Using the Web for Research
English Language Arts
Charlottetown Rural High School
100 Burns Crescent, Charlottetown, PE C1E 1K6
Telephone: (902) 368-6905
Fax: (902) 894-7029
Kim McBurney, Computer Teacher
Leona Dalton, Teacher-Librarian
The Computer Teacher developed the assignment and made contact with the other teachers and the teacher-librarian to involve them in the implementation.
She also devised a "term paper" outline which the students received at the beginning of the unit, along with other "organizers" in an effort to encourage them to include these in their repertoire of information literacy strategies throughout the process.
In addition to facilitating individual learners' work throughout the process (in the computer lab) she also taught mini-lessons where these were required. A lesson on employing the "MLA Style" for citing sources and compiling a bibliography, is one example of a lesson that was needed. Some of the students had previously used this approach in their English courses but for others this seemed to be a new expectation.
Note: "The Blue Book" (developed by Bluefield High School) is highly recommended for addressing this particular need. Please refer to the description of the Information Process (by the end of Grade Twelve) in part II of BIL (The Information Process: Heart of Resource-Based Learning) to read more about this excellent resource.
Ms. McBurney was quite comfortable with guiding her students through the stages/phases in the Information Process. Teachers who feel less confident about doing this should collaborate with their teacher-librarian in order to do this effectively.
The Teacher-Librarian was asked to provide an orientation activity, at the Planning/Gathering Stages in the process. The whole class visited the school library and explored various resources they could use to complete their individual research. This included:
Reference Materials (encyclopedias, periodicals, specialized dictionaries etc.) In both print and electronic formats. This school library has an excellent collection of digital reference sources and students were encouraged to use these, along with their Web sources, throughout their projects;Non-fiction Materials were also suggested and the students were given a review in using their school library's automated catalogue, to ensure they could locate books related to their topics;Fiction was also suggested as a way of broadening the students' personal (as well as critical) response to their topics;Rules for accessing learning resources were also reviewed; students knew they could return to the school library at any time throughout their projects, that the teacher-librarian was available to assist them in their individual pursuits.
Schedule for Activities and Time Frame - This resource-based learning unit requires approximately three weeks. Access to the computer lab is essential for the students. Mid-term exams were scheduled to take place during this project; this meant that the computer lab was actually more accessible but the students were also busy preparing for other tests and assignments.
Evaluation: Assessment of Students, Evaluation of Activity.
Students were expected to complete a 1200 word paper on their topic of choice. Assessment included the computer teacher's observations and a checklist for computer skills (e.g. use of search engines, word processing skills etc.)
Subject teachers agreed to evaluate the subject content (as per their contracts with individual students).
Students were also expected to provide evidence (in their research folders) that they had completed the following requirements. This included:
Statement of a "problem" (a topic for research)Brainstorming or "thought web" (personal account of what they already knew about their topic)Brainstorm (for questions they wished to answer) and keywords/ideas to assist their searchingContract (agreement signed by both the student and their subject teacher) outlining criteria for their term paper... since the subject teacher would also be evaluating this product.Thesis Statement (articulating exactly what the student wanted to learn more about and why...)
The first "check point" for assessment was scheduled after the first week and students were expected to have all of the above included in their research folders. The computer teacher evaluated the contents, conferenced with students as necessary, and signed her name to indicate their progress was "on track" and that they were ready to proceed with the next stage/phase in the Information Process.
The Gathering and Interacting With Information Stages of the process were described as an "algorithm." This included two key parts...
"Designing and Testing an Algorithm" (an approach that will work for the individual student)
Students were expected to demonstrate effective use of resources (print, CD-ROM) with special emphasis here on Web-based sources of information for their topics. They were expected to:
Critically evaluate resources (regardless of format) using the "Evaluating Content" organizers provided by the teacher. Students were expected to provide four completed sheets, including one for a source they decided not to use, to demonstrate their abilities to evaluate information resources.Compile a bibliography as they proceeded with their work. A "Source Sheet" was provided by the teacher to facilitate this. (They would later be expected to use MLA style for their final bibliographies)Document information; provide samples of the "rough notes" they were recording, using their word processing program (WordPerfect) and record sources with these in order to use MLA style (for footnotes and citations later).Organize information; devise a plan for organizing their notes into an outline and first draft, based on their Planning Stage questions. At this point students needed to assess whether they had enough information to answer each of their questions effectively... in some cases they had discovered new questions/categories. They also needed to analyze the content they had recorded, to decide whether they needed more information or clarification of concepts etc.Preparation for a well-organized Information Document. This included both their outline and first draft and the entire contents of the Research Folder to this point. (Evidence of adherence to the Information Process).Write a Research Paper:
Use a word processor to create a first draftRevise and EditFormat (Pay particular attention to the formatting standards which were discussed in class). Use appropriate word processing features to give all documents a professional look.Save the documentPublish (print) the paper and submit to the teachers (one copy to each teacher involved in assessing the students' work) by the deadline for this assignment.
Students were encouraged to take one piece of information and proceed through the algorithm as described here. They were asked to determine if any of the steps were omitted.
Note: It should also be possible for students at this level to do the following:
Share/present their findings with a larger audience (not just their teachers). This might include sharing their work in the various subject classes (through presentations, either oral or written... e.g. a "magazine format" might be developed for this or publishing excerpts from their papers to the school's website)Reflection should always be included. These grade eleven students were expected to provide a 100 word "personal reflection" of their process, identifying any problems or successes they experienced. This was submitted along with their final paper and their research folders.
Note: Students might keep a research log where they reflect on each stage/phase of their process and keep this with their research folder. They really need to reflect on the skills, strategies that worked (or didn't work) for them as they develop their own "information literacy repertoire" and plan to use this for future problem-solving.
Research Paper Contract
(Adobe Acrobat [.pdf] Format)
Show Me The Outline and Outcomes