Thursday, March 29, 2012

Rethinking Research

Image by Unhindered by Talent

This week my students have been working on a research project. It didn't take long for me to realize that they were lacking research skills. The ability to conduct research has always been a necessary literacy skill in schools but emerging technology has reshaped the definition of what research entails.

These are some research skills that I believe today's students should have:

  1. Know how to engage text - Every website is designed differently and might not have the exact headings that is needed for a project. It is helpful for students to learn how to read text, and even pictures, to draw information from any page they read. 
  2. Knowing what resources to use - "Googling" a question brings up tons of results but students need to learn how to sort through all that information to reach credible sources that fit their project and they are able to read. This is a skill that teachers can model for their students who can continue to practice it in the future.
  3. How to apply the information to what they already know - Research is supposed to to build on a child's prior knowledge about a topic, no matter how minimal it might be. Students need to learn how to make connections between what they have learned and what they knew before.
  4. Reflect on their own learning - Reflection is an excellent opportunity for students to ask themselves if their questions were answered, if their research led to new questions, and what new resources they could use to answer those new questions.
  5. Putting information in their own words - It may be tempting for students to copy word-for-word what they see on a website or in a book; however, practicing to put information in their own words makes them masters of the information and better able to explain it or teach it to others. 
  6. Share what they learned - Information a child learns benefits them but information that they share has farther reaching benefits. Students should be encouraged to conduct their own research and use what they learned to teach and train others, even the teacher.