Today is the first day of teaching the research paper and I must say I am completely hoarse. All of my classes are working on one in some form or other, and I am doing my best to make the process as easy as possible for them to understand. The thing is, it shouldn’t be that difficult.
Students research all the time, but the problem is that they research incorrectly or do research that is based in complete nonsense or half-truth. I do not know why, but my 11th graders (and even some of my 12th graders) will access Wikipedia, Ask.com or Answers.com for what they call “legitimate research”. How many of these sites do I have to ban before they understand that these sites are not peer reviewed or viable sources of information?
Today I spoke to them about the benefit of being a good researcher by introducing them to the idea that people who use faulty research are the sheep of the world and those who practice proper and careful research are the wolves. This video will help them “get it”.
Suddenly the light bulbs came on. I asked them: “Are you a sheep or a wolf?” With this simple act I have given my students a tool that helps them understand the mindset in which they are to approach research. It is kind of like my student’s misunderstanding of why I was so eager to take a pie in the face on “Pi Day”. It was to raise money for the student council, yet some of my students were shocked that their stodgy old teacher was so excited on the day he was supposed to get the pie in the
face. I think they thought I was supposed to be scared of it. I am happy to help them, to deface myself for a laugh, to give to them a chance to throw a pie in the face of the “meanest teacher”, the teacher that is “so mean” that he assigns homework on a frequent basis. The fact is that Mr. Colby is 100% wolf and doesn’t care about his “image” if it will benefit others or help them not take their lives so seriously.
In this same way I do not want my students to be sheep even though I know that in our culture that many of them will indeed stand in the field and eat the hay and wonder what is going on. I am working so hard to turn them into wolves, to help them think for themselves, and in my efforts hopefully some of them will go forth and howl.