A lot of schools book library instruction whenever there is a science research project assigned. I have noticed a growing trend throughout my three years that background science researchhas not been communicated thoroughly to students and then they become confused and frustrated when they arrive at the library to gather research.
Controlled vocabulary plays a big part. Topics definitely play a part. I do think that the biggest disconnect is the students and teachers do not understand that the library research process as it pertains to science. In order to search for resources, we need to know the exact term of either the scientific method or process. Does that make sense? English students can usually dive right into finding information for their topics (controlled vocabulary usually just helps in further filtering). Even with databases being simpler for English students to use, they usually are already resistant to using databases even as they are finding out how to broaden/narrow their topic based on the information they find. On the other hand, most science students cannot even find the information they need before we start talking about applying filters. Science is usually trickier to research and has become the area where I see the most research frustration.
For example, I'll never forget one tour, when the kids were divided into groups to look for books their topic when one kid came to the desk to express his frustrations to me. He walked right up and yelled, "There are NO BOOKS HERE ON WHY BAKING SODA MAKES COOKIES RISE!!" I went through the research interview process and then had to figure out where would this information be located. The first was just locating its background (type of salt) its proper scientific name: Sodium bicarbonate and then looking in our chemistry non-fiction section in the salt books and (we did have a book on sodium bicarbonate) I also doubled searched in the cooking section to see if I could get anything there and landed upon a few things. After this process, the student exclaimed (much calmer--yet still agitated), "Why couldn't they have just wrote the answer to my question in this book?"
I hate when the library gets a bad rap because research seems time consuming and grueling work. I’ve taken steps over the years to continually revise my lesson plans to communicate to teachers and students that while science may require extra steps, it is possible to find information.
I’m trying something different this year.
My handy-dandy lesson plans.
I will be highlighting databases as needed. I usually rely heavily on Gale Science in Context since most kids can browse by topics and it helps for easier searching instruction. I will probably review in detail to make sure they understand how helpful it is to know beforehand the science behind their question. The important objective is to communicate the background science work that needs to be done on their research question. I will have a science dictionary and encyclopedia handy for students who need to browse through for correct scientific names.
Let me know if you teach middle school or high school science library instruction? What works for you---do you notice any trends with students learning how to research? Hit me up on Twitter