Ensure Message Credibility

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A strong message is built on a foundation of knowledge and integrity. The credibility of a message comes from the research on which it is based. In order to gain support, every team’s message should be able to stand up to the critics they may face. Even if they don’t find any, they will have the satisfaction of knowing that their message is trustworthy.

Tell students they will be running three checks on the credibility of their message: creating an annotated bibliography, fact checking their message, and presenting to the class for a peer-review and question period. Instruct teams to create an annotated bibliography by compiling a list of resources that are relevant and credible. Bibliographies must include proper citations of the resources and a descriptive and evaluative paragraph on the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the resources. The annotated bibliography should include resources that are cited specifically relating to their message, as well as resources they used for general research.

Share the Evaluating the Credibility of Sources information sheet with students to help them develop their annotated bibliography. Next, have students run a fact-checking session on their message. Depending on how the messages were written (by one or two individuals in the team or by the entire group collectively), give the message to the team members who did not write the message or swap messages with another team. In teams, instruct students to do the following:

Go through the message and highlight any information that is a fact, either directly from a source or a statement that is based on information from a source. (Share with students the difference between a fact, which can be proven, an inference, which assumes something or appears to be true based on facts or experiences that have come before, and an opinion, which is held to be true by a person or group but not necessarily backed up by proof.

  • Find the source of this fact or piece of information, and ensure the fact is correct and properly used, given the context in which it is found.
  • Conduct online searches from various directions, for example when searching for information on global food insecurity use terms such as “food insecurity,” “food security,” famine,” “food assistance,” “global food production,” etc.
  • Search until you have found the original source of the information. This is particularly important to understand the full context of the information.

Then, have students test the credibility of their messages and the knowledge it is founded on by holding a “stump the expert” exercise. Students will present their message to the class then hold a question period where the class will ask the presenters questions about their research and their action project. Assure students that this exercise is to inform and prepare teams on the effectiveness and credibility of their message. As a learning exercise, it is important that everyone participates and feedback is given in a constructive manner.

Before presentations begin, ask students to partner with a classmate. Instruct students to come up with general questions they can ask presenters about their action projects. Students should use these questions as a basis for what they will ask following the presentations but should pay attention to make them more specific to each presentation.

Suggest each team appoints a note-taker who can record what information may be missing or should be revised, based on the class exercise and peer feedback. These are potentially the “I don’t know” questions that students should also know how to address — in the moment with a “Good question, let me get back to you” type of response. It’s a positive leadership trait to admit when they don’t have an answer, and also understand and be able to keep a project or conversation moving despite this. It is rarely a good idea to fill time with an answer that an individual or team may not be sure about. Begin presentations. Instruct teams to take three to five minutes to present their message to the class. Then take five to 10 minutes per team for questions.

Record and Reflect:

Finish by having students reflect on the review process.

  • What is the most difficult part about forming a credible message?
  • What was the most useful tool in improving the credibility of your message?
  • How will you formulate and ask “the right” questions in the future?
  • How will you turn an “I don’t know” moment into a learning experience?

Download the activity and worksheet

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