Teaching research matters!

I remember going to the Learning Center when I was in elementary, middle, and high school. I remember the librarians teaching us how to use the card catalog and how to use the index in the back of a book. I remember a sixth grade social studies project, when I had to research Australia and put together a flipbook about the continent, complete with pictures and my original writing. You probably have similar memories from your school days.

Today is different.

I’m reading this book right now for a librarian class called Reference and Instructional Services for Information Literacy Skills in School Libraries. Chapter One quotes Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, as saying, “[these days] we create as much information every two days as was created from the beginning of human history to 2003.” That’s a lot of stuff, and our students need to receive instruction on how to effectively navigate through it all in school and in life. 

Enter the D117 Freshman Information Literacy Curriculum. Over the summer, Barb and I, with the help of freshman lead teachers from Global Studies, English I, Physics, and Health, made serious progress on this curriculum. Those teachers included, from ACHS, Lauren Krickl, Jim Hellen, Howard Citron, and Rob Hafer, and from Lakes, Meghan Reilly, Sara Lesinski, Kris Scheidt, and Caroline Gelden.

Here’s a glimpse of what we accomplished:

  • We used the Big6 as the framework of our curriculum and created an Information Literacy LibGuide that breaks down the six steps of the research process for students. The guide also provides resources, such as video tutorials and links to sites where they can use images, videos, and music without violating copyright law. Students and teachers can use all of the guide or parts of it. Teachers will appreciate how the guide suggests CRISS strategies that might be employed when instructing students in each step.InfoLitLibGuide
  • We created generic handouts for the steps, each of which guides students through one of the steps in the research process.
  • We’re collecting pre- and post-assessment data through Kent State University’s Tools for Real-Time Assessment of Information Literacy Skills (TRAILS).
  • We created a Scope and Sequence so freshman teachers from different subjects can see when other research projects are taking place and what skills are being addressed; we hope this helps teachers show students how their skills transfer from one class to the next.

Now, it’s time to implement. In addition to making continual updates to the LibGuide to meet the needs of students and teachers (we’re open to suggestions, by the way), we want to be more present in freshman classes when teachers assign research projects. We hope to create some of our own video tutorials—starring us—and check-in quarterly with the lead freshman teachers to see what’s working and what’s not. We also are finalizing an information literacy vocabulary list and are building infographics to demonstrate concepts in a visual way.

In District 117, our students are fortunate to have access to approximately 500 Chromebooks and 17 databases at each school. We want them to know about those resources and we want to instruct them on how to use them to solve information problems.

Our freshmen experience at least 10 major research projects throughout the year. Many of our freshman teachers notice the same trends: their students struggle with finding relevant sources, extracting information from those sources, evaluating sources, summarizing and paraphrasing, exhibiting resilience throughout the research process, and more. It’s no wonder, as in addition to libraries full of books, students have the World Wide Web with which to grapple.

We can make a difference with this formalized curriculum and collaborative instruction among disciplines—and we’re going to prove it.

Share your ideas with us. Offer us feedback.

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