Jan. 8, 2024 – Media Literacy Now is pleased to announce its latest report, whose central finding is that an important goal for K-12 science education is to teach students how to find trustworthy scientific information. The report is an outcome of a convening in July of a group of 21 STEM and media literacy educators in collaboration with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, to discuss the skills students need to learn to better evaluate scientific information in their daily lives.

Despite the fact that we know young people are not good at evaluating information they find online (often through TikTok, YouTube, or other media platforms where incorrect information is common), learning to find trustworthy information is not a high priority in national or state science education standards. Yet every day people young and old search online for information about dieting, mental health, renewable energy, emerging diseases, new vaccines, AI, or many other science-related topics they did not study in school.

“We all have a responsibility to address the problem of proliferation of false and manipulative information that is spread on social media, cable news and other media,” said Erin McNeill, CEO. “The lack of media literacy skills around these messages threatens our health and well-being as well as our democratic process. This report brings the discussion into the science classroom.”

The report also finds four supporting goals to achieve the primary goal of learning to find trustworthy scientific information: Students can learn how to evaluate sources of information to better understand whether a source is qualified and trustworthy; Students need to learn more about the scientific enterprise, such as the nature and importance of a scientific consensus; Students should learn about digital media sources, for example the role of algorithms on social media platforms; Students need more information about motivated reasoning, peer pressure and other factors affecting how people think.

Media Literacy Now believes science teachers can help prepare students for a world where both accurate and inaccurate information is available at the touch of a button, and where, more than ever, people of all ages need to use science knowledge to inform decisions they make in everyday life. Science teachers alone cannot solve the problem of people accepting erroneous scientific information, but they can mitigate the problem by teaching students how to better evaluate the information they see or hear.

“Science education has long ago moved away from being a list of facts to memorize,” said Marjee Chmiel, Ph.D., HHMI Director of Evaluation for Science Education, Media, and Journalism. “Central to understanding science is understanding how it is produced, evaluated, and communicated. Being able to navigate and assess information is an essential practice for lifelong learning for all students.”

Anna Pawlow, Director of STEM Literacy & Curriculum at the Society for Science said, “The Society for Science was founded on combating misinformation and increasing science literacy, and our Science News Learning program is focused on achieving those goals in nearly 6,000 middle and high schools across the country. The recommendations in this report are essential, and if implemented in K-12 classrooms, will help advance our mission. We have some resources available now for teachers to help students navigate and question information to evaluate the quality of sources, and we’re excited to use your report to continue building resources.”

Chad Dorsey, CEO of the Concord Consortium, said, “The report’s emphasis on identifying the trustworthiness of sources is both refreshing and actionable, and meshes well with the needs of educators attempting to help their students navigate the daily maze of modern information.”

The report is part of a larger project seeking ways to integrate media literacy into K-12 science education. Currently, an MLN-led panel of science and media literacy educators are identifying instructional resources that will go into a searchable database for science teachers. This follow up work, supported by HHMI, responds to a recommendation in the MLN report. Our aim is that science educators will acknowledge the importance of the following goal and provide opportunities for students to practice developing the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind necessary to achieve it.

The report, executive summary and more information on the project is here:

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