Science for High School

Adjusting to a Research-Based Curriculum

When a student has been used to the traditional textbook approach of learning a particular subject, changing to a research-based curriculum requires a bit of an adjustment. Traditionally, the student reads material from the selected textbook, answers the questions at the end of the chapter, and then has a test. In a research-based approach, there is no “official” textbook. The student will need to have an adventurer’s mindset, for he will need to ask himself, “where can I find the information I need on a level that I can understand?” We suggest the library, the internet (making sure the sites they go to are appropriate, of course), old/used books on the current topic. Your student will find the joy of learning, and will learn to develop the skill of finding answers which he will use for the rest of his life.

The first few weeks for any new curriculum are the hardest. The main adjustment for the research approach the student has is where he can find the answers to his research questions. Initially, it is unnerving not to be able to go to the chapter and look for the emboldened words! If he is allowed to use the internet, he can use his favorite search engine to find a topic. After a few weeks, he will find his favorite sites that will be his “go-to” sites before going anywhere else. The library is another excellent source where he can find books written in a way he can understand. After a few weeks of using the library, he will know which section/rack he will be able to find the books he will need for his answers, and will have his own favorite authors.

As time goes on, the student will begin to relish the idea of finding the answers on his own. He will read information that is written by someone who is passionate about the topic which comes out in the writing. He will be purposeful in finding information that is written in a way he can understand.) If he cannot understand the way one person writes, he can go to the next source and see if he can understand that one. He will have acquired the adventurer’s mindset and will enjoy the path to achieving the goal of finding the answers.

The research method requires the student to read a lot of information, process that information to formulate an answer to a research question. The student should be able to explain the answer and not just write what he thinks the teacher wants to know (or worse: “cut and paste” the information he finds). If the student cannot explain an answer, then he will need to find an answer he can understand and explain. This gives the student ability to store the information in a way he understands. When I understand something, I tend to remember it more readily. If I understand it, I won’t have to memorize it. The same will be for your student. Your student will discover the thrill of finding answers, of having the joy of learning for his lifetime and the joy of being in control of his learning with the parent guiding.