The Bigger7

23 Sep

As a librarian part of my job is to assess resources. The textbook that my library course uses outlines three different methods for the research process. The three process are Information Seeking (by Kuhlthau), the Big6 (by Eisenberg and Berkowitz) and Research Process (by Stripling and Pitts). My colleagues have also suggested looking into the Research Quest information gathering process. It is a good thing that the internet is available as a resource because I am so glad that I learned about Research Quest (click here for the process overview).

I read Information, Communications, and Technology (ICT) Skills Curriculum Based on the Big6 Skills Approach to Information Problem-Solving by Mike Eisenberg, Doug Johnson and Bob Berkowitz (Library Media Connection, May/June 2010), the creators of the Big6 Research Process. The article focuses on using technology for the entire research process. Eisenberg et al. states that “students need to be able to use technology tools with flexibility, creativity and a genuine purpose” and that this works best within a concrete research model. This article presents a laundry list of ways for students to use technology while researching a topic; however, I think this is also a weakness. When I think about the student population at my school, I cannot say that they all have access to the appropriate technology and resource knowledge to be able to complete the research process. I also have a problem with limiting research to technology experiences as this format may  not take individual learning needs into account. All in all, the technology suggestions in this article are interesting and I will refer to this while creating a research project but I do not think that I would follow this research process or subscribe to the idea of completing a research project using only technology based resources.

It is possible that part of the reason that I found fault with this article is that I feel like the Big6 research approach lacks a set time for critical evaluation of information, internalization of knowledge or formation of new or unique ideas and perspectives. When I teach research skills, I like the simplicity of the Big6 but I would want to include one step in the Big6 and make it the Bigger7. I think that after “information use” there should be time to assess the information and meld it into their understanding of the topic before synthesizing. The opportunity for students to holistically understand the information can be an opportunity for them to make use their individual learning styles (this may involve artistic renderings, conversation, acting it out, creating a song, etc as a step before the completion of their final product).

When I did my Master’s thesis I spent so much time thinking about the research I was doing and discussing it with the people around me. This seemed to allow me to put many of the pieces together. When researching a new topic, students never have the complete understanding of an expert and often they simply end up regurgitating facts and other people’s opinions.

To complement this article, I also read Nudging Research Projects towards Critical Thinking by Courtney Pentland (School Library Monthly, Volume XVI, Number 10/June 2010). This article recognizes that often students are only searching for certain information without extending their understanding of the topic.

Pentland stresses the importance of students doing research that forces them to interact with the material. This is often accomplished with three key components: time, student choice and questioning. For a research project to be meaningful, students need a sizeable mount of time to conduct the research, work on the product and then present their learning to their peers. Student choice also helps increase critical thinking because students will be more interested and invested in their research. Choice can come in a variety of forms: topic choice, project choice or audience choice. I believe that the third component – questioning – is actually the most important necessity to encourage critical thinking. Pentland urges educators to ask essential questions; questions which force students to create new thoughts about a topic based on the knowledge that they have found during the research process.

I believe that Pentland saved the best for last. For me, the most valuable section in this article is the final page where she presents “Examples of How to Nudge Projects toward Critical Thinking”. The examples of critical thinking projects are phenomenal. For instance, a typical biology project about biomes would be for students to research a given biome and create a brochure with a set number of biome characteristics. However, a critical thinking project would be for students to choose a biome, research a problem that exists for that biome and then create an advocacy presentation that provides information on the biome, the issue and a possible solution. To further develop students’ investment, Pentland suggests that in the end the class could vote on a biome project that they would support throughout the year. A critical thinking research project such as this is much more extensive than the project in its original form, but it would be so meaningful for students.  

After much thought about these research processes, I would want to develop a critical thinking project such as one of the ones outlined by Pentland, using the Research Quest method and accessing some of  technology suggestions provided by Eisenberg et al. In the end, I don’t believe that the Big6 is big enough. After using the Big6, students would be able to follow a research process, but I want to push them further. I am thankful that Reidling, my classmates and other journal articles provide options for me to deepen and expand the way that I to teach the research process.


One Response to “The Bigger7”

  1. Anne Letain October 17, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

    The goal is always to get anyone to think deeper, longer…but not always realistic. However, it sometimes takes just one golden student to realize that you’ve made a difference.

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