Friday, January 9, 2009

Using Resources as a Way of Life

Recently, I’ve been trained in a curriculum review process that uses a rubric to assess content as part of a cooperative peer learning opportunity. Everything about the process is fairly standard, but as I worked my way through the rubric, one point caught my attention. It asked if the course content ensured students understood the services provided by the school itself that could assist students in reaching their educational goals. Hmm. Do my courses do that for my own students?

In the past, I’ve taught classes where the guidance department came in and did a short orientation of its services, and I’ve had entry-level classes I’ve taken on a tour of the library facility. However, in the majority of the courses I currently teach, those orientations and tours occurred over a year ago. One of the things I enjoy about teaching is the small bubble I build with my students for an hour or so each class period; lots of the resources my students need, I provide or direct them to within the walls we share. As I reflected upon this rubric question, I realized I don’t teach my students to access the resources that surround them in our school community by themselves. What if they think they might need to be tested for a learning issue? What if they really need a part time job to keep coming to school? What if they have a problem with someone on the bus that just won’t go away? What if they want to research something privately, without my help? As maturing adults, shouldn’t they know how to access these resources independently?

I find this omission of mine especially ironic because during the research essay process, I teach about finding and evaluating useful resources. (Ahem.) Would it be so difficult to point out that not all resources come via the library database? That some of the resources students might need could be found right where we stand?

Since my years as a Pollyanna are behind me, I know part of why I don’t routinely send my students to other parts of my institution. Dead ends, busy lines, or miscommunication between school professionals and my students have led to tales of woe as well as me ditching lesson plans reliant upon survey questions for Career Services or the Testing Center. How can I emphasize school resources to my students without sending vacant foot traffic that creates busywork for my peers? What’s a meaningful way to fulfill that rubric question?

It’s something I’m thinking about as I prepare lessons this semester. My first idea goes to the Web. I think I might ask students to brainstorm some student issues that impede educational goals as part of a “Let’s get off to a great start!” initiative. After we record the issues on the board, we could try to identify what parts of our school could help with each of those problems. I’ll assign one of the issues to each student and send students to the school website to see if they can find the answer or a contact person for the problem they’ve been assigned. This process would be a micro-version of a research process. I also like the idea of modeling research and activation of resources as a way of life. I’ll be interested to see if this process seems meaningful…

co-posted on Between Classes: Living a Balanced Life as a Quality Teacher

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We are definitely in an age where access to resources is necessary, while at the same time, navigating the plethora of information out there must be evaluated. I offer my students the possibility of researching and sharing sites/articles that they discover and may address issues discussed in class. Time is always the prevalent monster ready to expedite the rush to complete a teaching unit both from the teacher's perspective and the student's production constraints.
Wouldn't it be great if someone could be "hired" to seek out and evaluate resources in cyberspace? As long as time plays a hefty role in the day to day management of information, resource research and sharing of that resource may be skewed and not as accurate and vast as they should be.