Formative Assessments: Our Compass for Understanding Affective, Cognitive, and Physical Aspects of Information Search Processes

I have been a huge admirer of Buffy Hamilton’s work for a number of years, and as I venture further into collaborative planning and teaching with my staff it makes more and more sense.

I love her concept of Birds of a Feather searching groups. I also like her concept for pre-research/search mapping. In my experience this is an area in the research process that doesn’t have enough time allocated to it. Having visual maps and scaffolds helps to give it due credence. I also love the “ticket out the door” method of getting students to reflect on the period of work they’ve just completed. It also gives opportunities for more targeted interventions as required.

I encourage you to read this meaty post if you are:
1. following my posts about teacher librarian collaboration
2. interested in the Guided Inquiry process by Carol Kulhthau
3. considering ways to work more closely with teachers or librarians

The Tertiary Prep Programme 2015

TTPP SBHS Title page

It’s been a great learning journey to date.  Six years on and The Tertiary Prep Programme a la 2015 only vaguely resembles the unit designed in the fledgling days as I tentatively began forming my thoughts about preparing students for the transition to further study.

After presenting on the work I had begun at Hargest at the LILAC Conference in 2012 I had a whole new lens thrown across it when I began working at Southland Boys’ High School.  Two years of further thinking, trialling, talking and tweaking has now led to the development of a programme designed not for just one particular school, but for any school wanting a solution to bridging the gaps between secondary and tertiary study.

So at the end of last month, at a workshop presentation during the recent SLANZA Conference I launched The Tertiary Prep Programme to a group of librarians and teachers.

Why should we be considering this type of programme in our secondary schools? Recent research out of Massey University, published in the current SET magazine indicates areas of concern in how prepared students are for the switch to tertiary learning. Lisa Emerson and fellow researchers Angela Feekery and Ken Kilpin make some clear conclusions from their work with a group of secondary and tertiary teachers.  Watch out for a blog post on The Tertiary Prep Programme website about this article, Lets talk about literacy: preparing students for the transition to tertiary learning, in coming days.

If you are interested in learning more about The Tertiary Prep Programme, visit the website, check out the resources and follow the site.  I would like it to grow into a community of educators who can share ideas, thoughts and suggestions with each other.

If you’re interested in my next steps with tertiary prep or you’d like my brief summary of the issues and mitigating factors relating to the research article then be sure to take a look at my conference presentation on Slideshare.

And if you’d like support towards embedding a tertiary prep programme in your school, please don’t hesitate to contact me as I’d love to work with you!

Research and the Internet – Are we getting smarter?

Human – business evolution

Reused from Flickr with Creative Commons License

I have just finished reading a thought-provoking article from the American Psychological Association regarding research into whether internet searching makes us feel smarter than we truly are.

It would seem that it does!  Apparently the research would suggest that we gain an inflated sense of our own knowledge, even when we don’t find the answer to what we’re looking for, after the physical act of searching the internet. However, it appears this is not the case when researchers provided the link to a website to enable subjects to answer specific questions.  It is the act of searching that makes us feel all-knowing.

Lead researcher Matthew Fisher suggests that as a result of the act of reading a book or talking with an expert we are more engaged in the research process than when we are searching the internet and so it becomes apparent to us when we have gaps in our knowledge.  This then leads us to investigate further to find the answer. “With the Internet, the lines become blurry between what you know and what you think you know.”

So what are the implications of this on education and our future generations? And will it become more obvious as our current crop of young people who seem surgically connected to their smart phones become adults?

My initial thoughts are that we need to be designing lessons that require a level of critical thinking that demands our students to engage with the material they find, and that we should not be too quick to physically or mentally throw out our non-fiction collections.

We also need to continue to engage in learning conversations with our students as well as encourage those conversations to take place between peers, and demand not only reasoned and cited answers to questions but that further questions need to be asked in the quest for new knowledge.

It could become a dangerous world indeed when decisions are being made by people who think they know everything, but in fact know very little at all.

Scaffolding Research and Guided Inquiry

Yesterday was a big day for me!  About a month ago I had been invited to speak to student teachers studying at Otago University in Dunedin about the process of scaffolding research and guided inquiry as part of their Literacy Across the Curriculum paper. I was a little nostalgic and it felt even more surreal walking into a lecture theatre I had sat in during my year at teachers college back in the early 1980’s, only this time I was the one standing at the front talking to students, some of whom had already completed degrees and were now training to go into classrooms as teachers.

The time allocated just wasn’t long enough! There was so much to tell them, share with them and discuss with them.  I easily had enough content to spread across two sessions, but we were constrained to one and so I made the best of it.  My hope is that our short 50 minutes has only just opened up potential discussions as they all contemplate graduation and beginning in their own classes next year.  To that end I have invited them to join me in the new Scaffolding Research and Guided Inquiry Group on the Virtual Learning Network.  I hope we can continue to discuss what guided research and inquiry can look like in classrooms, as these skills are relevant to all subject disciplines in all schools across every year level.

Q.U.I.C.K method for Evaluating Websites

Weighing it up

Dr Susan Sandretto from Otago University gave a stunning keynote address at the recent SLANZA Conference in Wellington on Planning for Critical Literacy. She is an engaging speaker and able to communicate well the need for us as teachers and librarians to create opportunities for teaching students about critical literacy and have them explore what it means to analyse text critically.  I have been fortunate enough to hear Susan speak on two previous occasions and she has been pivotal in giving me the necessary skills to design these two lessons, which help students grasp this concept in a digital environment.

This is the poster I developed using information Susan gave in hand-out form at her workshop I attended about two years ago.   I had several teaching colleagues also attend this workshop, and these posters were ultimately displayed in classrooms throughout the school.  I even saw it on the wall of my friend’s home office when I was visited her recently – she also happens to a former teaching colleague!

Critical Literacy Poster

Lesson 1: How to Evaluate a Website – Q.U.I.C.K

Searching the NetThrough observing typical 12 and 13 year old students’ behaviour in using computers to research, I realised they needed a lot of guidance to achieve effective results.

As part of developing an embedded programme towards achieving this aim, I designed this lesson to get Y8 students thinking about how to decide whether a website they are looking at is a good choice for their research needs.

I would typically teach this lesson after having already taught the class about keyword searching and selecting websites from their results.

The Quality Information Checklist is a great resource to engage students with how to evaluate websites and promote discussion in small groups about why it’s important to do this.

 

Lesson 2: Evaluating Websites

I have designed another lesson activity that I typically teach in either Year 9 or 10 where I remind them of the Q.U.I.C.K steps and get them to use as many as necessary to evaluate an assigned website. Here’s the lesson plan and a link to the Livebinder resource:

Evaluating Websites - Hoax lesson

It really brings home the message to students that just because a website looks slick and has lots of bells and whistles, doesn’t make it appropriate, relevant, correct or even true.

Pizza, The Research Process and Resulting Lightbulb Moments

How often do you observe your students, especially the younger ones, in the act of research? And how many of them choose to sit down at a computer, type in their question and then click on the first website in the list?

Getting them to understand there is a process they can follow for effective research results, and that there are some steps they need to take BEFORE plonking themselves in front of a computer screen is a bit of a mission, wouldn’t you agree?

So I have developed several strategies aimed at teaching the process of research in an attempt to make it as transparent as possible for students.

Strategy 1:  Developing and embedding a school-wide research process

This is the visual to support this:

Research Cycle

This works well as an A3 poster displayed in the library and in classrooms.

It can also be inserted into workbooks or assignment sheets to reinforce and remind where applicable.

Strategy 2: Identifying each step in the process

Find

This supports your school research process and helps as a visual reminder for students which is the main step in the process they should be using at each stage.  I have used this as a small symbol at the top of each page in my research booklets.

Strategy 3: Explaining the research process

This can be tricky as no matter how concise we are or how simple we try to make it, it can be difficult to explain research in terms our students can understand.  Several years ago fellow librarian and good friend Donna Watt explained the way she went about introducing research to her junior students (11 and 12 year olds) to a group of librarians and teachers as part of a professional learning day.  Several in the group had real “light bulb” moments as it became clearer to them and they began to think about research in a different way.  Donna was kind enough to allow me to create the power-point I’ve shared above using her Pizza Process idea.

Last term I used this presentation with all of our Year 8 classes before embarking on a unit where I was teaching online research and note taking skills.  It worked very well.  I created cards with each research step visual on it and made up sets of them to use in small groups as an activity after running through the power-point.

Here is my lesson plan for this:

The Research Process Activity

Memory Game – a Step in the Programme

I just love those days when a colleague shares something and it sparks off an idea that makes your brain fizz and pop!

Match

http://flic.kr/p/6Vute5

Yesterday was one of those days for me. It all started when the wonderful Desna Wallace shared a link to the Stylist list of 100 Best Opening Lines from Children’s Books

I just love the way it looks and works, with the pictures of the books and then hover over the picture to read the first line of it.  So it got me thinking …..

100_Opening_Lines

I am currently working on creating a set of resources to support a new Y7 & 8 library and research skills programme that I’m developing at my new school.  I have an absolutely fantastic group of teachers to work with here and the junior school staff are so willing to collaborate with me, welcoming me into their classrooms.

So when I saw this post I was immediately struck by how cool it would be to design a memory card game, using the covers of the books on one set and the corresponding first line from each book on another set.  The students could then play the game by either matching the pairs correctly, or have them working in groups to decide which bo0k went with which first line.

In a slightly simpler version, I will use the same concept with book covers and authors names.  Both of these ideas still require some fine-tuning and tweaking, but it’s simple, relatively easy to make and fun for the students, with the potential to incorporate a competitive element into it that all boys love.

So, a big thanks Desna and I would encourage everyone to keep sharing.  It’s gold!

Resources for supporting the Tertiary Prep Unit

While trawling for great resources to use in preparation for my Tertiary Prep Unit I came across some really fantastic information available online from a variety of tertiary institutions.

For the sessions on note-taking and note-making I shared a great resource put together by Otago University Libraries Student Learning Centre about how to take and make good notes  and from the Higher Education Development Centre at Otago they offer this handout about making the most of your notes.

Otago has also designed equally good resources for managing learning which I shared when discussing study skills with my groups.

Another idea I introduced to the Tertiary Prep guys was the idea of using Study Groups as a way to revise and prepare. Otago has also created great resources to assist with this.  This handout describes how to get the best out of a study group and this one is about their P.A.S.S system (Peer Assisted Study Sessions.)

The Otago University Higher Education Development Centre is a great resource to tap into, and I recommend you take a look at what they do and what they offer.

When running my sessions on Bibliographies and Citations, I shared some great resources created by Waikato University which has good explanations about referencing as well as useful examples for each citation style.  This one is for APA.  What I really love is the drop down boxes they have to give specific examples of each type of reference.  Waikato also has a great list of how-to library guides.

Last, but by no means least, is one I came across recently from Boston College University Libraries which is a comprehensive glossary with definitions of library terms.  Not only does this help students get their heads around what each term actually means, but would also be a great resource for students of information and library science who are also grappling with terms we take for granted as practicing professionals.

If anyone has found anything equally useful, I’d love you to share them!

Tips for Searching the Internet

Power Searching with Google: We all want to get better at “finding stuff” on the internet – and those of us in education really want to become as skilled as possible in finding the “good” stuff so we can teach our colleagues and students to also become proficient finders and users of information based on their needs.

I was peripherally aware of the buzz around these Google sessions a few weeks ago, but just didn’t have the time to follow up on them so I was very pleased to see a link to the series of lessons via Google Research on Twitter.  Now that I know where to find them I’ll work my way through each lesson over the next few weeks, noting down anything new I can highlight in my searching the net lessons.

I’ve recently developed two new posters for students to use when searching the internet.

Poster for our Junior Campus – Year 7 & 8 students:

Poster for our Senior Campus – Year 9 & 13 students:

These work very well and students seem to like using them.

Reality Librarianship – Up Close and Personal

So tonight was a first for me since becoming a librarian 12 years ago – I got up close and personal with about 60 other librarians from all over New Zealand – from Auckland to Invercargill – talking about one of my biggest passions: embedded information literacy skills and how that looks at James Hargest College, without seeing anyone.

Sally Pewhairangi and Megan Ingle, together they are Heroes Mingle – a fantastic name for their collaborative partnership – have developed the Reality Librarianship series as a virtual professional development opportunity to discuss areas of interest to all of us in library-land.  They have discovered an easy, no-cost way for motivated library professionals to access topical, relevant CPD from the comfort of their own living rooms.

From the interviewee’s point of view it was relatively simple and stress-free and Megan and Sally made the whole experience straight-forward and enjoyable.  Of course, I’m one of these people that once you get me started talking about something I’m passionate about it’s hard to shut me up!  Megan did an admirable job in reigning me in and keeping me on track!

If you know me, you know that I believe wholeheartedly in the three big C’s – Collaboration, Communication and Connection.  It’s why I never turn down any opportunity to talk about my work at school and beyond as well as to listen to others share their passions and knowledge.  It is only by communicating with one another that we find our common interests and areas of intersection.  It’s by others being generous in sharing their ideas and knowledge that I have been able to grow as a professional and make the work I do meaningful for my school community.

None of these big C’s have ever been easier in our  Web 2.0, online environment, as tonight’s session illustrates.  I can just as easily work on a collaborative project with someone in the UK or Canada as I can with someone in Wellington or Auckland

My flock-mates (thanks CS and DW) indulge me when my gums flap like they’re trying to break the word speed record as they know some of my best ideas and learning comes from verbalising random thoughts and brainstorming with them.  There is such power in shared light bulb moments.  Identify your flock-mates and, if you aren’t already, start talking to them about whatever is brewing in your brain.

I am also an ardent advocate of the philosophy of reaping and sowing.  Timing is everything, and sometimes the timing means that you spend the majority of your energy sowing into the areas that are important. But don’t be impatient and expect immediate results. Rather, take a more long-term view.  If you plant enough seeds in the right places and continue to water and nurture them, eventually they will sprout and grow.  My work at Hargest for the past six years has been all about sowing, watering and nurturing and now I am fortunate enough to be reaping the fruits of those particular labours.  I now have teachers approaching me to work with them, whereas previously I would have been the initiator of our collaborations. If you want to know more about some of the collaborative strategies I’ve used then you can read more about them here.

Encourage others in their endeavours.  Even the smallest move forward is a step in the right direction.  And above all, celebrate your successes, no matter how insignificant you might think they are.  All of those little, seemingly insignificant events or moments will weave together into something bigger. Take some satisfaction in them along the way.

Now, do yourself a favour. Go to the Finding Heroes site and register for Paul Hayton’s interview for next Thursday night.  He’s going to be speaking on Powerhouse, Experiencing Great Ideas in Action. Go on, do it!!