Title Beginning Research for Homeschoolers in the Public Library

By Gregory Barnes,2014-04-01 18:50
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Title Beginning Research for Homeschoolers in the Public Library

Title: Beginning Research for Homeschoolers in the Public Library

    Audience: Instruction will be given to groups of 5-10 homeschooled students between the ages of 12 and 14.

Designers’ names: Briana Cahill, Natalie Carlson, Lindsay Cummings, Siobhan Lehotta

Rationale for the instruction: In today‟s information-driven society, students must perform

    research every day to interpret data, find facts and investigate new ideas. Yet, students are not born knowing how to research. Students need guidance through the research process. As students learn about the process, they will feel more comfortable with it and relate the steps to their personal needs (McGregor, 1999). The purpose of this program is to guide a group of homeschooled students through the beginning of the information seeking process. With guided support, the students will learn to define a topic, search for information, and evaluate discovered resources. As they work through the stages of the research process, students will develop strategies that they can apply to daily information seeking.

Goal and objectives:

    Goal for the program: The learner will understand the beginning steps of the information seeking process.

    Objective #1: The learner will formulate a clearly defined research topic.

    Objective #2: The learner will develop and execute a search strategy.

    Objective #3: The learner will objectively evaluate resources.

    Beginning Research for Homeschoolers in the Public Library


     1. Summary of unit

    The unit of instruction outlined below, will teach homeschooled students aged 12-14 research skills and strategies that can be used to support their educational efforts and promote life-long learning. The class will be taught in a face-to-face format with a range of learning activities. A variety of formats will be offered to ensure all students‟ learning styles are supported and

    students do not lose interest in the subject matter.

    Participants will begin learning about the research process through group discussion and worksheets. A Wheel of Interest activity (adapted from Duncan & Lockhart, 2000), will be introduced to help learners brainstorm new ideas. As learners pick their topics, they will be guided through a freestyle writing exercise to develop a topic interest. Instructors will use modeling and guided practice to teach learners about key word searching. In groups, learners will discuss search strategies and receive input from classmates. Using a power point presentation, instructors will teach learners how to evaluate and choose appropriate resources. Learners will individually evaluate websites using checklists of set criteria.

    Several formal and informal learning checks will assess learner achievement. Class participation is an important measure for instructors to understand how well the learners are comprehending the content. In addition, there will be activities such as creating search strings using Boolean operators, which will check that learners can apply their knowledge to the research process.

    Checklists and worksheets will focus learner attention to learning tasks such as evaluating resources and finding research topics. Throughout the learning unit, learners will document each step by completing a KWL chart, (Ogle, D.M., 1986). The KWL chart is a three column graphical organizer adapted to correlate with the three objectives in the learning unit. The three columns on the chart are labeled “What I know (K)”, “What I want to know (W)” and “What I learned (L)”. When completed, learners will use the chart to revisit the entire process. Learners will also demonstrate their knowledge learned by completing a research presentation independently, synthesizing the objectives into a final product.

2. List of resources required

    The resources needed for instruction include 8-10 computers with Internet access; an overhead projector; a whiteboard; dry erase markers; construction paper, markers, and colored pencils; encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesauruses (all from the reference section); paper and printer to produce worksheets, bookmarks and other course materials; and prize books.

3. Modes of instruction

    a. Detailed description of audience: The audience for this program is homeschooled

    students between the ages of 12 and 14. Homeschooled students at this age are self-

    motivated to complete projects independently, have increasing maturity to negotiate their

    own education, and are curious to explore individual interests in depth (Cohen, 2000).

    Homeschooled children are diverse and follow many different educational philosophies

    (Marquant & Parker, 2008). Additionally, homeschooled students are involved in many

    extracurricular activities and are as well-adjusted socially and emotionally as children in

    formal education (Basham, 2007). Due to the fact that homeschooled children are very

    diverse and are often taught using a wide variety of educational philosophies, once


    Beginning Research for Homeschoolers in the Public Library

    students are registered for the program, a formal needs assessment will be carried out to further individualize instruction for the members of the group (Marquant & Parker, 2008). Programs may need to be tailored to fit a variety of different learning styles.

    b. Cost factors: All preparation and delivery will occur in the library using previously purchased resources; the only cost factor is the amount of staff time needed. The library staff working on the program will spend a total of 60 hours on the program: two staff members will spend 24 hours each developing the program, and 6 hours each delivering the program.

    c. Staffing for development: A young adult librarian and reference librarian will work with 1-2 volunteers from the local homeschooling organization to develop a plan of instruction. The library director will oversee their progress and approve the instructional plans. Finally, the head of IT will be available as necessary to aide in troubleshooting.

d. Staffing for delivery: A young adult librarian and reference librarian will run the

    instructional program with 1-2 volunteers from the local homeschooling organization available to assist, as needed.

e. Development time available: The librarians developing the program will have a span of

    six weeks to plan their instruction.

f. Learning time available: The program will consist of one hour-long session per week

    over a period of six weeks. Librarians will be available to learners outside of scheduled sessions to supplement the lessons and activities offered in the sessions, should the learners need assistance.

g. Facilities for development: The librarians will use the staff conference room equipped

    with a wireless laptop to develop the program.

h. Facilities for delivery: Instructors will use the library‟s computer lab and meeting room

    for primary instruction. Other parts of the library such as the reference department will be used as needed to administer the program.


    1. Student Achievement

    a. Objective 1: The learner will formulate a clearly defined research topic The assessment for objective one will consist of the learner writing and presenting an essay about the one topic that they would like to research. The instructor will examine the essay to determine if the learner has answered the following essay points. The points are critical to a learner determining if the topic is interesting and has sufficient room for further research.

Essay Points

    1. A sentence that starts with “I would like to research ____________.” This sentence

    will simply define the learner‟s topic of choice.

    2. The reason(s) why this topic is interesting or personally meaningful.


    Beginning Research for Homeschoolers in the Public Library

    3. A few details of what the learner already knows about the topic. It is okay if they don‟t

    know much.

    4. A few questions the learner has about the topic. The learner will describe what they

    would like to learn more about.

    As the learner reads the essay aloud, the instructors will check that they have included each of the essay points mentioned above. By checking for these points, the instructors can gauge if the learner has picked a research topic that will sustain the learner‟s interest throughout the program and is neither too broad nor narrow. It is also an indication of how engaged they are in the topic to begin the searching process of objective #2.

    The instructor will make a copy of the learner‟s essay and present it later to stakeholders as evidence of the learner‟s beginning steps of research. If a learner is having trouble defining a

    research topic or explaining reasons for interest in the topic, the instructor will set up a one-on-one appointment with the learner to work through these issues after that day‟s session.

b. Objective 2: The learner will develop and execute a search strategy.

    A classroom assessment technique will be used to assess the learner‟s comprehension of

    objective two. This assessment will require learners to individually complete a worksheet, similar to the worksheets completed as a group during the instruction, for their own topic. The instructor will review the worksheet to be sure that the learner has developed a successful search strategy for their topic according to the process taught in class.

    After completing several examples with the class, the learner will work on a worksheet individually that will focus on the topic they have chosen. The instructions for that worksheet will be as follows:

    1. On the line provided, write a sentence that describes the information you are

    interested in finding for your topic.

    2. Extract up to three key words (concepts) from that sentence and create a small table

    using those concepts. Each concept should be listed at the top of a column.

    3. List as many synonymous terms or phrases that you can for each concept. These

    terms or phrases should be in the rows underneath the concept they belong with.

    4. Insert connecting Boolean operators into the table, as necessary (hint: OR connects

    synonyms of the same concept; AND or NOT connect different concepts).

    5. Formulate several search statements based on the table you created (be sure to include

    the Boolean operators in the search statements).

    The learner will first discuss what they have developed in small groups. They will then share their worksheet with an instructor. Both discussions will gauge understanding and facilitate feedback that the learner may use to revise their terms and subsequent search statements. The results will be used to revise instruction or activities, if necessary.

c. Objective 3 The learner will objectively evaluate resources.

    For objective three, a checklist will be used to assess the learners‟ performance while they are evaluating the resources for their topic of interest. One checklist will be given to the


    Beginning Research for Homeschoolers in the Public Library

    learners before they begin evaluating their resources, and one checklist will be completed by the instructor as he/she is observing the learner working through the evaluation process and as the learner and instructor are discussing the process that the learner went through. The checklist will consist of questions pertaining to the criteria of the CRAAP test, (adapted from Meriam Library, 2010). CRAAP is an acronym, in which each letter stands for a new evaluation criteria: Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose. Sample

    questions include:

    ? Does he/she evaluate the resource for currency? (ex: Does the learner check when the

    material was published/updated? If it is a webpage, does he/she check that the links

    are still active?)

    The data generated through this assessment is strictly for informal use. Not all evaluative criteria can be applied to every resource; therefore, just because a learner did not use one particular criterion does not mean he/she did not learn how to use it through the instruction. The assessment can be used by the learners so that they can see what tasks they should be performing to evaluate and what areas they need to work on. The assessment results will be used by the instructors to re-design future instruction.

    2. Quality of Instruction

    a. Audience(s) and rationale: This program is for homeschooled students between the ages

    of 12 and 14. The purpose of the program is to teach learners the first steps of the

    research process and evaluate information as they explore individual interests in depth.

    The primary stakeholders who will be interested in the success of the program include

    library staff, library administrators, the Friends of the Library, parents of homeschooled

    students and the local homeschooling organizations.

b. Reasons for audience(s)’ interest: The homeschooled students have enrolled in the

    program to learn effective starter strategies for independent research. The stakeholder

    groups will be looking for proof that the program was beneficial to participants (i.e. the

    learners enjoyed the program and the instruction led to changes in the learners‟

    information seeking behavior). With this evidence, funders will decide how to proceed in

    funding future endeavors.

    c. Assessment tools: The first assessment tool will be a survey to students. The survey will

    consist of a series of 10 or more questions which will address the quality and scope of the

    course. Sample questions include:

    1. What did you think of the program? Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor

    2. Which activities in the program did you find the most interesting?

    3. What information were you hoping to learn from the program?

    4. Provide one example of how the program has helped with your independent


    5. Do you have suggestions on how to improve the program?


    Beginning Research for Homeschoolers in the Public Library

    The second assessment tool will be an interview with parents of program participants which will help determine if the program has met the information needs of the homeschooled learner. The interview format will elicit longer responses to collect qualitative data that can be used to design future programs. Sample questions include:

    1. Did the instruction cover a topic that is important to your children? Please explain.

    2. Would you recommend the program to friends and family? Why or why not?

    3. Have you seen a change in the way your children search for information?

    4. Are there topics you wished had been covered in the program?

    5. Do you have suggestions on how to improve the program?

    d. Logistics of the assessment: The survey will be handed out to students at the end of the last session along with an offer for a prize when returned to the program instructors (librarians). The prize will consist of a small bag of books that cover different genres for the age level. Parents will be interviewed by phone or in-person 1-2 weeks after the last session is complete. This will ensure that parents have enough time to observe any changes in their child‟s information behavior as a result of knowledge learned from the program.

    e. Analyzing and reporting the data: Much of the data collected from program

    participants and parents will be qualitative responses that can be summarized and used to create a narrative. Additional information from in-class assessments will be used to provide examples of learners‟ work and progress throughout the program, including learners‟ final research presentations. The program designers will publish a report and

    present the findings to the Library Administration, Friends of the Library and Library Board of Trustees. This report will outline the activities that were most successful, how the program has benefited the targeted audience and what suggestions are proposed for program revisions. In addition, the program findings will be used to recommend future library programs which can complement and improve service to the targeted population. A written summary of the program benefits and outcomes will be published in the library newsletter and posted on the library website to inform the community.

    3. Revision

    a. Data obtained through the checklist completed by students while evaluating resources will be used to revise instruction. For example, if the checklist reveals that many learners were incorrectly defining the purpose of the resource, instruction for that particular criterion would be further developed. Perhaps a session devoted to fact vs. opinion would be added, or a brief demonstration of the three main purposes (entertain, inform, persuade) would be included.

    b. Responses from participant surveys will indicate what activities they liked and did not like and how well the learners are able to use the knowledge and skills acquired in the program. If the responses indicate that the topics covered were insufficient for the learners, instructors will be able to change the content of the coursework to meet the needs of the learners. For example, if the survey responses suggest that learners are


    Beginning Research for Homeschoolers in the Public Library

    having trouble implementing new search strategies in their educational research activities,

    instructors can create future programs to explore that topic in more depth.

    Responses from the parent interviews will identify the program‟s strengths and

    weaknesses. For instance, if parents observe that learners are very adept at identifying

    key concepts and terms that describe their topic of interest but can‟t evaluate resources

    for currency and authority then instructors can use this information to strengthen future

    lesson plans to address deficiencies. Additionally, instructors can look at the overall

    program feedback to determine if changes in schedules, facilities, staffing or equipment

    are needed.


1. Introductory Activity

    Before starting a program, the instructors must identify any problem areas that may need immediate attention during implementation. Some of the logistical issues that may arise include issues with covering staff schedules and fixing technical issues that arise. Homeschooled students may bring other learning issues to the class. For example, program participants may be at different learning levels; learners may have library anxiety or be unfamiliar with library jargon; learners may be stressed out by time restraints and learners may not be used to a formal classroom setting.

    Several techniques can be used to solve these issues. Program participants who are more advanced will be encouraged to help the beginner learners to finish an activity. Fun scavenger hunts, tours, and a library glossary can introduce learners to the library space. Instructors can begin the program with an introductory game to help learners feel comfortable with each other. Furthermore, instructors will encourage learners to continue working in the library after the session is over, offering their help to learners if needed.

    To begin, the instructor will ask learners to volunteer their definition of research. Using responses, the teacher will create a quick list on a white board. Some points the instructor will emphasize are: 1) research is an ongoing process; 2) research skills are needed throughout life to answer day to day to questions; 3) good information is hard to find; 4) learners need to understand how to evaluate information resources; and 5) it is beneficial to follow a series of steps to reach an information goal.

    After discussing the research process, the instructor will present a KWL chart (Ogle, D.M., 1986). The purpose of the KWL chart is for students to track their research progress. Each column is labeled with a heading. The first column labeled „K‟ is for „Know‟. Learners will ask themselves: “What do I already know about my topic?” As learners solidify a topic they will use this column to write about the topic they decided to research. The second column labeled „W‟ is for „What‟. Learners will determine what they think they should learn about the topic. Learners will fill in the key words and search strategy they develop in the second column. The third column labeled „L‟ is for „Learned‟. The learners will use this section to write about the information they have found about their topic. They will write about the resources they used and why.


    Beginning Research for Homeschoolers in the Public Library

    After introducing the chart, the instructor and learners will create a chart together. Using a new example such as bird-watching, the instructor will use a white board to go through the process of filling out the KWL chart. The learners will generate ideas to fill in each column and the instructor will use the ideas to create a paragraph for each column.

2. First information literacy objective and activities

Objective #1: The learner will formulate a clearly defined research topic.

    This IL objective of the program will teach homeschooled students how to choose a good research topic that will sustain his/her interest throughout the research process. Students will also be instructed in preliminary research, which will allow them to explore topics before finalizing.

    The instructors will introduce the Wheel of Interest activity (adapted from Duncan & Lockhart, 2000). The Wheel of Interest activity takes the form of a worksheet. In the center of the worksheet is a small circle, where a learner will write his name. The “name” circle is in the center of a larger circle split into six even sections by lines, resembling a wheel with spokes. Each wheel section has its own category: hobbies, family, school, job, travel, and interests.

    An instructor will pass the Wheel of Interest worksheets out and demonstrate first how to complete it. Using a white board, the instructor will draw a Wheel of Interest, writing her own name in the center of the Wheel. She will fill in each Wheel section with corresponding examples from her own life. For instance, in the “travel” section, the instructor could write

    “Paris” and then draw an arrow from that and connect it with “Want to visit the Eiffel Tower” or any other detail or note that this interest may inspire. All the while, the instructor will be thinking aloud to model the brainstorming process. This metacognitive approach gives the learners an example of how an expert might begin thinking of topics to research.

    Learners will then begin to fill out the Wheel of Interest worksheet in pairs. While doing this, they will be encouraged to talk about their interests with their partner. This informal discussion will help the brainstorming process and jump start creative thinking. It will also encourage group interaction among homeschoolers, especially those who do not have daily peer-to-peer interaction and may be shy. When the learners have filled up each Wheel section with several interests/details, the group will go to the reference section of the library.

    In the reference section, the instructors will pass out a bookmark that briefly defines what kinds of books and information are in the reference section, including encyclopedias, dictionaries, atlases, etc. The instructors will briefly go over the reference bookmark and explain how reference books can help you find introductory information on many topics. Then, the learners will be asked to put a star next to their top three interests or topics from the Wheel. The instructors will tell the learners to start looking in reference books for basic information on their three topics and to think about which one of the three they would like to pick as a final research topic.

    As the learners work individually for 15 minutes, the instructors will visit each learner, asking them what they have found so far and what one topic they would like to choose. The instructors will also address whether a topic is too broad or too narrow and suggest to learners ways to


    Beginning Research for Homeschoolers in the Public Library

    change the scope. This activity gives learners practice with preliminary research, exploring topics at a basic level before deciding on a final topic and diving into more in-depth research.

    Returning to the conference room, learners will decide on one topic and then fill out the K (“What I already know”) column of the KWL chart. This will help them to prepare for the assessment phase of the objective.

    Next, the group will gather back into the conference room. The learners will be given an essay sheet. They will write a freestyle essay that contains the following points, outlined on the sheet:

    1. A sentence that starts with “I would like to research ____________.” The learner will

    choose one of their three top interests to further research and clearly state the topic.

    2. The reason(s) why this topic is interesting to the learner.

    3. A few details of what the learner already knows about the topic. They can include

    previous knowledge or anything was just learned during the reference activity.

    4. A few questions the learner has about the topic. The learner will describe what s/he

    would like to learn more about and why.

    Each learner will then read his/her essay aloud to the group. This is an opportunity for homeschooled students to share with their peers, a situation more typical in a formal schooling environment. It also will encourage a student research community, supporting each other as they begin the somewhat intimidating process of research.

    Instructors will informally check for learning in several ways. During the Wheel of Interest activity, the instructors will wander from learner to learner and check that learners understand the worksheet concept and are filling it with interests. If a learner is struggling to write interests down in a certain category, an instructor will ask a nearby learner to share what they wrote and encourage discussion between learners. This could possibly help the struggling learner to look at the category from a different angle and come up with a few things to write down. By having learners sharing with and helping each other, they are forming a supportive community and may lessen the frustrations and fears that come with beginning research.

    In the reference area, the instructors will follow their brief introduction of reference books with a few simple questions to check that the learners have read over the reference bookmark and have learned a few facts about the purpose of reference books. While learners explore their topics in reference books, the instructors will talk to each one individually and assess if they are finding enough preliminary information to warrant more in-depth research. The instructor will also ask learners what topic they would like to pick as a final research topic and their personal reasons for choosing it. By asking these questions, the instructor can gauge if the learner is on their way to choosing a topic that will sustain their attention throughout the program and research process.

    When learners read aloud their essays, the instructors will mark off if they have addressed each essay point. If a learner has missed a point, the instructors will prompt them to answer that point on the spot. If the learner struggles to answer, instructors will open it up to the group to provide suggestions. By answering these points, the learner will understand what a good research topic consists of, a statement of what you‟d like to research, an interest in the topic, and ideas for


    Beginning Research for Homeschoolers in the Public Library

    further exploration of the topic. They will also become more prepared to enter the searching stage of research. The instructors will be made aware if certain learners need to adjust their topic and will ask them to write a new freestyle essay before the next session.

3. Second information literacy objective and activities

Objective #2: The learner will develop and execute a search strategy.

    This objective focuses on teaching learners how to formulate successful search strings for the final topic chosen during the first objective. Using keywords and Boolean operators, learners will understand the components of a search strategy and be able to use that strategy to formulate search strings.

    The first idea that needs to be explained to the learners is how to pick key concepts out of their topic to begin their search. Each searching action begins with a concept. However, not everyone expresses that concept using the same terms. Instructors will emphasize that synonymous terms and phrases are necessary in order to conduct a complete search and not miss important information. The instructor will demonstrate a few examples of how to pick a key concept from a topic and then find synonymous terms and phrases for that concept.

    The instructors will then pass out a worksheet where learners will be able to try examples on their own. Each worksheet will have a list of concepts that will be randomized so that some learners have the same concepts but not all learners have an identical list. There will be space under each topic for the learner to write synonymous terms and phrases. To find those synonyms, learners will be instructed to use a thesaurus. Once they have completed their worksheets, students will get into small groups to discuss their findings, and then the class will discuss their findings in one large group.

    The next idea to be introduced to learners is the idea of Boolean operators. Explaining to the learners what Boolean operators are will help facilitate their understanding of the difference between searching with a strategy and searching without a strategy.

    ? AND is used to narrow search results.

    ? OR is used to expand search results.

    ? NOT is used to narrow search results

    The instructors will then demonstrate, with class participation, an example of how using Boolean operators can affect a search. For this exercise, 1 learner = 1,000 search results.

    ? We will begin the exercise with a basic search. Anyone wearing blue, please stand up.

    (Ex: 3 learners stand up) A broad search statement gives us 3,000 results to look through.

    ? To narrow the search, we will use the Boolean operator AND. Anyone wearing both blue

    AND yellow, please stand up. (Ex: 1 learner stands up) The results have been narrowed

    from 3,000 results to 1,000 results using AND.

    ? To expand the search, we will use the Boolean operator OR. Anyone wearing both blue

    AND yellow OR just yellow, please stand up. (Ex: 2 learners stand up) The results have

    been expanded from 1,000 results to 2,000 results using OR.


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