Research across the curriculum

Rereading the Blog of Proximal Development that Will Richardson recommended and visiting other high schools has stirred up thoughts for me about how compartmentalized both high schools and many colleges are in terms of curriculum.

hightechhigh.jpg   As I said previously, one of the things that excited me the most during our site visits last week was seeing some interdisciplinary connections, because I think they reflect more accurately how we really learn.   While we all need the fundamental background in order to even know how to pursue an interest, we also cross over lines of the curriculum when we begin to research something.

In his post on his Blog of Proximal Development, Konrad Glogowski pointed out:

We need to give our students the freedom to learn and engage with ideas that they find relevant and important. I think it begins with stepping out of what Will today referred to as the “Comfort Zone of Content.” It begins, it seems to me, when the teacher becomes a learner and replaces the static curriculum documents with inquiry, conversation, knowledge-building, and personal networks.

As a librarian, the library(hopefully) is an optimal environment to see students doing that sort of inquiry and personal knowledge building, and to see the “lights go on” for many of them while they are pursuing their interests.

But my question is–how can we broaden the use of research across our entire curriculum, so that students see research as an integral part of the field of history or science or math, etc.?   Careers in almost every core subject are defined by constant learning and research and change, and research isn’t separated out into a “unit” but is part and parcel of how people in these fields work. 

The internet has created an environment where following up on information becomes a more spontaneous process.   But do we even have enough computers in each classroom to really allow students to get online and in the moment, find what they are curious about?

The other integrative aspect of making research opportunities a natural part of the curriculum is that it crosses over curricular lines and classroom walls–students may begin pursuing an interest in science and invariably end up crossing into math or possibly art or history.   Students may begin studying a novel, as we often do here, and end up crossing over into history and art.   The connections are real and waiting to be discovered.

So, my question of the day is–how do we already embed research into our curriculum, and are there courses and places where we can do a better job at making inquiry and personal “knowledge building”  a living and breathing part of how we teach our courses?  And how can I better support that across the school?  What tools do we need to help with this?

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