Today I am co-teaching with our librarians--truly amazing educators. I am fortunate that I am the only teacher who is in the library today so my students will have their full attention! We are in the library so the students can move beyond their personal knowledge and begin gathering relevant information to support their claim that answers their self-generated essential question that is the topic for their argumentative research essay (W 9-10. 7).
As the students arrive, they sit at the tables in the research section of the library. I will reinforce that not all information is best accessed on the internet. They are required to use as least one reference book in their essay. By starting in the reference section, I hope to encourage them to begin their research in books. They can move onto the internet and to the available databases once they have spent some time in books (W 9-10. 8). This is our only day in the library and they are required to have at least two books as resources for their essay.
Once they are settled. I ask them, 'What is bias and how does it impact your research?"
I begin with bias because students can use personal experience as evidence. I don't want them to dismiss quality supporting information for no other reason than it contrasts with their experiences.
The answer I seek is that bias is a preference for one position on an issue or way of thinking over other possibilities. As a class we go on to discuss that it is impossible to completely eliminate bias. However, a failure to acknowledge bias from sources will effect a writer's credibility. As researchers, the students have to determine the usefulness of potential evidence. Examining the bias of the website, article, book, or person is the first step into making a decision about the relevance of evidence.
I give the this scenario. You just got your licence and your parents will buy you a car if you can convince them that the car you pick is the optimal car for a teen driver. Now, I tell them that they can get information from the following sources:
1. Consumer Reports magazine special issue on car safety
2. The local car dealer's website
3. Advice from their friends who already have licences
What are the potential biases of each source? Which source has the most credibility to you? Which source has the most credibility to your parents? and Which sources has the least credibility to your parents?
At some point in the discussion (all they will want to talk about is what kind of car they wish they could drive), I will remind them that their parents are the audience. If they want a car, they have to be credible to their parents.
Eventually they will realize that they need to use Consumer Reports to sway their parents. They also have to admit that they may not get the car they want (usually something sporty or a giant truck), but they will get a reliable car that is better than no car at all.
Next I pass out s research source sheet. I want them to keep track of their investigation Also, I want them to write down not only the source, but the relevance and the potential for bias.
One of the librarians reviews how to access the database and that the card catalogue is on line. One library is in the reference section and one librarian posts herself between the nonfiction and the computers. I remind the students that this is a synthesis activity. It is their responsibility to apply the skills we have learned this year to the essay and the Celebration of Learning Presentation. Before they ask me a question, they have to ask at least two peers. If none of them know what to do, all three of them need to see me or one of the librarians. I want them to find the confidence to move toward independence.
I take a seat in the reference section. I tell them if they got a 'see me' on their EQ proposal and/or their claim and counterclaim sheets, I am here and available to give them some feedback. Most of the students who got a 'see me' have a slight glitch in their logic that I need to clarify with them before they begin writing.
Students use the rest of the time to work independently and/or seek help from the Librarians or me.
Not only do students have to write their essential question essay, but they also have to incorporate the their final presentation called the Celebration of Learning (This video is an example of the EQ section of a final presentation). The goal is to share their discoveries with their peers (SL 9-10.2).
As the class winds down, I tell them that we are in my classroom tomorrow. They will have a work day to either continue their online research or begin drafting their essay. The library is closed for a computer refresh, so no passes to the library. Students need to bring everything they need to class.