I think we could all agree that research skills are important in getting our students “college and career ready.” With the vast amounts of information available to students right at their fingertips (what are iPhones really except mini-computers), we assume that our digital-native students know how to navigate the vast amount of information that bombard them daily. But the truth is, those sophisticated mini-computers are really more like toys, and the potential power promised by having such a device in their back pockets are often misused or not used at all.
As teachers, we have to prepare our students for the types of tasks they will encounter beyond high school. In almost any discipline, that includes academic research skills. Kids need to know how to think critically about the information they encounter. They need to know how to tell the difference between a credible source and a not-so-credible source. They need to know when information is relevant to them and when it is not. These skills (and they are RESEARCH skills) can and should be taught in every subject area at every level. We are all responsible for the success of our students. But without our support, students’ frustration will likely increase as they get into more academically demanding courses (Blackwell and Ruffner).
Teaching research skills does not need to involve a multi-week research project. These skills can easily be integrated into what you are already doing in the classroom. My goal is to provide you with one lesson each month that focuses on a specific research skill. Tailor it to your specific curriculum and try it out in your classroom.
So let’s start at the very beginning: questions. All research starts with a question. How do I make a better chocolate chip cookie? How do I apply for a driver’s license? What running shoes should I buy? We ask questions all the time. All of our Googling essentially starts with a question, stated or implied.
Questions activate the thinking processes which is essential for any person to learn effectively. But in the classroom, only one out of five questions are asked by the students themselves (Acar and Kilic). But when students come up with their own questions, they are more engaged and more likely to make connections with the content (Gregerson). The trick is teaching our kids how to ask high-quality questions. Not something they could easily find the answer to in a quick Google search, because that’s not really asking them to think critically.
One of the best ways to get students to ask high-quality questions is the tried-and-true KWL chart. Yes, it is really that easy. Give students some time to think about what they already know and what else they want to know. Give them time to look at their questions and revise them. And then give them time to try and find the answers to those questions. You might be surprised.
Acar, Filiz Evran, and Abdurrahman Kilic. "Secondary-school teachers' questioning activities in learning-teaching process." Education, vol. 132, no. 1, 2011, p. 173+. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A269228808/GPS?u=clov94514&sid=GPS&xid=f1fbd5d0. Accessed 26 Sept. 2019.
Blackwell, Adam, and Holly Ruffner. "Teaching and assessing information literacy." District Administration, Oct. 2014, p. 48+. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A386211437/GPS?u=clov94514&sid=GPS&xid=ef1c9ea8. Accessed 26 Sept. 2019.
Gregerson, Jessica. "Processing the curriculum through quality questioning." Science Scope, Feb. 2011, p. 86. Gale In Context: Science, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A249605059/GPS?u=clov94514&sid=GPS&xid=2413be75. Accessed 26 Sept. 2019.