CCT Students Present Research at the Midwest Political Science Association Annual Meeting

CCT students Mary Margaret Herring, Erin Moroney, Weijia Ren, and Zoe Chen Zhao presented a paper entitled “Misinformation in the Civics Classroom” at the 79th Annual Midwest Political Science Association Conference on April 8, 2022. The paper was coauthored with CCT Professor Diana Owen. The study developed from a class project in Professor Owen’s course, Empirical Research Practicum: Civic Education in the Digital Age. Students designed, conducted, and analyzed a national survey of elementary and secondary school civics, social studies, American government, and history teachers in the fall semester of 2021. The survey focused on teachers’ use of digital tools for instruction, a topic that has gained relevance during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The study found that teachers consider misinformation to be a major problem in both society and the classroom. Many of them feel a strong sense of responsibility to educate students about misinformation and to adopt instructional strategies to counter the problem. Most teachers make use of online resources and digital tools to help students identify and deal with misinformation, especially in one-to-one schools where every student receives a laptop or tablet. Managing misinformation in the classroom has become contentious in some schools. Teachers have been accused of indoctrination by parents and administrators and have faced repercussions, including loss of employment and even physical attacks. As a result, teachers are more willing to counter false facts from news stories than misinformation from social media and students. The CCT team found significant differences in teachers’ perspectives on misinformation based on their personal, professional, and school characteristics. Their findings point to the need for professional development aimed at preparing teachers to deal effectively with misinformation in the classroom. Steps also must be taken to ensure the safety of educators who are doing their job. 

The CCT researchers shared their thoughts following the conference presentation:

Zoe Chen Zhao, a first-year CCT student, stated, “I really enjoyed this whole experience, from thinking about our research topic to drafting the survey and presenting our findings at the conference.  It was interesting to find trends and derive conclusions from the data collected. We work great as a team.”

“I’m personally looking forward to continuing my research on misinformation, in part because of this experience,” says Erin Moroney, a second-year part-time CCT student. “Having the opportunity to present our findings and discuss them with the academic community was very rewarding. We received valuable feedback during our session that we plan to incorporate into our paper moving forward.”

“I particularly enjoyed getting to hear feedback from audience members at the conference – many of whom were educators themselves,” reflected second-year CCT student Mary Margaret Herring. “We spent a lot of time thinking about phrasing survey questions and the best way to present our data but it was easy to forget that the topic of our research affects real people. Presenting at the conference offered a way for us to hear about teachers’ experience in the classroom and see what aligned with our findings and what did not.”

First-year CCT student Weijia Ren stated, “I really appreciated this opportunity to work with Professor Owen and excellent team members. Collecting data, processing data, drafting conclusions, and presenting our research—we made every step to advance our topic. Every member helped one another; professor guided us carefully. Grateful to be on this team!”

Congratulations, CCTers! The paper can be accessed here.