One of my favorite assignments when working with an upperclassmen group conducting research was when I came in to discuss the initial thoughts, tips, and tricks on “revving the engine for research”. For many teachers I worked with, I helped shape a document that set deadlines for parts of the research and subsequent paper that provided a realistic scaffold of conducting research but also helped demonstrate time management.
Specifically though, they had to submit several essential questions and a working thesis statement along with two complete citations of articles they had found so far. Then I graded this and went back into the classroom and talked with the students where they were given the next step: this was a formative grade, not summative. If students wanted to earn back points, they’d set up a meeting with me in the library and resubmit the assignment.
This served two purposes: first, students learned that revising and editing is as important as the process and the paper itself. Do not be afraid to revise. The second was that, we wanted them to grow as learners, which meant that reflecting on how well (or not well) something was working can be continually improved. So, providing an individual conference is a necessary step to provide reflection and also resources to help them move on, when sometimes students wouldn’t ask until it was too late, if at all.
As a school librarian, individual attention is just as important as group instruction, especially with upperclassmen. If in our large school of 2,500 students, their underclassmen teachers didn’t take advantage of the resources my colleague and I could provide, then students might not know the library was a resource. So as a sixteen, seventeen, or eighteen year old, individualized attention was almost a necessity to recoup some of that lost time from previous years.
And the levity they showed after a twenty-minute conference was a positive step in empowering them to ask questions, reach out, and reflect, so that they will return. So I leave you with a humorous meme from madamedefargeknits.tumblr.com: