Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education Policy, Planning, and Administration

Committee Chairperson

Merry L. Staulters, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Heather Leaman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Adam Rainear, Ph.D.


Given the substantial time young people spend online and their reliance on social media for information, research supports the importance of understanding how media literacy interventions may impact students’ abilities to process online information. This study employed a case study- explanatory sequential mixed methods research design to investigate the impact a media literacy course may have on students’ cognitive processes while evaluating online information. Twelve high school students (n=12) completed a questionnaire, the first quantitative phase, while nine (n=9) responded to performance tasks assessing their civic online reasoning skills. The sequential phase involved qualitatively analyzing assignments from the students’ media literacy course, performance tasks, and individual, semi-structured student interviews (n=5). Overall, students reported high levels of confidence in their abilities. The quantitative analysis found a moderate statistical relationship between students’ confidence levels and mastery of the performance tasks. Qualitative findings suggested that students engaged with a blend of intuitive and analytical cognitive processes while evaluating online information, with varied accounts regarding their reliance on heuristics and influence of biases. Furthermore, while students reported the course enhanced their civic online reasoning skills, the results of the performance tasks showed that, overall, students did not achieve high levels of mastery across each task. These results highlight the complex nature of cognitive processes involved in evaluating online information and emphasize the need for future research on media literacy interventions to enhance students' abilities in discerning the credibility of online information.