Fake News

Research, Teaching

How do we teach students to identify fake news?

In a world where it is increasingly dangerous to simply trust what we read and see

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In a “post-truth” era where people are increasingly influenced by their emotions and beliefs over factual information, fact and fiction can be difficult to distinguish, and fake news can spread rapidly through mainstream media sources and social networks. Moreover, fake news is often meant to do harm, by tricking us into believing a lie or unfairly discrediting a person or political movement.

Given this malicious intent, students must learn to approach news and information with a critical eye in order to identify intentionally misleading sources (although recent studies confirm that this is an uphill battle for both adults and young people). Teachers therefore play a crucial role in ensuring that their students develop the skills to decipher the many streams of information available to them.

The following strategies and ideas can help students identify fake news and become critical readers of the world around them :

  • Move beyond traditional – and often ineffective – information evaluation checklists (e.g. RADCAP, CRAAP, and CARS), which fall short when applied to the sophisticated tools and techniques often used to create fake news.
  • Prioritize helping students develop investigative techniques where they become familiar with information verification websites (e.g. FactsCan, org, Snopes, and Hoax Slayer) and tools like Google’s “search by image” feature or the VerificationHandbook.com resource. Students can also learn about professional fact checking strategies such as reading laterally, which involves cross-referencing a variety of websites rather than digging further into the website at hand.
  • Teach students to identify bias using tools like a media bias chart, which provides a starting point for them to understand that all sources come from a particular perspective.
  • Bring real-world fake news examples that we encounter everyday into the classroom so that students can be challenged to apply their skills and techniques to authentic situations, like determining the true origin of a viral image or video and examining potential catfishers, bots, or trolls in order to better understand the hallmarks of fake and malicious social media accounts.

Ultimately, in a world where it is increasingly dangerous to simply trust what we read and see, it is critical that students are taught to approach the world around them with a healthy sense of skepticism to avoid being misled, duped, or scammed.


Additional Information Resources

Information Verification Websites
Sample Media Bias Chart
Other Practical Resources


For definition of “post-truth,” please see: Collins English Dictionary. “Definition of ‘post-truth.’” HarperCollins Publishers. Accessible from www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/post-truth

Wineburg, Sam and McGrew, Sarah and Breakstone, Joel and Ortega, Teresa. (2016). “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning.” Stanford Digital Repository. Accesible  from  http://purl.stanford.edu/fv751yt5934

Mitchell, A., Gottfried, J., Barthel, M., Sumida, N. (June 18, 2018). “Distinguishing Between Factual and Opinion Statements in the News.” Pew Research Center. Accessible from www.journalism.org/2018/06/18/distinguishing-between-factual-and-opinion-statements-in-the-news/

National Council of Teachers of English (February 2013). “NCTE Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment.”. Accessible from www.ncte.org/governance/21stcenturyframework

Domonoske, C. (June 19, 2018). “It’s Easier To Call A Fact A Fact When It’s One You Like, Study Finds.” National Public Radio. Accessible from www.npr.org/2018/06/19/621569425/its-easier-to-call-a-fact-a-fact-when-it-s-a-fact-you-like-study-finds


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Meet the Expert(s)

Dr. Alec Couros

Professor of Educational Technology & Media, Director of the Centre for Teaching & Learning, University of Regina

Alec Couros is a professor of educational technology and media and the Director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning at the University of Regina.

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Katia Hildebrandt

PhD Candidate & Instructor, University of Regina

Katia Hildebrandt is a PhD candidate and sessional instructor at the Faculty of Education, University of Regina.

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