thinking to obtain, evaluate, and communicate information. Supporting students’ learning orientation is important to ensure that students engage in information-seeking and communication for the purpose of sense-making and developing competence, rather than for task completion, points, or trying to look smart or avoid looking less capable than other students.
Information can be obtained, evaluated, and communicated in multiple ways. It is important to support students’ autonomy throughout these processes to be sure that students feel a sense of agency and ownership over their science and engineering learning and the ways in which they obtain, evaluate, and communicate science and engineering information to others. Autonomy in this practice also entails asking students to rationalize their choices and think deeply about how their choices are related to deepening their understanding of phenomena or solving design problems. Autonomy is essential to the process of evaluating evidence and being able to present information as scientifically sound or as an “optimal” design in engineering.
Science and engineering text and other media can make demands on students that other types of text and media do not (e.g., more technical language, complex figures to interpret, etc.). Supports for relevance help teachers embed obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information within students’ interests and help students see the value in a topic they might not otherwise value. Students will likely be more cognitively engaged in obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information about a phenomenon or design problem that has a clearly relevant personal connection (e.g., it is important, interesting, or familiar to them). These relevance connections can be especially important for students who identify with communities that have been marginalized or disenfranchised in science, as it empowers them to seek out, evaluate, and communicate scientific information about issues that matter to them and their communities [see Motivation as a Tool for Equity].
- Where would they learn about the phenomenon/problem?
- How would they evaluate credibility of the information obtained?
- Who would they partner with in the community to research the phenomenon or explore solutions, and where/how would they communicate their findings/solutions?