Since our class ended in early March, I've been reflecting on how we can improve the research portfolios. As it stands now, the students include annotated bibliographies in the portfolio, along with recommendations for the agency. The recommendations were a new requirement this past quarter. Our aim was to get students to synthesize the information they were finding, rather than just summarizing it. In most classes, they would write a paper. However, our class is only 2 credits, and the focus is supposed to be on the research process, not writing the research paper. So we thought the students could take the summaries a step further and make a few recommendations (bullet points, even) based on the information. For example, the students might recommend "Project READ could consider using this assessment tool to measure x, y, or z." I'm not sure what happened, but the students didn't understand this part of the portfolio at all. Perhaps since writing recommendations isn't a typical assignment, they were caught off guard. Maybe students do not understand the agency (and/or what the agency does) well enough. One suggestion someone recently gave me is to create a fill-in-the-blank worksheet to practice writing recommendations together in class. This kind of assignment and practice could help alleviate confusion. For example, the students could fill in the following blanks to practice writing annotations or recommendations:
- The author's thesis is __________________________.
- The method used in this study is ____________________________.
- This article applies to our research topic because_____________________.
- Project READ could use this information to _____________________________.
What other ideas do you have for how students can synthesize information (to address Information Literacy Competency #3: "The information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system." (ALA, 2000).