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On building a guide for research skills

Returning to those Spring semester reflections . . .

It’s been around ten years since we launched our school-wide research initiative.  A number of us on the faculty felt that we needed a little boost.  While I was migrating my pathfinders to LibGuides, I decided to pull together a number of research tools to make them more accessible to students and teachers.

Our new Research Tools Guide is the result of my growing awareness that our school-wide research initiative of a few years back was in need of rethinking and retooling.  In the years since that major thrust, faculty members have come and gone.  Administrators moved on.  New assessments appeared on the testing horizon. Laptops labs entered our classrooms.  The way I do business has changed.  My influence and my instructional impact is more web-based than ever before.

Here’s the way I explained the new Guide in my Newsletter today:

Many years ago, perhaps way back in 2000, our High School embarked on a journey that involved exploring how we might improve student work. The Research or Writing Initiative engaged our faculty in looking closely at student work and discussing strategies for improving its quality. As a team, we developed a series of professional development activities, scaffolds, and tools for instruction relating to student research and writing.

Many members of our current faculty were not here for that initiative and are not aware of the steps we took or the progress we made.

Here’s a little recap.

We moved major assignments away from the report. The accessibility of information and the low level skills required for simple retelling, make the reporting of information a relatively unchallenging task. In addition, asking learners to merely report often leads to plagiarism

We decided instead, to ask learners to:

  • to develop thoughtful questions around topics of their own choice;
  • take a stand–to move from question to thesis;
  • identify and evaluate quality, relevant sources;
  • support their thesis with solid evidence;
  • gather, use, share, and document information ethically;
  • carefully synthesize their new knowledge;
  • communicate the results of their knowledge-building in creative ways;
  • share their creative work with audience;
  • and, if possible, to make a difference.

I am gathering some of the tools we created back in the early days of our initiative, combining them with a collection of new resources and applications, and sharing them in a new  Research Tools Guide. I’ll be introducing these tools with classes during their visits.

Please help me by exploring and sharing these tools with your own classes.  Please also share materials you discover and develop yourself with me so that I can add them to our shared toolkit.

I welcome input from my readers here as well.  Please share your own best tools for inclusion in our Research Tools and please use what I have gathered.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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