It is the beginning of a new academic year. Today, our faculty offered a student orientation activity. I met a group of first-year college students. Despite the trend of many nontraditional students entering college, these students all looked to be enrolling straight from high school–and enthusiastic. I remembered my first day of college. I was so excited to be there.
It gave me great pleasure to share some words of wisdom with the incoming students for their academic journey. Twenty-twenty vision is often in hindsight. Knowing my path now, I told them things I wish I had known when I started college. At the beginning of college, I did not think I would use research to solve everyday problems.
Today, when I stood in front of the room, I shared the following with the students: “Your future begins now. Think about your career objectives and the steps you can take to get there quickly while getting the best experience for your investment. You may not know what you want to do with the rest of your life. You should enjoy the experience. Connect with mentors. Start researching the things that are interesting to you.”
While I have always thought of myself as a writer, I did not always consider myself to be a researcher. I realized that I could do research that mattered to other people in my junior year of college. The foundation was there, and I could have begun earlier if I changed my approach to problem-solving. There are questions everywhere that need to be answered. Imagine what our students could do to help us improve our communities if they were encouraged to do more research.
Recently, AASL published another Causality: School Libraries and Student Success (CLASS) II report. I feel like it is a worthwhile read. The report examines how the AASL Shared Foundations can be applied to educational research. The report contains summaries of collaborative projects involving school librarians. One of them is mine. You can read more results in a Library Hi Tech journal article and a 2019 SITE conference paper. I have cited them in the references for this post.
The project that my team completed encouraged students to be researchers. It is never too early to urge students to pursue their interests. The librarians who participated in the project implemented a transmedia unit that incorporated project-based learning into STEM activities. In the end, there was evidence that the school librarians’ teaching positively impacted the STEM academic achievement of the students.
In all, on my first day of college, I did not know that I would go on to research ways to introduce students to STEM skills. The project was fun and personally rewarding. I am so enthusiastic about teaching K-20 students about STEM and research skills because, ultimately, they are our future. When they participate in research, they are seeking solutions. Our students have the potential to improve the quality of their lives and ours.
AASL. 2021. “Promising Practices Educational Research Applied to the Shared Foundations: A Report of the CLASS II Research Project.” https://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/advocacy/research/docs/AASL_ClassIIResearch_Book.pdf
Smith, D. L., and T. L. Tyler–Wood. 2021. “STEM Academic Achievement and Perceptions of Family Support: A Gender Analysis.” Library Hi Tech 39 (1): 205-219. https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/LHT-07-2019-0147/full/html
Smith, D., T. Tyler-Wood, and S. Milburn. 2019. “Scientists Make a Difference: The Results of a STEM Intervention with Elementary Students.” In Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (pp. 1255-1259), K. Graziano (Ed.). Las Vegas, NV, United States: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). https://www.learntechlib.org/primary/p/207804/.
Author: Daniella Smith
Daniella Smith, PhD. is a former school and public librarian. She is currently the Hazel Harvey Peace Professor in Children’s Library Services at the University of North Texas.