Friday, April 25, 2014

They made my day!

Twice yesterday, students came into my office to formally thank me for the help I gave them during 1:1 research appointments. Topics they were searching for, "traumatic brain injury" AND football; sociological impact of cross-cultural marriage; required locating resources they could understand, access and investigate thoroughly in order to write a 5-10 page research paper. Few of the students at Reedley College make appointments ahead of time, they come in usually when they are in a panic. This was the case with these two students; and because I had not prepared for them ahead of time, I continued to search long after they were gone off to class. Subsequently, I emailed them later with the results of my searches, providing keywords to search, and locating materials avaialbe on our shelves. I want the students to know that their work is meaningful to me and their taking the time to ask for help will garner them more help.

It really made my day for them to make the effort to stop in and offer their thanks and express how our sessions made a difference in their work. Both received high scores and felt that they were going to finish the courses with excellent grades. This is music to a teacher's ear; to know that the time spent helped a student to learn research techniques, ask thought-provoking questions, and enjoy the process of discovery.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Research, critical thinking, and Instruction

Students learning to research are often faced with with the dilemma of how to think critically about their basic query, what do they want to know and how to they search for the answers. First and foremost their search behavior determines the results they find. If students don't care about the topic, or find no relevancy or immediacy, why do it? So what?
I appreciate that professors often will allow students to research topics of their own choosing, however unimportant it may seem to the professor; giving students the chance to stake a claim, find relevancy in their search, and search a variety of sources is good practice. Important to that search is conversation and dialogue about it for the student to clarify and express their interest and reasoning for the research in the first place. Upon having these conversations with students, I have found an underlying desire to solve a problem they have experienced or stand up for an issue they believe in. Gone are the days of the pro/con debate over abortion, marijuana legalization, or the benefits of same-sex marriage, not only because professors have adamantly refused to read any more such papers, but also because professors have required students to do a bit of thinking, and perhaps should require more of that.
Is critical thinking lost on the digital native? Is the ability to post anything anyone wants online, and retrieve anything anyone wants causing a "so what?" attitude in research? Even about topics they care about? Many of today's college students are unconcerned about issues not of their choosing or not "liked" by them. They seem more intent on just finishing, doing good enough work, to be through, and to move what or where is yet to be determined.