We live in the era of fake news and “alternative facts.” Of course, what one calls fake news, another calls the ironclad truth. Both claims can’t be true, hence the increasing need to improve media literacy around the world. Among the groups leading the charge is the Center for Media Literacy (CML), which provides public information, professional development and evidence-based educational resources.
One of the tools that the CML promotes is called “The Empowerment Spiral.” Based on the work of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, it’s simple, yet powerful. (For more media literacy tools and insights, download our new e-Book, “Building a Pathway to Trust Through Media Literacy”)
Tess Jolls from the CML describes the Empowerment Spiral as a method for “uncorking a spiral of inquiry that leads to increased comprehension, greater critical thinking and ability to make informed judgements.” The tool helps break complex topics into specific learning steps that engage with different parts of the brain. This helps one generate new, accurate knowledge.
The Empowerment Spiral has four different components--each builds upon and reinforces the others:
Awareness: This is when we encounter news that piques our curiosity, that generates “ah-ha” moments. These occasions launch us on a path of exploration and, hopefully, critical inquiry.
Analysis: In this step,we are encouraged to ask “what” and “how” questions about the topic, such as “What evidence is being shared here?” and “How credible is this source?” (“Why” questions are discouraged at this stage because they can too easily lead to speculation and personal interpretation, which can interfere with critical inquiry.)
Reflection: This is when one’s thinking should go deeper by asking “So what?” or “What should I think or do based on this information?” Here is where one’s values and worldview often come into play.
Action: In this final step, one decides how best to act based on the analysis and reflection.To be clear: action in this case need not mean activism, nor does the action have to be life-altering or world-changing. In fact, the appropriate action may be no action at all.