Wednesday morning I was looking through the RSS feeds in my Google Reader account and I ran across a post that Christopher Lehman, author of Pathways to the Common Core, had recently put on his site entitled, “Research Instruction: Who Decided It Should Be A Tremendous Bore?” With a title like that, how could I help but click on the link and read his writings.
What was great about his post was that he put many of the thoughts I have had about traditional research instruction into words. I remember as a high school student sitting in the library with stacks of notecards documenting and redocumenting facts and quotes and then flipping it over to record my source information so that I could pull these facts together. For me, that was research. It was finding all the information so I could retell it in my own words, get my grade and, if I were lucky, remember something that I put down on the paper. Those research habits were a direct result of how I was taught to do research and work with information. It was a way for me to prove my “knowledge” on a topic to my teacher and, truly, jump through the hoops. Did it help me, probably. It certainly gave me a basis of understanding of the process. I’m just not sure that it helped me to learn much in the way of content.
Research is something that we do everyday in the form of posing a question and finding and answer for that question. In his post, Chris pulls from his newest book, Energize Research Reading and Writing, and suggests three ways to make the research process less painful and more exciting. But even more than that, using this approach, research also becomes about learning not regurgitation.
- Stop handing out so much stuff – Give students choice and support them with resources and direction. Assign them questions, not topics.
- Take notes on your mind, not your book – Learning doesn’t happen in the book, it happens in the mind and with the connections students make to the reading and information.
- Add a new process step: teach-through-writing – I love this. As is sometimes obvious, writing helps me think through topics and make meaning. In this one, students explore the topic through different writing activities that help them make connections based on what they have learned.
I didn’t even remotely do Chris’s approach to research justice in this short space. But I am interested in learning more about how research can be changed from what I experienced for so many years to one that focuses on students learning and understanding.
This coming Monday, Oct 1st at 7PM EST Chris is guest moderating #Engchat with the topic “Teach Students to Research, Not Regurgitate” and I hope to be able to join him in the discussion.
Cross posted to Parkway Northeast Middle School Friday Flyer