Beyond "Fake News": Teaching a Nuanced Understanding of Post-Truth Rhetoric Via Tutorials

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Traditional information literacy instruction is no match for our post-truth age. At the early undergraduate level, becoming aware of deliberately false information is a necessary starting point. However, at more advanced levels, students must think beyond the catch-all term “fake news” to the complex range of post-truth rhetoric online. These skills involve identifying not only the problematic information itself, but also the larger systems in which it circulates.

Abigail, a professor of technical communication, had been exploring “fake news” with her students in a graduate seminar. Jennifer, Instructional Services Coordinator for the university library, had been designing information literacy tutorials for use across campus. We partnered in efforts to create more thoughtful literacy instruction for a changing media environment. Our project was meant to engage two student audiences in two different ways: first, graduate students in technical communication learned about specific cases of post-truth rhetoric by creating tutorials; second, undergraduates across majors are learning about post-truth rhetoric by completing those tutorials. The tutorials offer undergraduates a chance to engage complex information concepts beyond the traditional single library session or class lesson.

In this article, we offer our perspectives on the partnership and how our students’ understandings of post-truth rhetoric evolved along the way. The narrative represents an in-depth case of one class and its corresponding central project, pulling from published research, course materials, student reflections,[1] and our own reflections. We hope that our story shows the value of engaging post-truth rhetoric in the classroom and that it provides a model for doing so.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.