The Unified Research Model has been unveiled. After announcing the update at a faculty meeting, we have begun convening with smaller groups of teachers to look at it in more detail. Teachers especially liked the metacognitive pieces, learning teams, personal choice, emphasis on inference in research, the use of bibliography generators, and encouraging real audiences. Click here to see the model as a PDF.
Taking It to the People June 22, 2008
At our last Research Model meeting, the group came together to edit the latest draft of the model. As we were aligning our language with that of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, we began talking about our own children. Some are in college, others a few years out into the workforce. We began asking, what skills were they missing in their readiness for college research? How do those out in the workforce use their research skills? We decided to continue our discussions this summer via a wiki and invite graduates we know to give us feedback. I will summarize the feedback in this blog as we receive it.
Getting in the Zone April 16, 2008
Basketball is one of my favorite sports. When a player is having a really great day, he enters the “zone” where everything he learned from coaches, teammates, watching the NBA, and personal practice, mesh seamlessly. Focus is razor sharp. Confidence is supreme. He owns the game.
Recently, I had been “coaching” a seventh grade team as they wrote their own historical fiction short stories. The teacher and I were true partners. Students chose a historical time period of interest to them. They researched various elements of the story. What were the popular names in that time period? Where would the story be located and what would that place look like? How would the actions of the main character reflect the time period?
When it came time to actually write the entire story, the effectiveness of their preparation was tested. When a student struggled with how to get the character from point A to B on the plot line, a series of pointed questions helped them see what information was missing. Often it meant more research, but in this round, the research was focused and razor sharp. The story was personal now. The student made the decisions. He owned this game. He was in the zone.
As librarians, we don’t always get the opportunity to work with students on the synthesis piece. But in doing so, it informs our instruction and gives us the thrill of seeing our kids prosper.
Do It Yourself Projects February 4, 2008
There is a teacher I admire who never assigns a major research project to her students unless she has already done it herself. By going through the expectations she has for her students, she can better prepare them for the pitfalls and challenges they might face. She can understand the support they will need to be successful because she has faced them herself. One strategy she has recently employed is to increase background knowledge on writing an historical fiction short story by reading sample ones with her students. As part of our collaboration, I discuss with students how to use primary resources and pull from one of the stories she has read. One story is set during the Cold War and touches on McCarthyism and Civil Defense preparedness. I picked up on the mention of bomb shelters and modeled a keyword search around that topic as well as collected some great primary resources from the time period. Students are better able to understand the expectations, when they have seen them modeled around something with which they are familiar. Building connections is key.
Background Knowledge Booster January 5, 2008
How to gain more depth in inquiry projects? Increase background knowledge. As a science teacher and I were collaborating on the Research Model, I showed her the latest title in the Scientist in the Field series. In this series, scientists doing fascinating research on such topics as trash, volcanoes, and tarantulas are presented with details of the routines of the scientists and the methods they employ. In keeping with the theme of research in the real world, she decided to recommend them to colleagues as resources for book discussions. We believe that making connections to the real world and telling a story should increase understanding. Increased understanding should make students more capable of formulating essential questions and seeing themselves as scientists. She plans to start some groups next week. Cool.
Notetaking: Active and Differentiated December 9, 2007
The Research Model Committee spent a good deal of time on the subject of notetaking. We decided we need to better prepare our students over the the three years to differentiate types of notes and grow independent in their uses. We are looking to begin with the Cornell method and T-charts, then three-column response notes and note cards. Finally, by grade eight, students would have free choice of how they would take notes with a justification for why they chose the method they did.
Whenever possible, note forms should encourage students to interact with the notes. This could be in the form of a reflective piece or by creating a new vehicle for using the information as a formative assessment of student understanding.
Making the Connections
Time for conversations among designated groups helps students make the connections with the material in front of them. What is interesting vs. what is important? What new questions does this information generate? What don’t I understand? Compare/contrast. Visual representations. Interacting with their notes is essential in order to create new knowledge.
Watch out: Unified Shouldn’t Mortify September 13, 2007
Working on a unified research model can cause stress within a school or district if it becomes too regulated. For example, one of the important skills that students should learn, especially in the era of Web 2.0, is that there are many ways to demonstrate learning or findings. Whenever possible, students should be given the opportunity to choose to share information in the form of a product that best demonstrates learning. Of course, you have to be sure they know the proper way to cite information, construct a research paper, a science experiment, etc. where particular conventions prevail. But whenever possible, children should be able to choose how to present information and be able to explain why they chose to create the product in a certain way. The teacher will still need to set up guidelines, rubrics regarding expectations but expression should be owner inspired. We too often assume that in the work world, information is presented in a paper. I’ve been observing my own kids and their friends, who have entered the work world, and often, their bosses have asked them to send them their findings in the form of PowerPoint or a spreadsheet. Will our students be proficient in many forms and will they know when to use them? When should one use a survey, interview? Committees who work on unified models need to examine what elements of the model must be uniform and then allow students to creat voice within their own work.
Thinking about a Product: Now or Later? August 13, 2007
As we looked at our steps to research, our URM group pondered whether thinking about a final product should begin earlier or later in the process. Occasionally, teachers who do research in the library feel students worry too much about getting a product finished to the detriment of immersing themselves in the literature of the topic. I think this occurs most frequently at the sixth grade level. After discussions, the group decided that products should be talked about early in the steps because they can influence the type of resources students look for like primary documents, etc. depending on the final presentation. As we encourage students to make decisions about how best to demonstrate their knowledge, deciding what resources will be used, is a critical piece.
Buiding a Community of Researchers August 8, 2007
One of the powerful images that came out of our discussions on research last year was the pervasive nature of research. We want students to see that we are constantly doing research in our everyday lives (buying a shirt at the mall, etc.). But we also want them to see how people in jobs, also use research. We hope to invite communtiy members in to talk about how research plays a role in their careers. We are also going to approach Family and Consumer Science teachers to see if students will ask the people they job shadow how they use research in their work day. We will also model how research is conducted in the various disciplines.
Updating Research Model August 7, 2007
The focus of this blog will be primarily on the discussions members of our faculty are having about research, as we look to update our model. We have been looking at research as a topic for a year now and will continue through 2007-2008. Whenever we update the model, it is important to reflect with the people who will help implement the changes. They have to believe in them as well. We’ve been having some meaningful discussions with some interesting questions that we still need to explore.
Background Info: Our Research Model has been in place for over 20 years. It is unified in that all students receive the same basic information literacy skills instruction that is in the model. It is up to the teacher and librarian to incorporate the skills into the inquiry process being conducted at the time of need. Since we are a middle school with a team structure, the librarian consults with the team to provide instruction throughout the year.
So come along on the journey with us.