Supporting Student Research with LOC

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Library of Congress Resources for Research

Writer’s Block

It’s been a little over a month since my last blog post. I’ve been having quite a time with writer’s block. Personally, I feel like that block is a combination of stress, pandemic exhaustion, and spending time and energy to provide support to those I care about (especially family and the school librarians). My friend Donna and I were texting last night and I was telling her how I just couldn’t get past this blockage in my brain and she mentioned writing about supports and supporting each other. Long story short: I realized that I could write about the support that the Library of Congress has for supporting student research.

This summer, I was invited to participate in an online seminar with some of the amazing Library of Congress folks, including Cheryl Lederle who works with their education department. We spent the last two weeks of July in WebEx conferences working in teams to define student research, the components of student research, and determine how we could support student research with resources from the Library of Congress (LOC). This was my second LOC experience; the first one was in the summer of 2019 and was an absolute blast!

Here’s where the support comes in. Over the course of our seminar, our groups dug into thinking about process, strategy, and resources.

The Process: What is original research? What do scholars do?

The Strategy: Where do your students need the most help?

The Resources: What does the LOC have?

The Process

Supporting students begins with helping them to recognize the behaviors of a scholar. What does a scholar do? What is original research? How do you go about learning about something of interest? As we worked though the seminar with our small groups, we explored different sets of standards to see what they had in common, it was incredibly eye opening. From the National School Library Standards to the C3 Social Studies Framework, every set of standards involved inquiry. During the seminar, I was so excited to work with English, social studies, and science teachers who worked with their school librarians to implement research and the research processes!

Takeaway from the process: School librarians support student inquiry in any grade and any content area and are the expert in assisting students in understanding the research process.

The Strategy

Teaching the research process is important. Finding or adopting the research process that can be used throughout the entire school community is important. Whether adopting the Stripling Model, The Big 6, or another, consistency is key in supporting your learners. Helping them to understand what the inquiry process looks like–that it may not always be linear and may be more of a cycle–and the importance of each step.  That is how we support our students to become inquisitive, to engage in their learning, and to be critical thinkers and consumers of information.

The Resources

The best part of this seminar was exploring the resources that are available to teachers and school librarians on the Library of Congress website. They have so many recorded and interactive webinars where you can learn about the resources at your own pace.  You can share whole collections with your students and really start the thinking and inquiry process. Engaging students to want to know and learn more is so important and the LOC provides millions of digitized primary resources.

Here are some of the webinars we learned about in our seminar:

Foundations: Finding Resources on LOC.gov: this webinar is an intro to searching and finding resources in the Library’s collections.

Foundations: Analyzing Multiple Perspectives: this recorded webinar is led by education specialists and shows school librarians how to practice strategies that can support students in examining primary sources.

Foundations: Analyzing Complex Images: in this webinar, school librarians can learn how to support students in analyzing those smaller details in a document or an image that might not otherwise be noticed.

Using Primary Sources to Meet the Needs of Diverse Learners: school librarians support every student in the school community and this webinar shares how to make history accessible to all learners.

Lessons Learned

As we work with students to analyze primary resources, conduct research and learn history through the experience of inquiry, the Library of Congress offers supports to both the student and the school librarian. Whether we are collaborating with science, social studies, ELA, math, or art classroom educators, the inquiry process remains the same.

Utilize what is offered for free at the Library of Congress. After all, it is the “people’s library.” And, if you ever find yourself able to apply for one of the library’s seminars whether online or in person, take advantage of it. You will be glad you did.

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Author: Jennifer Sturge

Jennifer Sturge is a Specialist for School Libraries and Digital Learning for Calvert County Public Schools. She has been an educator and librarian for 26 years and is always looking forward. She is a member of ALA and AASL and is President for the Maryland Association of School Librarians for 2020-2021. She is a 2017-2018 Lilead Fellow. Most recently she is the chair elect for the Supervisor’s Section of AASL. She is diligently working on her doctoral studies in leadership at Point Park University in Pittsburgh.



Categories: Blog Topics, Collection Development, Professional Development, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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