Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Education, Educational Leadership & Policy Studies

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Judith Cochran, Ph. D.


Perry Drake, Ph.D.

Alice Hall, Ph.D.

E. Paulette Isaac-Savage, Ed.D.


This study explores the self-directed learning behaviors of adult users of the social media vehicle, Twitter, through the lens of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States during the spring and summer of 2020. The objective was to identify Twitter usage patterns to determine adults’ awareness and use of media literacy and critical media literacy skills with social media content they consume. This study, informed by two focus groups and six individual interviews, is based on a qualitative research design using a constructivist approach. The central question is how do adults use critical media literacy on social media when gathering information to make decisions?

Findings include:

  • Source credibility, trust, and accuracy were key characteristics people used to follow and engage with Twitter accounts regarding COVID-19 information guiding users’ self-directed learning as they researched on Twitter.
  • Study participants’ knowledge of media literacy was lower than they thought or displayed.
  • Respondents informed others of accurate information from Twitter about COVID-19 due to misinformation and disinformation.

Findings may help educators assess gaps in adults’ media literacy and critical media literacy skills with social media and determine the focus needed to improve awareness of social media messages. This research reveals gaps in adults’ knowledge of media literacy and critical media literacy and impacts of using those skills. Future research could include interventionist studies with pre-and post-tests on adults’ knowledge and usage.