Brushing Off the Dust: Reviving research projects to develop students’ 21st century literacies
As high school teachers approach units, projects, and assignments that require research in their classrooms today, using traditional methods of information gathering may undermine the ultimate goal of an inquiry focused curriculum and the authentic multiliteracy experiences of students in their classrooms. This was true for me as a young teacher. I relied on traditional approaches to teaching research skills and experiencing research as I did, with note cards and long afternoons in the dusty stacks of my local library. This approach with my students, though, quickly proved ineffective. With Internet access and a vague idea of a topic, students developed a cursory understanding of information without applying the facets of inquiry-based research that make it an authentic learning experience. At a time of desperation, I scrapped the handbooks and checklists I inherited from my mentor teacher and started fresh on a project that met my students’ needs more appropriately. The final curriculum design presented here is a result of taking the personal inquiry research project I created and revising and analyzing it based on understanding gained through my time at Peabody. It is clearly time to revise our methods and revive the research project to meet how students already live with technology and move them beyond to a place where they are in control of the way they learn with technology. Structuring the unit in tiers based on the research process allows students to move slowly through the actions they take, and the variety of tasks students encounter employ their out-of-school literacies to build reliable skills for research and inquiry. Students leave the experience with a deeper understanding of their inquiry topic but also with a repertoire of analytical, evaluative, metacognitive, and creative skills that they are ready to apply to any academic or personal inquiry need.