Teaching Critical Literacy and Effective Research Skills


Andrew Wierl

Overview and Purpose

Research is an integral aspect of education and there are common methods for conducting research in each subject area. The way research is conducted now has evolved from looking up topics in encyclopedias and articles at the library, to instant access to a wealth of information on any topic online. Learning how to sift through digital media to find valid sources can seem like an overwhelming task, but gaining an understanding of digital media literacy (DML) skills, and following the steps laid out by other researchers, you should be able to improve your own research skills. The purpose of this course is to help you deepen your understanding how to properly research and find scholarly peer-reviewed articles, but also see that there are places where other types of news articles can be used, or other media sources like videos, pictures and audio. As you work through this course you should keep a journal about each lesson and keep track of your answers so that you can see how you have improved and what you have learned in this course. You may want to begin by assessing your own research skills. Do you know the basic steps of research? Do you struggle to find scholarly sources? Do you know how to incorporate video sources into your research? These are all questions that you may be unsure about but after completion of this course you should be able to show improvement in various areas of the research process.

This section provides the learner with an inviting and engaging introduction to the topic of your mini-course, specifies the target learner, and gives an overview of how this course works. The importance of the topic may be demonstrated through problem scenarios, storytelling, case analysis, statistics, etc.

Needs Assessment

Many students, and even teachers don't have adequate research skills for success in school and life after school. Students are not getting the preparation needed to evaluate scholarly articles or how to effectively read them, causing many students to feel overwhelmed reading scholarly articles. Students are also not learning what constitutes a scholarly peer-reviewed article as opposed to a news or opinion based article. This puts them at a disadvantage for future research that may be needed in college and for certain jobs.

Performance Objectives

State the course-level objectives here. Sometimes, when the course objectives actually map onto the unit objectives, it is fine to combine the objectives with the following unit structure to state the objective(s) of each unit. Course level objectives:

  • The participant can explain the aspects of research.
  • The participant can explain different areas of research and how it applies to education.
  • The participant can effectively analyze scientific articles.
  • The participant can decipher scholarly peer-reviewed research from opinion based news articles.
  • The participant will gain an understanding of digital literacies and the confidence to introduce lessons that involve scientific research.

Course Units

This mini-course includes the following units. Click the title of a unit to go to its page.

Unit 1: Components of Research

Why Do People Complete Research?

  1. Describe the major aspects of research.
  2. Describe different types of research and the purpose of each.

Unit 2: Scholarly Articles

What are scholarly articles and how do you read them?

  1. Compare and contrast scholarly articles with news/magazine articles.
  2. Different articles can serve different purposes, so consider where each type may be applicable.
  3. Pick an article and point out the major majors sections highlighted in the reading.

Unit 3: Analyzing Digital Media Sources

What types of digital sources are available and how can you use them?

  1. Describe the different aspects of research.
  2. List the types of digital media that can be used for research.
  3. Describe how you can find different types of online sources.
  4. Describe how to determine the validity of online sources.
  5. Find and analyze online/digital sources and make connections between them.

Unit 4: Application in the Classroom

How can the skills you have learned be transferred to 21st century classrooms?

  1. Explain the importance of navigating digital sources for research.
  2. Describe effective ways of modeling research and digital media literacy skills.
  3. Create a project, lesson or activity that can help teach effective research and digital literacy skills to students.


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