Course information can be delivered through a variety of formats:

learning

Stahl, et al (1998) found that using multiple-text sources can only be effective if we are taught to use them properly. As beginners, we tend to be more consistent in what information we select from short, well-constructed texts. Longer, less structured documents tend to be more confusing.

Text books

  • provide a foundation of facts and viewpoints to provide an overview
  • sequence information and facts to understand issues
  • create a context for comparing and understanding other sources
  • are written in a neutral, objective tone

Problems with a single text
for a subject or course include:

  • information is often “academic”
    lacking the drama of real life experience, adventure, and experimentation
  • bias is hidden or concealed
    ignoring competing facts, priorities, minority viewpoints
  • a single interpretation limits how reported facts are prioritized/sequenced
    restricting viewpoint (Euro/Caucasian) or subject testing (white male)
  • original/eyewitness sources of information are secondary to interpretative accounts

Additional readings and alternative sources
of information can assist you to

  • create a richer understanding
    with additional information and perspective
  • interact or engage with facts, actors, circumstances
    of the material
  • practice and familiarize
    yourself with new subject vocabulary and concepts
  • process opposing, even conflicting,
    points of view in order to assess, evaluate, defend

Conflicting information however can impede your learning,
unless you can

  • analyze it for commonalties
  • reorganize or synthesize
    your model for understanding it
  • consider the impact of, and evaluate, conflicts
  • filter it with a context presented in the basic text

Some Recommendations:

  • Read your text
    to provide the factual framework from which to begin
  • Proceed to shorter, more focused sources
    of information especially if you are inexperienced in the subject
  • Practice with multiple texts to improve your evaluative skills:
    • compare and contrast your sources
    • analyze them for bias or viewpoint
    • note when and where they were written, and how that affects the viewpoint
  • Understand the connections
    between events, actors, and circumstances rather than learn a series of “facts” which can be easily be forgotten
  • Use in-class or on-line discussion time
    to test your understanding and ask questions!
Inspired and adapted from the study “What Happens When Students Read Multiple Source Documents in History?” Co-authors: Steven A. Stahl, Cynthia R. Hynd, Bruce K. Britton, Mary M. McNish (University of Georgia) and Dennis Bosquet (Clarke County School District) as found at http://curry.edschool.virginia.edu/go/clic/nrrc/hist_r45.html(May 11, 00).
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