Teaching in a Post-Truth Era: Supporting Students to Reason about Online Information
Sarah McGrew

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Stanford University

Primary Discipline

“Should I trust this?” When we’re online, we often find ourselves asking this question. Yet we are not adequately preparing young people to answer it. Digital literacy instruction has not kept pace with the Internet’s rapid advancements, and our complacency may exacerbate digital inequalities. Research-based approaches to teaching online evaluations are necessary to ensure that all students learn to find reliable information online.My research addresses this need in two ways. First, I analyze task-based think-aloud interviews with high school students, working to understand how students reason about online information and identify ways to build on that reasoning in order to help them become thoughtful consumers of digital content. Second, over the course of a four-month design study, I worked with a classroom teacher to test and refine a set of curricular modules to teach students to evaluate online information. I analyze pre- and post-tests, classroom observations, student work, and collaboration sessions with the teacher to describe design principles that emerged and characterize students’ learning trajectories over the course of the study.The strategies and knowledge required to find reliable digital sources are, increasingly, a requirement for informed and empowered participation in democratic life. My research challenges educators to take seriously the task of teaching students to evaluate online information and outlines a potential instructional path forward.
About Sarah McGrew
Sarah McGrew is a doctoral candidate in Curriculum and Teacher Education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. She was previously a high school teacher in Washington, DC, where she was inspired by students’ political interest and activism and wondered what teachers could do to build stronger connections between history/social studies classes and students’ political lives. Her research takes up this question by investigating how young people reason about social and political information online and how history/social studies classrooms can help all students learn effective approaches. She has a B.A. in Political Science and Education from Swarthmore College and an M.A. in Secondary Education from the Stanford Teacher Education Program.

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