Throughout my 21 years as an educator, I have experienced an evolving relationship with research. As a high school English teacher, I assigned research projects I thought would inspire my students to explore a topic in-depth, but ultimately, I ended up rushing through the process so that I could grade the papers in a timely manner. As an elementary and now high school librarian, my role has changed from "assigner and grader" to more "collaborator and coach." This shift helped change my perspective on teaching research, from a focus on product to one on process.
There is no denying that research is about process. When we boil the word research down to its basic parts, it's about searching again in order to learn. But I know from personal experience that teachers often focus on the "search" and not on the "re," because in this standardized-testing-crazed world, who has the time to do anything again, much less repeatedly?
But without emphasizing the cyclical nature of research, we deny students the opportunity to practice resiliency. The challenges of our world demand that students be persistent problem-solvers—that they develop the mindset and stamina to search again and again for answers and solutions. And this takes time. The more we can focus on the inquiry skills strong researchers need and design opportunities for students to practice those skills regularly, the more ingrained these habits will become.
One way that I do this is to
Another barrier to building persistent researchers is the lack of student agency in the process. When the topic is teacher-assigned, the questions are teacher-generated, and the products are teacher-designed, there is no ownership for students. It's hard to be resilient in learning about something you care nothing about.
Counter this characteristic by
Support their agency further by helping students to
Finally, we can model for our students and improve our own practice by
As our students graduate and step into this complicated world, problems that need to be solved await them. It is crucial that we not only teach our students how to be real-world researchers but that we also instill the necessary resiliency to keep them searching for solutions.
MacKenzie, Trevor. Dive into Inquiry: Amplify Learning and Empower Student Voice. EdTechTeam Press, 2016.
LaGarde, Jennifer, and Darren Hudgins. Fact vs. Fiction: Teaching Critical Thinking Skills in the Age of Fake News. ISTE, 2018. (This book gives you access to a fake news digital breakout created by LaGarde, which I used to create my own.)
Gallagher, Kelly, and Penny Kittle. 180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents. Heinemann, 2018. (I urged the senior English teacher to read this, and I believe this is the book that helped him make the switch to giving students choice in their own research.)
Luhtala, Michelle, and Jacquelyn Whiting. News Literacy: The Keys to Combating Fake News. Libraries Unlimited, 2018.