Thinking Out Loud

Since everyone is asleep here, save the dog, and I need clarify my ideas for a meeting tomorrow with a group of high school English teachers regarding the Research Cycle I thought I might try writing out my agenda and how I want it to come across.

Firstly, I am very concerned about how it will come across.  I do not want to challenge anyone’s credibility by changing a process and document that, although revised on a yearly basis, needs to look forward a little more.  This is my talent pool; these are the people that will be working with the students as they course through the process, and they deserve to vet out all of the snags and kinks, just like I did this summer.  So I feel the need to open the meeting tomorrow by letting them know that we are changing how they teach research.  They need to know that my goal is to move the department forward, and this is a step that has to be taken.

Secondly, the last major update to our Research Style Guide was done in 2005.  I’d like to ask them to take a look at it.  I am going to give them pens of various colors and ask them to trim it down: eliminate all that you feel is not necessary, all you feel has changed and needs updating, all you feel is detrimental, etc. This is a massive document that every student is required to use as they course through their research process.  When I looked at it in the beginning of the summer, it caused me to begin asking questions of people all around the state of New Jersey: what do you do? how do you make this process engaging?  We’ll be working with motivation this year in our high school, and as I looked at this huge document back in June, I wondered how we motivated students to give their best effort on their research projects?

The third part of the morning I’ll spend asking them a series of questions attempting to get at the essential questions behind research.  We need to identify what we want our students leaving this project with.  Thanks to a bunch of you, especially Lisa Huff, I came up with this list on my own, which I will share with them:

  • understand how to search for information
  • evaluate the sources of information for reliability and validity
  • formulate research questions before beginning and throughout research process to sustain and focus productive search for information
  • synthesize information from multiple sources
  • attribute sources

Once we identify the essential skills, the nuts and bolts I was whining about earlier this summer, i.e. notecards and MLA, become secondary, as do the tech tools.  We can focus on teaching several methods to the students and allowing them to find that which works best for them.  Notecards rock for some, not for others.  I just happen to fall into the “others” category.

The last part I want to discuss with them is the Research Cycle.  In putting this together, I went through just about every type of research system that is out there, and Jamie McKenzie’s looked the most streamlined. It follows this pattern.

  • Questioning
  • Planning
  • Gathering
  • Sifting and Sorting
  • Evaluating
  • Synthesizing
  • Publication

What’s best about this one? Nothing really, except that it can be taught as a linear flow, or a cyclical process.  The clincher really was the idea that questioning is involved at every step of the research process.  Always be asking questions that lead to bigger questions.

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2 thoughts on “Thinking Out Loud

  1. If always ask Qs that lead to larger Qs, how do you test hypotheses? One set of assumptions holds that such tests generally require atomizing rather than generalizing. Are you starting from a different set of assumptions?

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