The Noûs Initiative : Using Collective Intelligence for Critical Thinking to Counter Misinformation

The Noûs initiative represents an advanced educational effort dedicated to enhancing the critical thinking skills essential for discerning and creating reliable media content in a time beset by misinformation. Applying an action-research approach, this initiative develops a collaborative platform that brings together educators, students, and journalists in the core college course “Philosophy and Rationality (340-MQ-101)”, drawing upon a collective intelligence ethos. With the escalating production of media content of variable trustworthiness, there is a pressing need for stronger media and information literacy.

However, instruction in critical thinking within Quebec’s educational system is inconsistent and lacks cohesion. The Noûs Initiative aims to transform this fragmented educational environment by offering a structured, uniform method for teaching critical thinking. Derived from the Greek term denoting mind, reason, and intellect, Noûs tackles misinformation through a triad of strategies: it promotes a positive view on trust, empowering citizens to both identify and contribute to the creation of credible information; it combats deceptive techniques that exploit unexamined emotions and biases by encouraging informed debate; and it reinforces societal cohesion, demonstrating that collaborative involvement can bolster intellectual autonomy and resistance to manipulative tactics. This initiative stands on two fundamental pillars: first, the “Collaborative Digital Journalism (CDJ)” pedagogy integral to the 340-MQ-101 course; and second, a strong network promoting cooperation among students, educators, journalists, and researchers.

The project’s goals are dual: a) to broaden the reach of the CDJ methodology and its educational materials, ensuring their adaptability for educators; and b) to design and refine a cooperative model involving all partners, aiding in the broad adoption of this educational framework across the province. To meet the distinct requirements and limitations of each stakeholder, a co-design process will be employed, which will aid in tailoring the pedagogical model and cultivating an inter-organizational network committed to a united stance against misinformation.  

The project is led by Alexandre Coutant, professor at the Department of Social and Public Communication at UQAM and funded by the FRQSC Misinformation Program (2023-2025). Florence Millerand, UQAM, is acting co-researcher. The team also includes, as co-researchers, Régis Barondeau, UQAM, Guillaume Blum, Université Laval, Mathieu Gagnon, Université de Sherbrooke, Marie-Estelle Debs, Collège Bois-de-Boulogne, Jean-François Dubé, Cégep de Granby, and as collaborators, Marie-Ève Martel, Canadian Press and Université de Montréal, Philippe de Grosbois, Cégep Ahuntsic.  

This content has been updated on 19 December 2023 at 15 h 31 min.