This article enlightens what skills students need and deserve to learn throughout any research project to develop competency and to internalize the process as a whole.
This process involves four basic steps, which can be broken down further into specific, grade-appropriate skills. All stages should involve the teaching of meta-skills such as reasoning, organizing, communicating and applying knowledge.
During cooperatively planned lessons of a research project, students call learn to exhibit what teacher-librarians recognize as vital in a world of information–that when one doesn’t know the answer, one knows where and how to find it. But this knowledge of the research process isn’t innate.
It takes time to teach the students the steps and the skills involved in an inquiry and research process.
The inquiry and research process involves four stages:
- Preparing for research;
- Accessing resources;
- Processing information; and
- Transferring learning.
Cooperative planning for student success
When planning collaboratively with teachers, follow the model in preparing the research project. Identify each stage of the process and record the teacher-directed lessons and student tasks that will form that stage.
Once classroom or subject teachers become well-known with the research model taught and used by the teacher-librarian, they will become more proficient in their planning and more relaxed using the language of the research process.
Some classroom or subject teachers will want the bulk of a curriculum unit covered through a major research project and its presentation. This requires much planning, prior to the start of the project.
It is significant to book enough time for the planned partnership in order to take the students meticulously through the skills and to do justice to the project.
You will need to book a planning session with the classroom or subject teacher(s) and may want to include others such as special education or learning support teachers for special-needs students.
- Look at the subject curriculum unit to pull out overall and specific expectations that lend themselves to an inquiry and research process.
- Identify the general and specific expectations from the research process model you use. These will be the skills that the students will have to know and use in order to complete the research and to demonstrate learning and understanding.
- Tailor the expectations to each partnership and the students involved. What might work well for one class doesn’t guarantee success with a different set of students.
- Define a culminating task–one that will incorporate the skills and findings in a way that demonstrates student understanding. Try to design a task that requires the use of higher order thinking, instead of simple regurgitation of facts found.
- Determine how the students will present their research. This often involves the use of technology and the district’s information and communications technologies documents may guide the planning at this point.
- Break the whole project into smaller sub-tasks that the students will complete on their way to the culminating task. Define each one specifically for the benefit of the teachers and for the students.
- Establish criteria and a method of evaluation for each of these sub-tasks. This ensures that students know at the beginning what will be evaluated and how it will be done.
- Plan activities that engage the students in the learning throughout the research project. This will likely be a combination of explicit instruction in a particular skill or technology, hands-on learning time, independent and group work and time for self-evaluation.
When all this planning is complete, it’s time to take the students through the steps to “Get Organized! Get Thinking! Get Going!”
Get organized!–Stage 1: Preparing for research
Stage 1: Preparing for Research is absolutely critical as the foundation for the project. If the students are not well prepared and very clear about the expectations of the project, their final product will be less than satisfactory. The four steps for this first stage are:
- Define information needs using a variety of strategies;
- Explore information using a variety of group activities;
- Identify varied ways of organizing information; and
- Relate prior knowledge to information tasks.
- Trace a variety of resources from a variety of sources;
- Select information appropriate to requirements using a variety of strategies;
- Collect information from resources using internal organizers and conventions of texts; and
- Collaborate with others to share findings and ideas.
- Analyze and evaluate information using a variety of strategies;
- Test ideas to adjust research and problem-solving strategies;
- Arrange information using a variety of organizers and formats; and
- Synthesize findings and formulate conclusions.
- Revise product appropriate to purpose, audience and format;
- Present research findings in a variety of forms for a variety of audiences;
- Reflect on and evaluate product and process; and
- Transfer new information skills and knowledge to solve problems and make decisions.
The teacher-librarian may not be involved in every phase of every stage of the process, so the cooperative help from the classroom teacher is essential for student success.
Get organized!–Stage 2: Accessing resources
This involves teaching students how to get their hands on the information they will need, whether in books, through the Internet, or from a guest speaker in the library. The four steps in this stage are:
Get organized!–Stage 3: Processing information
This stage can be the most time-consuming. It involves these four steps:
Get organized!–Stage 4: Transferring information
At this stage, the culminating task–whether role-playing, an electronically produced brochure, a 3-D model or diorama with oral explanation–is presented with understanding. The four steps in this stage are:
Consider requiring students to present their research findings in a second way for a different audience. This is another way of getting them to apply their thinking and new knowledge and understanding.
Evaluation is an important part of Stage 4. This involves teacher evaluation, self-evaluation and peer evaluation done as a reflection on the whole project. Again, students need explicit instruction in how to critically evaluate their own work–both process and product–and that of their peers, using appropriate vocabulary.
Teachers have demonstrated their ability to be flexible in many ways and cooperative planning is another time they show this. In planning sessions, teacher-librarians can make suggestions for modifying or augmenting a research assignment that the teacher has used in the past, in order to encourage the use of higher-level thinking on the part of the students.
Sometimes the basic plan is satisfactory but if it can be extended to allow for an application of the research in a meaningful way with the student’s own conclusions, student learning will be improved as well.
Occasionally, a classroom teacher may want the teacher-librarian to teach exact skills relating to only one stage of the research process, to enhance work being done in the classroom.
This is more often tree if a cooperatively planned research project has already been done with that teacher, through the whole four-stage process, because the teacher then starts to think in terms of the four stages.
A teacher may ask the teacher-librarian to teach a set of skills related to Stage 2: “Accessing Resources” before the students use the Internet for a homework assignment.
While the teacher-librarian would work with that class for only a small part of the research process, over the course of the school year, there should be other opportunities to teach them skills from the other stages. This way, the students come to know where the skills fit into the process as a whole.
It is very important for a successful research experience that all participants be organized. Students will rapidly respond to your level of organization so model the organization you expect from them.
Give your students valuable and fundamental skills for gathering, organizing and presenting information on any topic–skills they will use through life. Now, get going on an organized, well-planned research experience for your students!