Fact-checking Academy: a helping hand for teachers in fighting misinformation

by Aleksandra Monkos, Demagog Association, Poland.

One of the key directions of Polish educational policy for the school year 2023/2024 is to support the development of digital skills among students and teachers, with a particular focus on safe internet navigation and critical analysis of information available online. Teachers are expected to methodically utilize tools and materials available online, especially those based on AI. 

How can teachers meet such requirements? How to start developing students’ critical thinking skills? How to teach countering misinformation in the classroom? The Demagog Association, the first fact-checking organization in Poland, gives a helping hand to teachers. This is our response to the gap in the Polish education system, which takes into account a critical evaluation of media and information only to a small extent.

Understanding teachers’ needs

The country’s educational policy serves as additional motivation for school communities to address the problem of widespread misinformation. We aim to tackle this problem collaboratively with schools. Therefore, in 2022, together with Purpose Climate Lab, we conducted a study titled “Understanding and Meeting the Needs of Teachers and Students in the Fight Against Disinformation”

Teachers declared that both their students and themselves need to learn how to use online sources to avoid falling victim to misinformation. They require robust support in various forms, from training to lesson plans and teaching tools. Based on the study findings, we tailored the upcoming activities of the Fact-checking Academy and educational materials to the needs and real capabilities of teachers, as well as the interests of young people. On this basis, Demagog’s team prepared materials with exercises on critical thinking for seven different subjects, allowing teachers to discuss misinformation and fake news in the classroom in 5/10/15-minutes. 

A new approach – from workshops for pupils to training for teachers

The Fact-checking Academy initiated its workshops back in 2017, engaging since then around 6,500 students in multiple lessons on critical thinking and content verification. These interactions provided valuable insights into the evolution of media education in Poland. The demand for educational initiatives is significant in smaller towns and villages, where access to supplementary learning opportunities is constrained compared to larger cities. In response, our focus is on assisting schools in such locations. We extend free workshop invitations to rural areas and cities with populations up to 200,000, while presenting a paid option for schools in more populous urban centers.

Although the number of participants in Fact-checking Academy workshops already counts in the thousands, achieving collective resilience to misinformation requires a scaled effort. Therefore, we took another step and began training teachers so they can work with their students. As a part of training for teachers, we help educators strengthen their resistance to misinformation and acquire appropriate methodological skills. 

Teachers choose modules of interest from the following: “Fake News and Other Types of False Information,” “Credible Sources of Information,” “Fact-checker’s Toolkit”, and “How to React to False Information in Conversation Offline and Online.” Each module is accompanied by different learning outcomes and materials, allowing teachers to immediately start teaching critical thinking.

Demagog’s e-learning efforts – increasing the scale

On the educational platform, in the “Knowledge” tab, we gather inspirations for teachers and other educators – ideas for critical thinking exercises, examples of fake news for specific lessons, infographics, and lesson plans. 

Interested teachers, along with their classes, have free access to following e-learning courses: “Fake News. How to Deal with Them” and “Ways to Verify Content on the Internet.” We divided both courses into several shorter lessons, making them suitable for use with students during subject lessons, as well as advisory hours or substitutions.

Specifically for teachers, we created the course “Ideas for an Advisory Hour on Disinformation.” The course includes activities for students with real-life examples, a visual note, an introduction to the topic with instructions for students’ activities, a knowledge pill, and a list of useful resources. Participation is confirmed by a certificate that teachers can use during the professional advancement procedure. So far, 2,225 people have trusted us and completed the courses. Currently, we are working on a new course, “Demystifying Disinformation,” for teachers who want to be leaders in critical thinking at school.

Beyond the classroom. Informal education 

Additionally, we extend our helping hand to educators in informal contexts such as therapeutic centers and community centers to equip them with training materials and tools to work with vulnerable groups. The ongoing “FAKE kNOw MORE” project focuses on young people with low social and cultural background and aims to raise their awareness of how emotions and personal experiences shape our susceptibility to misinformation.

Next year, together with the School with Class Foundation, Fakescape, Smilemundo, and ADFABER, we will adapt the curriculum and methodology to the local context, allowing youth from Czechia, Poland, Romania, and Spain to take better care of their resilience to misinformation.


Aleksandra Monkos, News Literacy & Communications Specialist, Demagog Association, Poland.