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Part II:

I'm in an elementary school, but I do have an opinion.  I don't think that
research should be made deliberately difficult.  That doesn't mean that it
shouldn't be a challenge, our goal should be to teach a child to research
and use the library independently.   I think its our job to teach how to
conduct research and put it together.  The more experience they get, the
less hand-holding the student will need.
You can and should make accommodations for some students, and, yes that
might mean pathfinders or having books on a cart.  You should emphasize your
databases, these will be the same databases they use in high school and
often beyond.  The students should also be taught about Boolean logic and
have the option of searching beyond those databases if need be (but why???)
Personally, I don't think that books should be pulled off the shelves and
put on a cart for the average student.  I don't do it for my students
because they are taught how to use the OPAC and find books on the shelves.
(Yes, my shelves are sometimes a mess, but that means they're being used!)


RE: "She [the teacher] doesn't like that my library program emphasizes the
use of our online databases." Perhaps you can genteelly point out to this
teacher that most public libraries and most academic libraries now place as
great an emphasis on database use for
research as for print search sources. Therefore what you are emphasizing is
the basis for your student's success for life-long learning via their public
libraries and their academic endeavors. I just went in and counted... our
local community college has 39 databases in addition to their 40 thousand or
so print collection ...
The closest Md. University to me has 70.
The Florida university my grandson is at has (if I counted right) 239
Thus databases have become a major component in research at every level. You
are preparing them for their future.


This is a good question.  I am of the opinion that SOMETIMES it should be a
struggle, in very limited circumstances.  Sometimes the goal you have with
students is to foster persistence, and the skills related to "dogged
determination" in finding cases where the "first search
query" didn't work, do the students know the next step?
In those cases, a bit of a struggle is warranted.
However, you are also correct that if the adult, professional, information
expert, can't find information on something, then that topic should be
revisited or modified so that the goals of the assignment can be met.
Just like athletes expect some workouts to be more challenging than others,
students should expect that some tasks will be more challenging than others.
I hope I'm making sense here.


Carol Kaulthau's (sp.?) original research on research showed that students
went through quite a rollercoaster of feelings when they work through a
research process.  Her model actually addresses each stage and the emotion
that goes with it.  It might be interesting to the teacher who is
questioning you to see this research.  At the very least, hopefully it will
be the springboard for a discussion about at what point "enough is enough"
stress for students.  Perhaps, too, that this would be a good time to talk
about how to differentiate the research project for students that CAN'T
successfully complete the project without your guidance.  Good luck!


Research does "need" to be hard it just is hard by its very nature.  The
first question that should be asked of the teachers is, what are the goals
of the project?  If locating books is one of the goals then pulling the
books ahead of time probably does not help.  Locating books on the shelf is
an important skill that can't be practiced enough (at least based on the
difficulty my students have with it).  At the same time that doesn't mean I
am going to take down my shelf labels to make it harder.
If locating information on the web is goal then the teachers need to
understand that students need instruction on search and evaluation skills.
I am always amazed at how unwilling teachers are to devote time to this type
of instruction (even when I am the one doing the planning and teaching).
They see it as a distraction from the research instead
of a main component.  They want a "10 or 15 minute" intro and then let the
kids go.  Learning good research methodology is messy and time consuming.  I
try to get teachers to require a site evaluation form for each web site a
kid uses.  If time is not devoted to those skills then pathfinders are
appropriate and necessary.


Well, one thought I use is:
FINDING information is not RESEARCH- what you DO with the information is
the real work, reading, evaluating, analysing, synthesizing etc. Your
teacher may be confusing the act of locating information with the work of
doing research: an active mind process of thinking through the topic to
generate questions, then looking for information related to the questions,
then processing the information etc. Of course, that's not to say that the
initial (but not simple) skill of locating good information  shouldn't also
be taught, but rarely is everything teachable in one assignment. So: what is
the teacher's
purpose for the assignment? to learn search skills using a catalogue etc? or
more complex? also: online databases contain high level edited reliable
information, as opposed to "the internet" in general. I'd suggest a blend of
print and database sources should provide the best range. Plus learning to
use GOOD online sources well is invaluable and necessary for their futures-
and then again: FINDING is not READING!
hope some of these thoughts help,


I don't like book carts because kids don't learn location skills, but I do
it soemtimes, depending on the group because if the kids are all doing the
same topic, I can't have 25 kids in the same teeny row looking at books on
the same 2 shelves.  Talk about counterproductive.  For example, if the kids
are researching World Religions, I will pull the books and then on the
board, write the databases they should use.

As for Pathfinders, Pathfnders aren't giving them the answers, they are
directing the kids toward where to look or the information.  My pathfinders
direct the students to use the OPAC, to use the relevent databases (and give
user names and passwrods for home access) and will list book in the Ref
collection for them to look at.   In the end, they will learn how to find
the information so next time they will know.  After awhile, most of the kids
absorb that the OPAC is where to look for books and  will use it without
having to be told.  They will look for databases they have used in the past.
My Pathfinders help AND teach .  The idea is to become information literate.

These teachers you are talking about sound like real fossils who need to
retire.  We had a few of those but they have left.  But, even then, they
knew good teaching. When you teach you give a handout or write the
instructions on the board so everyone knows what to do. That is what a
Pathfinder is, really.


The research *WILL* be a struggle to the students, even with the pathfinders
and everything else.  Reading and assimilating knowledge, and then
re-organizing it, are HARD SKILLS that students STRUGGLE with  -- unless, of
course, all the students have to do is find the sources and then they're
Research is a developmental skill.  First they have to be able to read and
understand the stuff.  Oh, well, you just lost half your kiddos already --
but maybe (with STRUGGLE) they could pull important facts.    Oh, but then
they would already have to be familiar with the research process, just to
*find* those books.
   I'm venting right along with you -- assignments like this teach the kids
with parents who will do it for them and perhaps teach them on the success
track, and shove the rest of the kids into "Do you want fries with that?"
But we all KNOW it's just their attitude -- they're just not willing to
In your shoes I'd be doing underground pathfinders.  I'd try to read that
assignment book upside down ;)  and find a way to arrange time for students
to get the help in the library that will mean they succeed, because she *is*
setting them up for failure -- or "success" as so many students do, finding
some way of completing an unreasonable assignment.
Then they tend to assume assignments are unreasonable... but enough venting,

Nancy O'Donnell
Library Media Specialist
Hoover Middle School
249 Thorncliff Rd.
Buffalo, N.Y. 14223

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