Teaching students to pay attention to both the central features of a text (the facts) and the peripheral features (the author’s competency, bias, purposes for writing, etc.) will enrich students’ understanding of a subject and their critical thinking abilities. Dr. Shanahan, Professor of Reading, Writing and Literacy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, presents a case study describing her method to engage students in reflections about multiple texts. Teaching students to think about disparate texts resulted in:
- Increased disciplinary knowledge and an understanding of how information is constructed and shared in a given academic field (history is used as an example);
- Increased strategic knowledge about how to make ties and comparisons across texts;
- Altered purposes for reading — not just gathering a discrete set of facts in order to pass a test but a chance to figure out what to believe (which is inherently engaging, since it requires students to form their own opinions); and
- Increased critical thinking, since making cross-textural links necessarily involves analysis, synthesis and evaluation.
She also gives examples of how teachers could incorporate multiple texts into science, English and civics classes; and notes strategies (including a sample comparison-contrast chart) that high school teachers might employ to utilize multiple texts.