Over the last three years I have been playing a lead role in creating a whole school approach to research within Elgin High School.
This all came about, as I felt I had good knowledge on this aspect through an MSc that I completed prior to starting at EHS. At the same time, many teachers had highlighted that pupils were struggling with research skills within EHS and so I thought I could be of help here. I began by carrying out an initial audit to ascertain what research skills were being taught already within the school. It became clear that whilst all departments were teaching pupils research skills, approaches were fairly adhoc and varied. One of the main findings from my MSC was the importance of having a whole school approach with common language and goals. This would allow for continual reinforcement, as otherwise pupils would quickly forget the skills they had been taught. There was a clear need here and I felt it was a great opportunity to become more integrated within the school.
The information skills work group met up over the period of two years. Ten departments met up over this time. Due to staff time pressures, an issue was the ad-hoc nature of staff involved. It was clear though, that all staff who attended saw this as a positive move within EHS. Specific problems which had been highlighted included: Cutting and pasting issues Lack of general knowledge and basic vocabulary needed to search for information Lack of a clear direction – pupils were often seen to be going round in circles. Problems selecting resources which were truly relevant and reliable. The group discussed practical ways to go about resolving these issues and we came up with a set of strategies to use in Elgin High School. We also discussed the best way of disseminating these strategies out as a common approach throughout the school and it was Helen who came up with the idea of producing information skills packs for all departments. We were conscious of the fact that we did not want to give teachers additional work due to the time constraints that they were already under. We thought very carefully about the items going into this pack so that this would be a support to teachers’ rather than extra workload. .
The PLUS model was one of the main components in this information skills pack. We adapted this model to fit in with the needs of Elgin High School pupils. A good deal of discussion went into the steps included in this poster to ensure it adequately dealt with the problems that pupils were having in EHS. For example, a lot of emphasis went into the planning stage. As I highlighted earlier, we have many pupils with English as a second language. Many of them did not have the basic vocabulary needed for searching and so we ensured that we built up pupils basic vocab so that they could search effectively within contents and index pages and search engines etc. By ensuring pupils also have clear key questions this also helped prevent pupils from going round in circles. It was amazing seeing how well they pupils carried out the rest of the project by spending that little bit more time at the planning stage. We also felt that the PLUS model was an easy acronym to remember and helped to give clear direction to pupils. This model was also great at supporting a whole school approach as posters were distributed thorughout the school. Pupils could therefore see that this research process could be used in many different contexts and it helped to promote a common approach throughout the school.
The CAR model was also included in the information skills pack. We felt that this model helped to tackle the issue of pupils not being critical enough of Internet resources. Again this acronym was easy to remember, it does what it says on the tin – Current, Accurate, Relevant, and posters were given to all teachers to help achieve a whole school approach.
As highlighted earlier, we hoped to make life easy for teachers by ensuring the pack was a support rather than a hindrance. To do this the library teamed up with the Modern Studies department and we taught these core skills of PLUS and CAR during the first term of first year. This meant that all the groundwork had already been done, and all that teachers had to do was remind and reinforce the concepts that had been taught already. By including this in the pack, all teachers knew exactly what pupils had been taught already, so they could the use the same language enabling consistency, and could then build on this. Again this also helped to build on cross departmental working, this fulfilling the aims of CfE.
The final item that was included in the pack was .... These were the strategies that were discussed by the working group to help tackle some of the main problem areas in research. For example a couple of solutions to help prevent cutting and pasting included: Setting up printers to ensuring that URL’s are included on printouts. This helps pupils to remember where they found their information, gets pupils into the practice of referencing resources. (The teacher can also ask for these to be included that the back of a piece of work if needed). Making use of more complex wording whilst setting tasks – Instead of asking a pupil to write a report on Ancient Egypt, ask them to gather five resources on Ancient Egypt, put these together and analyse what they found. Another great strategy which helped to increase pupils basic vocabulary on a topic was to carry out a class word challenge. Choose a topic e.g. ‘Censorship’ – Every pupil in the class should come up with an alternative word for this topic (expand/ refine/ alter) – helps boost vocab and hierarchical understanding. PLUS – Logical and memorable approach highlighting core steps in research process CAR – To enable pupils to become critical of Internet resources Word challenge – Choose a topic e.g. ‘Censorship’ – Every pupil in the class should come up with an alternative word for this topic (expand/ refine/ alter) – helps boost vocab and hierarchical understanding. Pre-selected websites Vs Free searching – balanced approach needed. E.g. Look at three websites and then search for more on your own. (Helps differentiate and still gives them practice of critical research skills). More complex wording whilst setting tasks – Instead of asking a pupil to write a report on Ancient Egypt, ask them to gather five resources on Ancient Egypt, put these together and analyse what they found. URL’s on printouts – Helps prevent copying and pasting, helps them to remember where they found their information, gets pupils into the practice of referencing resources. Selecting the best three sites out of a group – improves critical thinking e.g. how relevant/ reliable are resources for a given task, helps pupils to become more selective, improves independent thinking needed for lifelong learning.
The information skills packs were presented to staff during a staff meeting. So what has been the impact of this initiative? It has been fairly slow progress but gradually more and more departments are asking for library support on this issue. It was hoped that once the packs were distributed the library could still carry on playing a key role. I have done this by providing the following services....... What is clear is that libraries have huge potential here as a key player with regards to research skills. Fits so well into CfE goals. I’m hoping to keep on building this up within the secondary school and to filter this out through primary schools too.
Elgin High School - Research
A curriculum for excellence Research Creating a whole school approach Simple Consistent Reinforcing Cross-cutting
Background <ul><li>The Librarian had completed an MSC related to this topic. </li></ul><ul><li>Several teachers had commented that there was a need to improve pupils’ research skills within Elgin High School </li></ul><ul><li>The Librarian presented her ideas to staff during an in-service day workshop. </li></ul><ul><li>Many staff were keen to move these ideas forward and so it was decided to create an ‘Information Skills Work Group’ within Elgin High School. </li></ul><ul><li>It was felt that this approach fitted in well with Curriculum for Excellence and cross departmental working. </li></ul>
Work group approach <ul><li>The work group discussed where pupil’s specifically had problems within the research process </li></ul><ul><li>A range of strategies were discussed to help overcome these problem areas </li></ul><ul><li>To help achieve a whole school approach the group decided to create an information skills pack for all departments which highlighted the strategies discussed above. </li></ul><ul><li>So what did the pack include? </li></ul>
PLUS Poster <ul><li>A PLUS poster was created to help teach core research skills. Significant thought went in to the step-by-step approach highlighted within this model. </li></ul><ul><li>This PLUS model was adapted from James Herrings model on the LTS website. Permission was sought from James Herring to adapt this model. </li></ul><ul><li>This model allows for a consistent, memorable and logical approach. </li></ul><ul><li>All teachers were encouraged to display an A3 poster within their classroom. </li></ul><ul><li>All pupils also have an A5 copy of this model in their school diaries enabling the model to be accessible to them at all times. </li></ul>
<ul><li>The CAR model helps pupils to be more critical of Internet resources. </li></ul><ul><li>This model was recommended in the article ‘Internet Orientation’ from an American journal - The School Librarian’s Workshop </li></ul><ul><li>Again this model aimed to allow for a consistent, memorable and logical approach and A3 posters were produced for all classroom teachers. </li></ul>CAR Poster
<ul><li>A joint Library/ Modern Studies research project has been developed to introduce first years to PLUS and CAR. This is taught between August and October. </li></ul><ul><li>A copy was included in the pack to help give teachers a clear idea of what pupils had been taught already. </li></ul><ul><li>Consistency and reinforcement was the aim. </li></ul>S1 Library/ Modern Studies Research Project
<ul><li>The Information Skills Work Group discussed a wide range of strategies to help teach research skills as a whole school approach. </li></ul><ul><li>Seven easy recommendations were included in a booklet. These were the strategies which were thought to work most realistically in practice within the Elgin High School context. </li></ul><ul><li>Strategies included ways to prevent copying and pasting and ways to help boost pupils vocabulary and hierarchical understandings. </li></ul>Seven recommended strategies for teaching research
Impact and next steps <ul><li>Initial feedback has been positive with an increased number of departments buying in to this initiative </li></ul><ul><li>The library continues to play a key role </li></ul><ul><li>Continued support has been provided by the library through the following services: </li></ul><ul><li>Ad hoc talks (inc PLUS/ CAR refreshers) </li></ul><ul><li>Project boxes </li></ul><ul><li>Web-searches </li></ul><ul><li>Interlibrary loans </li></ul><ul><li>Other services if needed. </li></ul>