Students' Civic Online Reasoning: A National Portrait

Breakstone, J, Smith, M., Wineburg, S., Rapaport, A., Garland, M., & Saavedra, A. (in press). Students' civic online reasoning: A National Portrait. Educational Researcher, Forthcoming

48 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2021

See all articles by Joel Breakstone

Joel Breakstone

STANFORD HISTORY EDUCATION GROUP

Mark Smith

Stanford University

Sam Wineburg

Stanford University Graduate School of Education

Amie Rapaport

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Carleton Jill

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Marshall Garland

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Anna Rosefsky Saavedra

Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR)

Date Written: March 30, 2021

Abstract

Are today’s students able to discern quality information from sham online? In the largest investigation of its kind, we administered an assessment to 3,446 high school students. Equipped with a live Internet connection, students responded to six constructed-response tasks. Students struggled on all of them. Asked to investigate a site claiming to “disseminate factual reports” on climate science, 96% never learned about the organization’s ties to the fossil fuel industry. Two-thirds were unable to distinguish news stories from ads on a popular website’s homepage. Over half believed that an anonymously posted Facebook video, shot in Russia, provided “strong evidence” of U.S. voter fraud. Instead of investigating the organization or group behind a site, students were often duped by weak signs of credibility: a website’s “look”, its top-level domain, the content on its About page, and the sheer quantity of information it provided. The study’s sample reflected the demographic profile of high school students in the United States, and a multilevel regression model explored whether scores varied by student characteristics. Findings revealed differences in student abilities by grade level, self-reported grades, locality, socioeconomic status, race, maternal education, and free/reduced price lunch status. Taken together, these findings reveal an urgent need to prepare students to thrive in a world in which information flows ceaselessly across their screens.

Keywords: assessment, digital literacy, civics

Suggested Citation

breakstone, joel and Smith, Mark and Wineburg, Sam and Rapaport, Amie and Jill, Carleton and Garland, Marshall and Saavedra, Anna Rosefsky, Students' Civic Online Reasoning: A National Portrait (March 30, 2021). Breakstone, J, Smith, M., Wineburg, S., Rapaport, A., Garland, M., & Saavedra, A. (in press). Students' civic online reasoning: A National Portrait. Educational Researcher, Forthcoming , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3816075 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3816075

Joel Breakstone (Contact Author)

STANFORD HISTORY EDUCATION GROUP ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States
6507254411 (Phone)
94305-3096 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://cor.stanford.edu

Mark Smith

Stanford University

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Sam Wineburg

Stanford University Graduate School of Education ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-3096
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sheg.stanford.edu

Amie Rapaport

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Carleton Jill

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Marshall Garland

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Anna Rosefsky Saavedra

Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR) ( email )

635 Downey Way
Los Angeles, CA 90089-3332
United States

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