Thursday, February 2, 2012

Starting Student Research


If you have considered, or are considering, implementing student-centered, long-term research projects, my guess is you have a few questions; such as, How do I monitor students doing various projects, at various stages? What is students want to design an experiment on a topic I know nothing about? What if the students get in over their heads? Can I include long-term research projects as part of my curriculum and still cover the required content? How can I ask my students to design an experiment if I have never done one? Questions like these are enough to send any teacher into a tailspin and drop the idea forever. However, I'm here to tell you, it can be done. You've come to the right place to get support! 

I am passionate about allowing students to perform their own research projects. Students should be allowed to develop questions about the world around them, and then use scientific skills to make observations and ...
collect data in order to find answers. The STEM Student Handbook is a resource that will support students in every stage of the process. Teachers or parents who have never completed a research project themselves, will find that the handbook provides the framework necessary to support students throughout the entire process.   
The STEM Student Handbook is a resource that bridges the gap between the middle school science fair and the graduate research project. For the purpose of high school research, the process includes;
a) a question that drives the topic
b) thorough background research & organization
c) a hypothesis
d) a strong research design  
e) data collection
f) statistical analysis & graphical representations  
g) communicating results
While each of these stages might be able to be accomplished in a two week unit, usually projects where students are the driving force behind everything from the question to the analysis, take more time. In my experience there are several ways that teachers, departments, and schools are choosing to incorporate long-term research projects into the curriculum. Sometimes it starts with a single teacher working with students after school. Other teachers add a long-term research project to an existing course and then work diligently to balance the content they need to address with the support students need to complete their projects. Sometimes a school is able to dedicate an entire course to student-centered research or provide similar experiences in summer enrichment opportunities. The STEM Student Handbook is dedicated to supporting teachers and parents in any of the above scenarios. 

However, if you want support, each summer I offer a professional development course for teachers/parents wanting to revamp their curriculum to include a research component. More information can be found on the Professional Development page. Additionally, the handbook and professional development course works for homeschooling parents as well. However, if parents are not comfortable guiding their children through a lengthy research project, I will be offering an online course that students can take. Check out the students page for more information (coming soon!).

Please also consider going to the Reader Forum portion of the website, where I've set up places to network with others who currently are or are considering implementing student research!

1 comment:

  1. I love your website and have shared it a group of colleagues equally interested in teaching using the inquiry based learning model. We are elementary teachers, some primary and some junior. I am wondering if you have any suggestions or advice for us in starting to use this more in our classroom, what it could look like, our role, assessment, etc. I would love to have them research their own topic but I also have to meet the provincial curricula requirements and so I am not sure, none of the group are, of how to do that exactly. Any enlightenment from you would be most welcome. I can send my work or personal email if it is easier to respond in that manner.

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