This past year I’ve worked closely with our History 9 teachers to integrate skills into the curriculum, with a secondary goal of lessening the panic that sets in when a research project is announced. We broke things up into several short pieces:
- a scavenger hunt in our print and electronic resources
- an annotated biography of print and electronic resources
- a fully-cited PowerPoint
- a short (2-3 page) paper and glog (cancelled due to snow!)
- a 5-7 page paper that I helped grade for process
When I told people that I was grading the papers, the surprise was evident. So why was I? Because the teachers know content, I know process: did the students follow MLA format for their title page? were the facts cited properly? was the bibliography correct, or was it missing information (or out of order)? did they proofread, or did they just trust spellcheck? To make it easier on the students, I strongly recommended that they share their projects with me via Noodletools (I could see – and comment on – their bibliographies and their papers).
Gratifyingly, many students did use Noodletools and I think that their papers were improved as a result. Those that didn’t? Well, let’s just say their grades were lower. Here’s what keeps me up: what of all this will they retain over the summer? and what could be done better next year? Maybe there needs to be more on-line tutorials and in-class instruction on the basics of MLA formatting. It’s clear that many didn’t understand that it’s not just quotes, but ideas that need to be cited.
In April I attended a seminar at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education on College Bound Students and Independent School Libraries (notes to follow). The librarians there, from prestigious institutions, are asking themselves the same questions I am asking. Whether or not I’ve done my job will only be evident to them, as my students graduate and head off to college on their own.