Rethinking How Students Do Research

Research doesn’t have to be a flat experience. If students ask the right questions that require investigation and critical thinking, research can spark passion and curiosity. It can be an exciting exploration into topics that lead to discovery.

“It should pop up into one’s thoughts at odd times of the night. It should prickle the intellect as a persistent itch prickles the skin. It should be a passion, a temporary obsession, page count unlimited. It should not be a pesky, tedious assignment.” –Cathy Fraser

In her new book, Love the Questions: Reclaiming Research with Curiosity and Passion, Cathy Fraser shows us how to lead students to think more critically about information through genuine inquiry. She argues that if students consider heftier questions while doing research for a project, they’re more likely to transform the information into something more meaningful. Here are some ideas to think about before assigning your next research project.

Espousing a Culture of Inquiry

Students have a hard time coming up with research questions. Fraser believes that by getting students to comply with the rules of citizenry in the school community, we’ve inadvertently squelched their natural curiosity. But Fraser believes that this trend can be reversed by opening the avenues to inquiry. “Real research leads to discovery. It begins with inquiry, but in order to form great research questions students must have a substantial amount of background knowledge,” (Fraser 2018).

Evolution of the Research Question

Coming up with a meaningful question can be difficult. Some questions may be too broad, and some questions are too surface level. Fraser suggests putting off developing research questions until students have read more about the subject. The more they know about a topic or person, the easier it will be for them to identify a problem or a question. “A student should experience something—even vicariously—before he can develop sufficient feelings of interest to invest his time in thinking more about a subject,” (Fraser 2018).

Making Connections: The Missing Piece

The piece that is missing from student research work is the prior knowledge they’ve gained throughout all of their years spent in the classroom absorbing content and other information. Fraser believes that we do not encourage students enough to draw on what they already know, to make connections to prior reading they’ve done, or even consider interests they pursue on their own time. “If we make connections for students even briefly on a regular basis, they will see that it’s a valuable exercise, and it make break down the dividers between disciplines. Everything is connected,” (Fraser 2018).

Preliminary Reading on a Topic

As part of their research, Fraser believes that it is important for students to read authoritative essays that express opposing viewpoints on their chosen topics. They may have an emotional response to the reading, which would lead to more questions. Ask the school librarian to help you track down articles, or essays can be found on subscription databases such as Gale and EBSCO Host.

To learn more about how to implement these ideas in the classroom, go to www.stenhouse.com/content/love-questions

REFERENCES:

Fraser, Cathy. 2018. Love the Questions: Reclaiming Research with Curiosity and Passion. Portsmouth, NH: Stenhouse

Add comment December 7th, 2018

Now Online: Living the Questions — Second Edition

Gardening rather than agriculture is the analogy for education.
—Lawrence Stenhouse

For many years, teachers have criticized education research for not being relevant to their needs, or for being written in a way that fails to connect with classroom practice. Teacher research—an extension of everyday teacher inquiry and reflective practice—starts with a pressing question or problem, and the solution can produce immediate benefits in the classroom.

Thoroughly revised and expanded, the second edition of Living the Questions takes you step-by-step through designing and implementing research projects that inform instruction. Presenting a variety of rich examples of real projects from teachers across the country, Ruth Shagoury and Brenda Power help you hone your inquiry skills and better understand your students, while developing your own community of researchers.

The new edition incorporates new technologies for conducting research, analysis, and sharing/networking; offers more short examples from a greater diversity of teacher-researchers; and provides many more research designs.

Living the Questions will inspire you to take the leap into a rewarding and fulfilling process of discovery. Preview the entire text online!

Add comment January 23rd, 2012


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