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This chapter explores current research on how young people make judgements about the information they encounter. There will be a discussion on why some young people appear to trust, without question, online information whilst others show remarkable powers of insight and critique. Evidence on how this might affect their physical and mental well-being will be provided. Why this is important both in educational and political terms is discussed. There will then be an exploration of the approaches that can be employed to help young people develop a more discerning approach to engaging with the information they see, hear and read in any context.
The discussion put forward here is based upon a synthesis of research findings involving three groups of young people from the UK – 16–17-year-olds, at a secondary school, 18–19-year-old university students in their first undergraduate year and finally 18–24-year-old men recruited for an experiment, mostly undergraduates – all carried out in the UK. For the first two groups there was a concern voiced by teachers and academic tutors respectively that their students exhibited a noticeable lack of the necessary capabilities to make well-calibrated judgements in order to select good-quality information to support their work for assignments. The 16–17-year-olds were working towards gaining their Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)1 – a mini-dissertation in addition to their A-level study. Walton et al. (2018a) provide a comprehensive reflection of these studies. The 18–19-year-olds were working towards completing their first assignment and had to find good quality information about a sporting issue of their choice (see Walton and Hepworth, 2011; 2013 for a more detailed account). These two groups are quite similar in their context and we will see that their comments and experiences and our analyses align in an encouraging way. How? They both appear to indicate that most (but by no means all) students present with remarkably poor capabilities in making judgements about information, which prevent them from making the most suitable choices. The third group were recruited to find out whether the cognitive process of information discernment has a physiological component. Why? We wanted to find out whether being good at information discernment is related to positive responses to stress.
A few studies have evaluated the impact of clinical trial results on practice in paediatric cardiology. The Infant Single Ventricle (ISV) Trial results published in 2010 did not support routine use of the angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor enalapril in infants with single-ventricle physiology. We sought to assess the influence of these findings on clinical practice.
A web-based survey was distributed via e-mail to over 2000 paediatric cardiologists, intensivists, cardiothoracic surgeons, and cardiac advance practice nurses during three distribution periods. The results were analysed using McNemar’s test for paired data and Fisher’s exact test.
The response rate was 31.5% (69% cardiologists and 65% with >10 years of experience). Among respondents familiar with trial results, 74% reported current practice consistent with trial findings versus 48% before trial publication (p<0.001); 19% used angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor in this population “almost always” versus 36% in the past (p<0.001), and 72% reported a change in management or improved confidence in treatment decisions involving this therapy based on the trial results. Respondents familiar with trial results (78%) were marginally more likely to practise consistent with the trial results than those unfamiliar (74 versus 67%, p=0.16). Among all respondents, 28% reported less frequent use of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor over the last 3 years.
Within 5 years of publication, the majority of respondents was familiar with the Infant Single Ventricle Trial results and reported less frequent use of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor in single-ventricle infants; however, 28% reported not adjusting their clinical decisions based on the trial’s findings.
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