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Part III:

I would try for a compromise -- ask the teachers to see the topics, do
the search to see if you have any materials in the library on those
topics.  If you don't have any materials in the library let the teachers
know and ask that those topics be left off the list and at the same tell
them that you won't put the books on reserve, but will let the students
know that there is material available in their library. That way the
students will have to do the searching for themselves, but you will know
that they will have a successful search.


As a middle school librarian, I see research projects as opportunities to
teach students to use problem solving skills they'll need all their lives.
We use the Big 6 throughout our school, focusing on teaching the specific
skills students need at each step.  We teach skills so students will
experience success!  (What's your clue I think the teacher at your school is
nuts?)  Sometimes we focus on the task definition, step one.  Sometimes we
focus on the location and selection of resources, step two.  Sometimes we
focus on the skills students need to use a particular resource (index,
searching strategies, etc).  Sometimes we focus on notetaking, which is step


Research projects need to be a learning process; both the subject matter and
how to do it. I'm sure we weren't doing Masters quality work in our freshman
And maybe the teacher has forgotten the pathfinders and resource guides that
were provided at the university.


None of the teachers I have worked with over the last 7 years have had
a problem with what I call "Pre-search;" that is, getting a lesson plan
and possible topics, if applicable.  This allows me to direct the research
process, and determine whether or not our library can support researching a
topic. Otherwise, there's an awful lot of "googling around" with no results
show for it I feel this avoids frustration for a student trying topics out
of the
ordinary. At least, we can help him/her get started, and then on to the
library, etc. This is a junior-senior high, so I definitely agree with you,
even more
so for elementary and middle school students.


I am a combined jr/sr high library.  Along about 10th/11th grade,  teachers
start requesting that I back away from pathfinders, internet helps, book
carts of books that I pull before research classes arrive.   The idea is
that by that time the students ought to be independent users of the library
and going down blind alleys is a part of the learning process.  However, in
the lower grades, the teachers think it is great that I am so helpful with
the class and with individual students.  The idea is to have a positive
experience in the library (my goal) and with research (shared goal of
teacher and myself).  We try very hard to get everyone engaged very quickly
with at least one source.  More detailed searching follows.  We do not set
our kids up to fail, we want them to succeed!

One thing most teachers and I agree on is that we want students to be
serious (productive) with their research.  Perhaps that is a common ground
that you can emphasize with this teacher.   Most students dread research
just because it is more work, but if they have a topic they are interested
in and if they have a successful experience finding lots of information,
research can become very interesting to them -- why make it frustrating?


Anyhow, even though I am in an elementary school I have had the same
experience.  The latest was the 6th grade teacher who told me that the kids
were doing research on animals and how they adapt to their environment (why
giraffes have long necks, etc.) She wanted each student to find descriptions
and pictures of EARLY giraffes and then how they mutated or evolved to what
they are now.  Where do teachers get these ideas? :-)

 Anyhow, I convinced her that we would have nothing on mutations and early
giraffes and that she should be happy we have anything on modern day
giraffes! Well, I didn't say it that meanly.....

So, I convinced her to drop the early evolution part and just concentrate on
the current animals and how they have features that make them successful in
their environment.

The problem never ends, no matter what grade level.


Stick to your guns! Does anyone on the team agree with you? I ALWAYS
presearch topics for the middle school classes exactly because they may be
too hard or we might not have anthing to do the job.  These kids are just
beginning to find facts and synthesize them  By your checking your own
resources in advance you can help guide them in coming up with essential
questions, get them started on brainstorming keywords, and help them define
their task into a doable project. Teachers have always been grateful if I
let them know that X just won't work in this library (of course I always
suggest an alternative). I think the teachers appreciate the footwork. As
for pathfinders, kids often do not realize what resources are available or
which ones are appropriate for certain tasks. This is part of the learning
process.  If they don't read magazines themselves, it might never occur to
them that periodical databases would fit their needs better than a book or
website.  Good luck!


Did the teacher explain why research needs to be a struggle? I'm wondering
if the "real" research leads to a PhD or if the teacher is talking about
students (aka: children that are learning) -:(

The students struggle enough with the note-taking, organizing,
paraphrasing, writing, recording sources, bibliographic format... thus any
assistance I can provide {like pointing them to reliable, authoritative
sources} not only helps students to achieve success, but also demonstrates
ways for them to "narrow" the focus (so to speak).

Pathfinders and topic lists also help with the time factor. Rather than
wasting several periods/blocks searching for materials, the students are
able to choose from the resources that are pertinent to their research.

I'm in a K-7 elementary school. I spend considerable time "showing" the
various resources available and teaching students ways to identify & locate
those resources. I don't automatically assume that students remember
everything - they tend to need "refreshers" and practice.
Our grade sevens do independent research projects (inquiry), in 6-week
cycles, all year long. Their ability to locate resources improves greatly
over the course of the year. By June these students are proficient
'researchers' - and they still, occasionally, need a bit of help locating
This is 'sort of' what librarians do. Isn't it?


I always ask the teachers to give me a list ahead of time so I can see if we
even have the topics needed.  I agree that I shouldn't do the research for
the student, but it's not going to be a learning experience if I don't have
anything on the topic for him to find.  What I do when I have a list of
topics is check to see what we have, then direct the students there.  I will
even pull books off the shelf that would work, and send them to the index.
If the teacher won't let you have the list, then you can't do YOUR job well,
in my opinion.  Good luck.


I am in agreement with you. I know my teachers do not try to test the topics
before assigning them to their students and then the students struggle and
waste a day at the computers. I try to suggest a more specific topic and a
guide sheet so the students know what information to find. I then try to
help the teacher show the students the various resources. I really try to
discourage the blind searching and am happy when the students tell me the
books are easier than the internet to find the information they need. Some
students will learn this inspite of the teacher's position on searching vs
researching. Just try to reach a few at a time. Good luck.


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

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