Reflecting on research

We’re in the middle of #AISL22 and I’m in the midst of prepping for two major projects next week (more on those in a future post) but I wanted to give a quick update about the project I references in my last post. It is, and I say this with very little hyperbole, one of the coolest projects I’ve ever done.

As I mentioned, the final product for this project was for students to document and reflect on their research process. Students could create a visual, record something, and/or give a presentation in which they reflected on and shared their process and the decisions they made as they were searching.

For a little bit of background… the teacher had already done one research project in this class, and figured out that their research skills were far weaker than they had anticipated. The students are sophomores, and it seems very likely that they have not had many opportunities to practice research skills during the last couple years of pandemic learning. As we planned the project, we wanted our students to be able to:

  • Write and revise essential questions for research
  • Generate and iterate on search terms and use multiple search strategies
  • Evaluate search results before clicking
  • Distinguishing between source types, and learn about a source’s reputation

We front-loaded with direct instruction on these skills, and kept computers closed for the first couple days. Then, students had time to apply and practice skills with our support – and in conversation with us and each other as they searched. At some point I’ll write more (and hopefully find a conference where I can co-present with the teacher) about what we did, but for now I want to share some student reflections because they were awesome. 

I’ve gone through the final presentations and gathered all the reflections, and wanted to share some highlights

  • Rejected a research question for being vague, even though it was interesting
  • Referred back to Britannica for background information throughout the process
  • Ambiguity of term [race] (i.e. running race) made searching tricky; needed to vary terms
  • Chose source that had an author with credentials, and internal citations
  • Rejected sources that addressed a different aspect of the topic (not related to essential question)
  • Asked other people where they were getting their information in order to get search ideas
  • Was finding information repetitive, so added new search terms
  • At one point, a student giving a presentation said, “I noticed that this same book kept being mentioned in all my sources, so I went and found the book” 

We’d given students the tools to do research and the language to reflect on their process and They Were Doing It! I’m still analyzing the reflections but I’ve already learned so much from these reflections.

There were also some reflections that let me know we still have some gaps to fill:

  • “Blogs are not a reliable source”
  • Rejected a site because title was all in lowercase; didn’t recognize site and assumed it was untrustworthy
  • Determined a source was an opinion piece, and so not useful
  • Statistics tell me it will be an accurate source
  • “Government websites cannot be faulty”

It’s so helpful to know what misconceptions are students have, and where we need to introduce more nuance to the conversation. These are also evidence of things they’ve heard/been taught about research, so we have some un-teaching to do as well. 

The teacher and I shared this project with their department colleagues yesterday, and the response was overwhelming – hoping I’ll be able to do this will lots more teachers!

11 thoughts on “Reflecting on research

  1. Let me know when you find a conference where you’re going to present about this, because I will be the first to register!

  2. Please keep blogging about this project! It’s so thought-provoking and ties into conversations we’ve been having at our school about what we are assuming students know (but they don’t) and how can we make OUR thinking visible and help them make THEIR thinking visible so we understand where and when miscommunication is taking place.

    • Of course! There are a few other teachers who are interested in trying it so I will definitely have more to share!

  3. I am thrilled to hear this update and excited to learn more about how we might adapt it for students to reflect more in the research process!

    • I have a couple of other teachers interested in trying this project this spring, so stay tuned for future updates!

  4. This was just the post I needed today. I’ve got one history teacher who seems keen on embedding more skills and I’m jumping on that opportunity (and sharing this post with her)! THANK YOU for sharing this process.

  5. I would LOVE to integrate this approach into the annual 9th grade No-Paper Research Paper Project. It sounds like it really makes researchers consider how and why they are making the choices they do, which surely must influence future research strategies and behaviors for the better. Great post!

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