High Quality Work - Claim 2:
Research: The Independent Project Process
Independent Project Pre-Trip Phase
The pre-trip phase of the 8th grade independent project (IPP) research builds on previous learning of research skills in 6th and 7th grades. From here, all students jump into new territory by going deeper into specific areas of interest and become experts designing their own research purpose, focused research question, fieldwork process, and documentation methods. The pre-trip process starts with equalizing the broad background knowledge in several areas: Anthropology (cultural and social); Geology; and Biology. Students choose a general focus within one of these larger areas to begin their research process working in small teams of similarly interested students. They engage in a research progression moving from general background learning to creating original field research documentation pieces.
Students gain background in their chosen topic through reading sources that build historical context, foundation concepts, and/or place-based information in the student’s general focus area. Students use the close-read protocol to deeply understand the readings including writing gists, and/or “making tracks.”
Students use a research folder system to organize information. Digital bibliography creates a numbering system to tag evidence with the corresponding resource. As students narrow their focus area, they hone sub-topics to match area of study. Student researchers rearrange note cards to use as evidence in areas/sub-topics the information best supports.
Students build on previous work of determining importance in a text that supports the particular focus. they work explicitly on skills to capture information while avoiding plagiarism.
Writing an Expository Research Paper
Students write an expository research paper explaining background of their topic. Beginning with a well-developed outline, they then write a first draft including a focused thesis statement, developed sub-topics with cited evidence, and a conclusion. Having previously in the year written a scaffolded research paper (and practiced research skills starting in 6th grade), this time they apply their skills where their first draft is an on-demand assessment. After initial assessment, students work through the writing process using peer and teacher feedback protocols to revise multiple drafts to a polished research paper. Students later reformat this paper to use as background in their final presentation product.
Focusing and Planning Field Research
With a depth of background knowledge, and an area of interest, students learn how to write a purpose statement for their research. They identify the action of their study and through feedback and revision students polish this to a workable statement that helps build the student’s field research process. This statement is the jumping off point to writing a field research question that drives their upcoming research beyond what they can learn from written resources.
Simultaneously to the background paper, students identify areas of interest within their topics, and more focused resources are selected, read and notes captures. Students independently select resources using a practiced criterion for identifying and evaluating information resources for accuracy, relevance, and depth.
Creating Fieldwork Research Documents
Once purpose statements and research questions are written and refined, students develop data charts, write interview and follow-up questions, and build ownership of the fieldwork by identifying and advocating for opportunities in the trip where focused fieldwork will happen, and also would be possible. Students write a Methodology to share a concise statement of purpose and process.
Post Trip Phase
Results Section: After the trip phase and the fieldwork are over (see Authenticity section) students collate their data. This is where it gets messy. They read through notes, listen to interviews, study photos, videos, and drawings, talk to fellow researchers, analyze charts and numbers, find patterns and outliers, and create meaning from their information. Students identify and design a method for showcasing the data and finally summarize the results of their study (see Capstone section).
Synthesis: The final step of the process is to write their synthesis, a reflection on the learning, field research experience, and where they can go from here. This final piece helps solidify the value of the entire process. (see Capstone section)