Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor's Name

Mandayam O. Thirunarayanan

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Flavia Iuspa

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Maria Lovett

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Sarah Mathews

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Hoax Websites, Hoaxes, Evaluating Websites, Trustworthiness, Information Literacy, Metaliteracy, Fake News, Epistemic Beliefs, Web Evaluation Strategies

Date of Defense



Teachers need to be equipped with the tools necessary to evaluate content on the Internet and determine if it is a credible source, or a hoax website since they are expected to instruct and prepare students on how to evaluate the sites which is now a relevant phenomenon. The purpose of the mixed‑method study was to obtain an understanding of the web evaluation strategies of prospective teachers regarding the evaluation of hoax websites and how their epistemic beliefs may influence their evaluation. Another aspect of this study was to find out what outcomes resulted from providing guidance, or not to prospective teachers before evaluating the hoax websites.

Seventy‑two prospective teachers from undergraduate education courses completed an online questionnaire, where they evaluated four websites (two hoaxes and two credible) and completed questions regarding their epistemic beliefs. Two groups of prospective teachers were selected. Group A was the control group and Group B was the experiment group. Group A simply took the online questionnaire. However, Group B was provided with an overview of a specific web evaluation strategy, the WWWDOT Framework, before taking the online questionnaire. Sixteen participants were interviewed. Interestingly, almost half of the participants (48.6%), trusted at least one of the hoax websites.

The study concluded that teaching the WWWDOT Framework helped to increase the number of people that did not trust the aesthetically appealing hoax website in Group B. Regarding epistemic beliefs, prospective teachers, who displayed feeling‑based epistemic beliefs, tended to trust the hoax website that was aesthetically appealing in Group A. The qualitative results provided additional insights and supported the quantitative data. The qualitative research suggests that lateral reading, spending sufficient time to read and evaluate and knowing the definition of a hoax website as being the most important web evaluation strategies displayed by those that did not trust the hoax websites.





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