As the research skills you teach middle school students can last them all their lives, it’s essential to help them develop good habits early in their school careers.
Research skills are useful in nearly every subject, whether it’s English, math, social studies or science, and they will continue to pay off for students every day of their schooling. Understanding the most important research skills that middle school students need will help reach these kids and make a long-term difference.
The research process
It is important for every student to understand that research is actually a process rather than something that happens naturally. The best researchers develop a process that allows them to fully comprehend the ideas they are researching and also turn the data into information that is usable for whatever the end purpose may be. Here is an example of a research process that you may consider using when teaching research skills in your middle school classroom:
- Form a question: Research should be targeted; develop a question you want to answer before progressing any further.
- Decide on resources: Not every resource is good for every question/problem. Identify the resources that will work best for you.
- Gather raw data: First, gather information in its rawest form; do not attempt to make sense of it at this point.
- Sort the data: After you have the information in front of you, decide what is important to you and how you will use it. Not all data will be reliable or worthwhile.
- Process information: Turn the data into usable information. This processing step may take longer than the rest combined. This is where you really see your data shape into something exciting.
- Create a final piece: This is where you would write a research paper, create a project or build a graph or other visual piece with your information. This may or may not be a formal document.
- Evaluate: Look back on the process. Where did you experience success and failure? Did you find an answer to your question?
This process can be adjusted to suit the needs of your particular classroom or the project you are working on. Just remember that the goal is not only to find the data for this particular project, but to teach your students research skills that will help them in the long run.
Research is a very important part of the learning process as well as being useful in real-life once the student graduates. Middle school is a great time to develop these skills as many high school teachers expect that students already have this knowledge.
Students who are well-prepared as researchers will be able to handle nearly any assignment that comes their way. Finding new ways to teach research skills to middle school students need will be a challenge, but the results are well worth it as you see your students succeed in your classroom and set the stage for further success throughout their schooling experience.