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Exploration to Formulation

One clarification for yesterday’s post, once the girls had their questions and understood that the homework would be exploring for information, time was spent introducing library resources for this task. We use EBSCO Discovery Service as our gateway to the library collection and databases. Since this type of search is new to most freshman students, instruction was specifically how to locate research starters and e-reference collections.

Day Two was very successful. The freshman were prepared with their handout completed and each had learned something about their topic identifying interesting, surprising, and unusual information. They identified questionable or controversial information and aspects they might still not understand. The final task on the homework had them identify two questions they might pursue as they continued their research.

The rest of the instructional period was spent practicing the development of key terms and using them in searches interspersed with instruction on narrowing search results using the database tools. By doing this within the class time, I was able to assist, reteach, and feel confident that the students were heading down a successful path. They practiced using synonyms and suggested subject terms from the database. We also reviewed the use of Boolean terms and other search strategies for the students with a limited amount of search experience. They used a handout to record their results using a concept cloud and by the end of the session had developed 2-4 successful key words with which to continue their Exploration. For myself and the classroom teacher, it was a time to work one on one with students and to identify where additional instruction/practice might be needed. Students were asked to complete this practice for homework and begin reading with the purpose of narrowing the concept/ topic to answer the questions they had formulated on the first handout the previous night.

The next day, Day Three, we moved on to the first phase of formulating a focus with a demonstration. Taking my own topic of interest, I modeled the next step of narrowing the concept/ topic to a focus. After listening to and watching me work, the girls were put into pairs and given time to “talk it out” with their partner. In an all-girls school, talking is a very successful strategy as there are not many girls who do not like to talk.  As the teacher and I listened in, we heard the student actively engaged and reflecting, building on what they had learned, and genuinely interested in continuing learning.  While they did not all come away from this exercise with a focus many of them understood what they needed to do next. We also observed a sense of stress release among them as they realized that each was in the right place and were not alone.

Upon completion of the “talk it out” exercise, we reviewed the next phase of Collection and how it would be a different sort of search and gather pertaining to the focus. We also reiterated relevance and redundancy as closure tactics. This ended our three days of instruction/practice on a Friday so that the students would have the weekend to absorb and maybe even reflect.

Next: A Week of Collection

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