The school I teach at is dedicated to rigor and the pursuit of elite higher education.  So the question has risen in our middle school, “Should we teach the research paper?”  It is a good question, especially since our school is also dedicated to technology as we are a fully integrated 1 to 1 school.  In the English department andthe History department we are asking ourselves, “Does the ‘Research Paper’ fit our school model and goals?”

Research, research, research

 

In today’s world knowledge is at our fingertips, instant, and the multitude of opinions on any subject abound.  So why do we need to teach the research paper that is based on a form focused on length, one opinion, and drawn out evidence pointed in one direction.  The answer…because it keeps students grounded and helps them create a conventional opinion based in a well-developed thesis that is substantiated in fact.  The counter answer…it shouldn’t be taught as it is old-school, no longer relevant, does not recognize alternative opinion, is to singular in purpose, too conventional, and does not recognize the various points of view in our modern world.

As high school student, Anthony Chivette from Missouri put it, “The need to know the capital of Florida died when my phone learned the answer. Rather the students of tomorrow need to be able to think creatively: they will need to learn on their own, adapt to new challenges, and innovate on-the-fly.”

Old Paper style or...

Is the research paper creative, adaptive, innovative?  Not so sure.  It almost seems to be the anti-thesis, but what it does do is teach our children to research and back up their claims with fact, which is SO important in this opinion media age.

Questions

The Teacher NETS 2008, http://www.iste.org/standards/nets-for-teachers/nets-for-teachers-2008.aspx, asks teachers to bring technology into education in a manner that improves their learning.  NETS 2.b states: Develop technology-enriched learning environments that enable all students to pursue their individual curiosities and become active participants in setting their own educational goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their own progress.  So yes, a research paper can be presented in a manner that promotes a student to investigate their own interest, creating their own educational purpose, allowing a student to manage their own learning, and ultimately they can assess their own progress by finding facts that support their opinion in a well proven thesis.  But is there a lot of technology-enriched learning?  Yes, there can be in the research that must sift through the never ending opinion vs. fact on the internet.

Buried in loads and loads of research?

The Student NETS 2007, designed by ISTE, http://www.iste.org/standards/nets-for-students/nets-student-standards-2007.aspx, definitely apply here:

3. Research and Information Fluency
Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information. Students:
a. plan strategies to guide inquiry.
b. locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media.
c. evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on the appropriateness to specific tasks.
d. process data and report results.

Facts vs. Opinions

And so do the Student NETS 2007 regarding critical thinking apply:

4. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources. Students:
a. identify and define authentic problems and significant questions for investigation.
b. plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project.
c. collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions.
d. use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions.

Students must learn to evaluate

The research paper can meld with technology and perhaps more importantly the research paper can be a catalysis to imbed the necessary NETS points above in our students.  Without the essential “Research” (Student NETS 3) and “Critical Thinking” (Student NETS 4) skills our children will be dangerously exposed in the media and opinion flooded modern world.

 

Is the research paper the best vehicle to teach these essential NETS?  That is a point perhaps best answered in a “Research Paper”, not a blog?