April 18th Session: Pedagogy in the ‘Post-Truth’ Era

To access the audio recording of the session, click here!!


Our last Provisions session of the Spring 2017 semester explored the theme of “Pedagogy in the ‘Post-Truth’ Era.” Presenters shared experience and expertise with the various topics pertaining to the theme that sought to explore teaching methods for helping students learn in the post-truth era. An audience of approximately 15 faculty and staff members attended to hear presentations from Becky Landsberg from the Department of Biology, Ryane Struas from the Department of Political Science, and Jay Kibby from the Neil Hellman Library.

Becky Landsberg started off the session with her presentation on Teaching Science in a Post-Trust World.”Becky discussed how she aspires to teach her students how to light their own fire in the dark while being blindfolded.” Due to the wide variations among what students believe, Becky wants her students to be able to see lies, wrong information, and know the difference between information that is real and not real. In order to do this, Becky uses aspects of the scientific method with a case study discussing an alternative fact– vaccinations cause Autism. In examining this case study, the students break into groups and analyze two separate pieces of data. One is a graph that shows Autism diagnosis rates and she asks her students, “what can you infer from the graph.” The second piece is a data table from the actual study conducted by Andrew Wakefield, the one who originally claimed vaccinations caused Autism. Becky then has her students vote on whether they would vaccinate their child and reasons why or why not. A third graph is then shown, which demonstrates with the decline of vaccinations there is an increase in the cases of measles. The final component of the case study asks the students to once again examine the data tables, but this time to look for flaws in the design. Becky ended with how she teaches her students that they need to visit the sources from where news is coming from and that just because it is said on TV does not make it true. 

Next up was Ryane Straus who presented on “Fake News: How to spot it, Why it matters, and What to do about it.” Ryane began by discussing a new group project about democracy. Ryane begins by having her class define ‘democracy’ and then examine the U.S. as a case study, and asks her students, “do we meet the definition of democracy?” This project brought up discussions of the 2016 election and how fake news was an factor important in making the candidates look different than they really were. Ryane provided her class with three different readings that demonstrated how ‘fake news’ was getting more views than actual stories. In addition, she showed a video that demonstrated how to reconstruct a video to determine if it’s ‘real’ or not. In groups of three, students were asked to submit proposed topic, conduct a 10 minute presentation to cover 5 questions, and then the topics were shared by the students. Ryane explained how her students found commonalties among the presentation topics, which included poor grammar and typos, very short or overly long articles with picture, no author listed or no available information about the author, no verifiable facts, a lack of website credibility, and a lack specific details within the article. In sum, Ryane discussed how her students enjoyed the project, learned about how to identify fake news, and were going to apply what they learned to future news. 

Last to present was Jay Kibby on “What can librarians do to help?” Jay spoke about vetting both scholarly and non-scholarly resources. There are typically five ways to determine the authenticity of sources, including:

  • Authority- what credentials do they have and where was it published
  • Accuracy- are there typo and spelling errors?
  • Currency-is the information fresh?
  • Agenda-what is the author trying to convey and what will he/she gain?
  • Author’s sources- are there links to the actual sources?
  • Peer reviewed or editor reviewed- is there evidence of review?

Jay stressed the point that just because there are editors, the information is not automatically deemed true. Information literacy instruction can be provided by the library and tailored to any individual or group need. Forms are available for any professor to request literacy instruction from the library for their students. At any time during hours of operation, students can access the reference desk, where there is always someone available to assist. Students can request 1:1 appointments with the library staff for assistance with information literacy or other related services. In addition, there is an option to request assistance via the web, as well as a FAQ forum for students to access. As part of the Community Service and Outreach program, Kate Moss coordinates student events, the social media presence, and therapy dogs within the library. Jay shared an example from CNN to demonstrate the strong influence that “fake news” can have as a political slur. Lastly, Jay provided the audience with a handout containing library contact information and two simple, yet effective methods for spotting fake news. 

Pedagogy in the ‘Post-Truth’ Era: April 18th Session

How can educators teach students to evaluate news in a post-truth era??

Oxford Dictionaries defines post-truth as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief,” which has been named the word of the year. According to a segment “Fake News” by 60 Minutes, the term fake news can be defined as “stories that are deliberately fabricated and proven false…they are lies.” However, terms like ‘true’ and ‘false’ appear to be arbitrary in that people do not agree on one definition for the terms. What one believes to be true may be perceived as false by another, and so begins the search for the truth. Fraudulent computer software is programmed with fake social media accounts to automatically ‘like’ and ‘share’ posts, which present the impression that millions have viewed and or shared the post. Once posts appear to be viewed by millions, actual people with real accounts begin to read and share those posts, producing mass distortions of the truth. 

A recent study conducted by Stanford University explored students’ abilities to determine the credibility of electronic information. 7,804 students across 12 states were administered various tasks to access their ability to analyze for credibility of the information. Sue Shellenbarger writes about the results in her article, “Most Students Don’t Know When News Is Fake, Stanford Study Finds.” Nearly 82% of middle school students were unable to identify the difference between a real news source and a “sponsored content” story, 2/3 “couldn’t see any valid reason to mistrust a post written by a bank executive arguing that young adults need more financial-planning help,” and 4/10 believed a photo solely based on the headline of the post. The article also mentions that “by age 18, 88% of young adults regularly get news from Facebook and other social media, according to a 2015 study of 1,045 adults ages 18 to 34 by the Media Insight Project.” Students excessive use of media and lack of knowledge regarding credible sources of information create the need for education on the issues. 

In the article, “Evaluating Sources in a ‘Post-Truth’ World: Ideas for Teaching and Learning About Fake News,” Katherine Schulten and Amanda Brown discuss ways of introducing the concept of fake news to students. The article discusses ways of which to increase student awareness of the various ways in which new is fabricated and how to distinguish fake from real news. Within the article, the authors provide links to various resources to help demonstrate the influence of fake news. Upon sharing an image (the same one used in the study by Stanford) to promote initial thought, the following questions can be used as discussion prompts:

  • What does the phrase “fake news” mean?
  • When have you or someone you know fallen for or shared fake or inaccurate news of some kind?
  • Why does it matter if we can’t tell real news from fake news?

Please join us for our upcoming April 18th session on “Pedagogy in the ‘Post-Truth’ Era.” Provisions’ sessions are held from 12:00-1:15 in Standish A&B. All are welcome and no reservations are required. Free lunch and refreshments will be available! Hope to see you all there!🙂

March 28th Session: Using SSC (Student Success Center) to its Fullest Potential

Click here to access the audio recording from the session!!

Our second Provisions session of the Spring 2017 semester explored the theme of “Using SSC (Student Success Center) to its Fullest Potential.” Presenters shared experience and expertise with the various topics pertaining to the theme that sought to explore the academic success center and the supports that it provides to students. An audience of approximately 20 faculty and staff members attended to hear presentations from Marcy Nielsen Pendergast, Executive Director of the Academic Success Center, Shirlee Dufort, Director of the Writing Center, and Jess Brouker, Assistant Director of Intercultural Leadership and First-Year Programs.

Marcy Nielsen Pendergast started the session by providing an overview of the Academic Success Center in her presentation, Using Student Success Services to Their Fullest Potential.Marcy discussed how the Academic Success Center has evolved over the years, along with the services it has provided to students. The center is currently located on the second floor of St. Josephs and offers a variety of services, including content tutoring (small group sessions), open lab-drop in, study clusters, math placement support, writing tutors, disability services, and study skills support. Open lab drop in is designed for students to come in for assistance with their business, accounting, math, and science course lab work, which approximately occurs for 15-20 hours per week. Study clusters are offered campus-wide and can be designed at request by students or faculty at any time during the semester. Math placement support is provided by the assistant director, Matt Woods, for those those who need to retake the math placement assessment before acceptance for admission. Disability services provide students with accommodations across campus to ensure academic success. Study skill support assists students individually with mastering effective study skills, with time management being the main skill worked on across students. Students are able to sit down with a tutor to map out their week and study strategies to help accomplish the tasks for the week. Marcy concluded her presentation by discussing a challenge frequently faced by the Academic Support Center–getting students in the psychical space. Marcy explained that the students that are there most often tend to be the ones who are doing well academically.

Shirlee Dufort started her presentation by sharing a quote from Abraham Lincoln about preparing for presentations, as she did for this one.  Shirlee mentioned how studies demonstrate that one of the best ways to learn is to work one on one with someone, and that combined with interactions from the writing center tutors, have shown Shirlee the positive effects the writing center has had on many students on campus. The writing center asks students to come prepared with two copies of their work, to read that work aloud, and make appropriate corrections along the way (edit and proofread). Shirlee shared that reading aloud uses a different part of the brain to stimulate a different perspective of what has been written. Shirlee finds the warm and welcoming atmosphere to be one of the most important aspects of the writing center. One of the most effective components of the writing center is that the student is always in charge of their own paper, as opposed to a tutor taking over the student’s paper. Tutors in the center use reflective listening, as students need to feel heard to be more receptive to the feedback provided. One common misconception of the center is that the tutors are there to correct errors, but instead they are there t0 teach writing skills by teaching concepts for the student to apply. Many English 105 classes bring students in for an overview of the services, which gets the students into the place for the first time and makes them more likely to return. The tutors are trained to work with all types of students and for all ranges of writing, although there are also ESL and ENL tutors for those in need. Shirlee ended by presenting a new initiative where a writing lab is offered on Friday mornings from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm for students to come in and work on a computer while provided with tutors who can help when in need of assistance.

Lastly, Jess Brouker presented on the Academic Opportunity Experience (AOE) program, which contains three counselors who provide resources to those students who are not generally admissible to the college. The program requires the students to complete course before starting at the college and provides opportunities for the counselors to work with them for the duration of thier time at the college. Transcripts are reviewed to decide if they will be admissible, and then those accepted will have an orientation day and an accompanying interview. The first year launch is week long ‘academic bootcamp’ which entails an English class prep course with Shirlee, math class with Matt Woods,  study skills course with Marcy, and group workshop with the AOE counselors. Group workshops help to prepare on how to be a ‘student’ at the college (i.e. where services are located and what are they used for, how to talk to professors, and how to navigate the college website). Each student in the program is paired with one counselor who checks in on a weekly basis. These students are also offered private tutoring through the Academic Success Center. In addition, these students can request standing appointments with the writing center (same time and day each week), are offered pre-advisement sessions, and receive mid semester reports, which take their schedules and send a report to all their professors to help to give the students a ‘heads up’ and see how they are doing.


Please join us for our upcoming April 18th session on “Pedagogy in the ‘Post-Truth’ Era.” Provisions’ sessions are held from 12:00-1:15 in Standish A&B. All are welcome and no reservations are required. Free lunch and refreshments will be available! Hope to see you all there!🙂