Recognizing the Need for a Research Model
Fall is in the air and so is a new Research Road Map at Highland School of Technology in Gastonia, North Carolina. The journey to create a school-wide research model began during the 2017-18 school year. I noticed the need for school-wide consistency after a few semesters of observing our 11th grade English students writing research papers. Their teacher does a phenomenal job of guiding them through this comprehensive process. Yet, I noticed that as juniors, their level of understanding of how to locate information and then cite the sources was so varied.
At Highland, a research paper project just happens to occur during the junior year of high school. Our 11th-grade English teacher was spending so much time on the basics, it made me wonder how our students were using information on projects prior to this big assignment. As consumers of information, our students should know how to effectively locate information and to ethically use information and cite their sources. These ongoing skills should be taught, reviewed, and practiced consistently year after year.
Each fall, I meet with incoming freshmen, acquaint them with the student resources page on the library website, and meet regularly with our students in other English classes each semester. This is my fourth year at Highland, and I have been building relationships with teachers and collaborating more and more, but it takes time. In order to establish consistent best practices in all subject areas we needed to make a change for the better.
Highland’s Research Model Design Process
Once the need was defined and fully recognized, my principal and I met to discuss how to move forward. Based on her suggestion, I prepared some information to share with our School Improvement Team (SIT). Here is how we moved forward:
- We gathered feedback from several different teachers across disciplines to discuss how they were providing guidelines and instruction to our students regarding research.
- I gathered informal feedback from students during the spring 2018 semester as they were researching in the library as to what would help them feel successful and what would take the mystery out of citing sources.
- We formed a small interdisciplinary team of teachers to simplify the research process into a model that would be visually attractive to students, user-friendly, and focused on best practices in research.
- Our team reviewed existing models, such as the Big 6, to inform our discussion.
- We honed in on essential research skills and then had a student help with the overall design of a sample graphic model for our school.
- With the rough draft in hand, I reported back to our SIT members for official approval to move forward with the school-wide research model. This step provided further credibility to the cause and paved the way for adopting this model for the entire school, not just a few classrooms. We knew that teacher buy-in was a must!
- We enlisted the help of our talented colleague, Bianca Yavelak, who sketchnotes and does graphic design work, to take our draft design and create something spectacular for our students.
Presenting the Research Model to the Staff and Students
With the school’s Research Road Map approved and ready to share, I had the opportunity to meet with all of the teachers during one of our back-to-school workdays to introduce the new model to everyone. Small posters were printed for all classrooms, and multiple posters and reminder cards were printed for the library. Additionally, the road map was added to our student and teacher resources pages on the library website.
To fully implement the model with consistency and fidelity, I met will all freshmen at their orientation before school started. Additionally, I have had separate mini-lesson sessions with the freshmen to pave the way for successful research. I am also happy to share that teachers in our medical and computer engineering pathways have partnered with me to ensure that their students are locating the best information and citing sources appropriately!
Time will tell just how effective the school-wide research model will be. I will certainly be gathering feedback from teachers and students at the end of this semester and again in the spring, as we bring this school year to a close! If you have any stories of success with school-wide research models in secondary schools, I would love to hear from you!
For your reference:
A couple of guiding standards for a school wide research model:
AASL Standards Framework for School Librarians:
Inquire: Build new knowledge by inquiring, thinking critically, identifying problems, and developing strategies for solving problems.
- Grow – School librarians implement and model an inquiry-based process by:
- Leading learners and staff through the research process.
Engage: Demonstrate safe, legal, and ethical creating and sharing of knowledge products independently while engaging in a community practice and an interconnected world.
- Think – School librarians promote ethical and legal guidelines for gathering and using information by:
- Directing learners to responsibly use information, technology, and media for learning, and modeling this responsible use.
Author: Laura Long
Laura Long is the school library media specialist at Highland School of Technology in Gastonia, NC, a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and her Masters of Library Science from East Carolina University. She is a Gaston County Schools’ Delta Fellow, Pinnacle Technology Leader and member of the Pioneering Educators Team, as well as a National Board certified language arts teacher. Additionally, she is the President-elect of the North Carolina School Library Media Association. She loves collaborating and helping her students connect with others around the world, so feel free to contact her via email or social media.