What We Know
Research includes concepts of critical thinking, inquiry and problem-based
learning. Successful researchers are able to identify problems or questions
for research, locate sources to solve problems, analyze the validity of the
resources and synthesize that information to solve a problem or answer a
The concept of students as researchers responsible for constructing their own
learning developed in the middle of the 20th century with the work of John
Dewey and Benjamin Bloom. These educational leaders developed theories of
inquiry that challenged the traditional paradigm of the student as a passive
recipient of learning (Loertscher & Woolls, 1997).
Research into the human brain shows that our brains make the strongest
connections through actual experiences. To help students make these strong
associations, educators can provide students with opportunities to solve
authentic problems (Wolfe, 2001).
Students in the elementary grades should begin to develop the building blocks
of a strong research foundation. It is not until adolescence, however, that
most students display the increasing abilities to think abstractly,
reflectively and critically, which are prerequisites for conducting
independent research (Zorfass, 1998).
Teachers should be encouraged to use research in their classrooms because it
has been demonstrated to have a positive impact on student performance. In
Educational Programs That Work: The Catalogue of the National Diffusion Network
(Lang, 1995), the U.S Department of Education's National Diffusion Network
cited many successful programs that used curricula employing techniques of
actively involving students in research projects (Zorfass, 1998).
"We want our young adolescents to develop inquiry skills so that they can be
active researchers both now and in the future."
--Zorfass, 1998, p. 6
"Here's a chance for individual students to choose topics that really interest
them and begin to make a piece of intellectual territory their own. Students
can be active learners...gathering material and attempting to explain it to
--Zemelman and Daniels, 1988, p. 257