Foster and Gibbon’s Studying Students [McGee]

Studying Students: The Undergraduate Research Project at the University of Rochester (Foster & Gibbons, 2007)

The purpose of the Library Study at the University of Rochester was to examine the practices of undergraduate students during the process of writing course-assigned research papers. The study took place during the 2004-2005 academic school year. The research question was “what do students really do when they write their research papers?” Through the process of answering this question, the researchers believed that information gained from the study would enable library staff to better “help students meet faculty expectations for research papers and become adept researchers” (p. v).

In order to answer the research question, the study’s design involved the gathering of information from specific sources. To start the project, researchers needed to determine what the faculty’s expectations were in regard to the research paper assignment (this was to be achieved primarily through interviews). Additionally, interviews were also conducted with library staff and focused on the support areas of reference outreach, facilities, and web services.  First, researchers needed to understand how and why students approached (or avoided) the reference desk for assistance. Second, an examination of facility use was done by identifying when, where, and why particular physical space was used by students. Finally, the researchers examined how students used the web to assist with their research papers.

Faculty Expectations of Student Research

The results of the faculty interviews indicated that there was a wide range of faculty expectations for student research papers. Almost all of the professors indicated that high school training was “far from sufficient in preparing students for research pursuits at the college level” (p. 4). Interestingly, the faculty interviews also indicated that graduate students knew how to research, but the faculty members were unable to identify how the students gained the skills. One of the faculty’s biggest concerns related to student failure to exercise good judgment in selecting high-quality resources for their research papers.  A second concern was focused on student tendency to write summary-type papers without articulating critical thought. Finally, the faculty believed that poor student writing was a major concern. One of the major benefits of the librarians conducting the faculty interviews was the improvement in communication between faculty and library staff. This improvement in communication would allow for the bridging of the “gap of understanding by helping students figure out ‘what the professor wants’” (p. 5). This information also led to the training of eight librarians as writing consultants. Workshops were designed and implemented to help students “through the final steps of preparing a well-crafted research paper” (p. 6).

Asking Students about Their Research

To address the reference desk information, students who approached the reference desk for help on a research project were asked a series of survey questions about their research project. Additional student interviews (15) were conducted at two other locations on campus. One of the major outcomes of the student surveys and interviews was the knowledge that the librarians need to take a more active role in connecting students to appropriate and targeted databases for the research paper assignments. As a result of the findings, librarian office hours have been expanded to locations outside of the library. For example, librarians set up offices within departments for greater accessibility for faculty and students.

Night Owl Librarian: Shifting the Reference Clock

To respond to the perceived low numbers of students accessing the reference desks in the libraries, the researchers opted to expand the services offered via the reference desk by adding late-night hours (9-11 p.m. up to four additional nights per week during peak times – toward the end of the semester) and setting up a text messaging (or instant messaging service). It was believed that students would access these additional services because of the “nature” of students to work late into the evening while also accessing their electronic communication devices (cell phones).  Both expansions of service failed to increase reference desk access by the students.

Library Design and Ethnography

Armed with a 5 million dollar renovation grant, the library was scheduled to go through a modernization product. The researchers got permission from the dean of the library to work directly with the architect for the changes to the library. The research team used a “charrette” workshop style technique to solicit feedback from students regarding their ideas about the redesign of a 23,000 square-foot section of the library. According to the researchers, the librarians’ ideas about what was needed for the students and what the students indicated (through design sessions) was needed did not match. Through the charrette process, two key learnings emerged for the researchs: First, gathering student input was not a “burdensome [or] time-consuming process” (p. 29); and second, researchers do not always know what is needed (in this case the librarians thought they knew what the students needed).

Dream Catcher: Capturing Student-Inspired Ideas for the Libraries’ Web site

For this focus of the research project, the researchers assembled two groups of undergraduate students to gather feedback about the design of a preferred library website. The first group was given the charge to make recommendation on the design of a new website by starting from scratch – develop a website without looking at the existing library website. The second group was given the charge to redesign the existing website by looking at it and making improvement suggestions. Four main ideas emerged from the workshop activities:

  1. Many of the existing library services were recommended for the website.
  2. Additional links to other university resources should be included on the library website.
  3. Students wanted the library website to be personalized for each user.
  4. The library website should be designed and used like a portal – a place to work from while easily accessing other resources.

Photo Surveys: Eliciting More Than You Knew to Ask For

To better understand how faculty conducted research, researchers visited their offices and interviewed faculty describing and pointing to resources in their respective offices. The interviews were also videotaped.

To better understand student behavior as it related to research, the team decided to use a photo survey approach and have student take photos of particular (pre-identified) items/activities. Once the photos were submitted by the student, interviews were conducted with the students to discuss the photos. This project was referred to as the photo-elicitation interview model. Some of the twenty items that the students were requested to photograph were:

  • The computer they used in the library showing its surroundings
  • All of the stuff that they took to class
  • One picture of the library to show to a new freshman
  • Their favorite place to study
  • Something they’ve noticed that they think others don’t notice
  • A picture of their room showing their computer
  • A place in the library where they feel lost

The purpose of having the students take the photos was to create the opportunity for information to surface during the interview that might not otherwise surface if the interviews were prompted by questions only.

Mapping Diaries, or Where Do They Go All Day?

The research team designed and used a mapping activity for students to keep track of their movement around the campus for an entire day (with time indications) with a ten-minute interview at the end of the day. Two groups of students were studied and included on-campus residents and off-campus residents. The mapping diaries indicated a number of commonalities between the students’ movements:

  1. Students do more than just attend classes.
  2. Students are highly scheduled and on the go all the time.
  3. Students’ schedules are ‘offset’ from librarians’ schedules.
  4. Students eat on the go.
  5. Students carry their belonging with them, but not their laptops.
  6. Students use computer technology throughout the day and in multiple locations.
  7. Students study in the library, at home/in their dorms, and in the computer lab.
  8. There is no ‘average’ day for a student. (pp. 50-52).

As a result of the mapping activity, five themes emerged from the observations. First, most students study in the library and many of the students viewed the “library as the ‘center’ of their day” (p. 52). The activity revealed that students wanted a variety of study places to meet their various needs. Second, none of the students who participated in the mapping activity carried laptops throughout the day. Since most of the use of the laptop for research occurred in their dorm room and not in the library, it was discovered that the library needed to retain the public computers available to students working in the library. Third, since undergraduate students eat on the run, the fact the students could eat in the library might be a contributing factor as to why so many students used the library during the school day. Fourth, the student hours for academic research did not match the librarians’ hours for staffing the reference help desk. Often, students would not arrive at the library until after 9 p.m. Finally, students who did not live on campus needed addition technological support via more computer access points in the library.

What an Experience: Library Staff Participation in Ethnographic Research

The uniqueness of this study was the design and involvement of so many library staff members. Participants identified several person benefits to their participation. For example, the participants felt more optimism because of their active role. Others indicated that they were intellectually stimulated by the ethnographic methods employed for the study and felt that their relationships with faculty members had improved. Having a better understanding of student issues and perspectives related to research paper assignments proved to be valuable for all of the participants. Additionally, the participants felt that their interactions with students at the reference desk became more “two dimensional” rather than the librarian only “telling” the students where to find the information (p. 59). Understanding the expectations of the faculty regarding research assignment for students underlined the need for greater clarity with students. Finally, the instructional sessions where librarians offer workshops needed to change – more interaction with students was important as it was more engaging for the participants.

Then and Now: How Today’s Students Differ

One of the key findings for the research team was related to the generational changes that have occurred for undergraduate students and the need for the library staff to recognize and respond to the changes. Understanding the changes is best summed up with the report’s statement “When most of our library staff were in college, we had stereo systems, electric typewriters, dorm phones, office copiers, and sometimes televisions at school” (p. 63).

Conclusion: Creating Student-Centered Academic Libraries

The essence of The Library Study is that the libraries need to be more responsive to patrons – students and faculty- by making changing in design, service, and communication. The library needs to become a user-centered facility (serving the needs of the patrons). Organizational change in the types of services delivered by the library staff needs to occur to keep up with the changing demands of the patrons – this includes the improvement and modernization of updated and meaningful communication channels.

Discussion Questions

  1. The design of The Library Study was very interesting. How would you use this type of design at your school site? Is it feasible considering the human and time resources that would be required?
  2. One of the most intriguing parts of the study was the use of cameras. What is an example of camera use at your school site and what would be the benefit of using this approach?
  3. During the facilities discussion in the study, reference was made to the use of remodeling grant money to redesign a 23,000 square foot section of the library. Since it is not realistic that most of us will have access to this type of funding to leverage during a formal study, how might we focus on facilities issues without funding to change anything?
  4. It seemed that the information the researchers gained from the study was far from earth-shattering or surprising. Why are formal research studies even necessary for this type of project? Why does it take a study to flush out information and mobilize stakeholders?
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24 thoughts on “Foster and Gibbon’s Studying Students [McGee]

  1. On the topic of question one… I don’t think that the culture of our school site will allow for such a study. In this case, a study that requires staffing. Our library is an after-thought at best. The librarian is usually busy running other errands and programs for the principal. We are allowed 20 minutes every other week…Talk about fostering a love for reading. Now that I think about it, my classroom library gives the school library a run for its money.
    (Q2)-Big fan of cameras… one of the first things that we do in my classroom is send home the camera permission slips. The slips are designed to cover the legal issues of having photography, video, and live video (via Skype) in the classroom. I think that cameras allow students to personalize their learning. Cameras give them control of content (and choice too). During our “My Community, My Culture” projects with various countries, students are given the freedom to photograph anything (within safe reason) that they wish to share about. The end result has been depth and meaning, which is something I think we all strive for in our offices and classrooms.
    As for Q3, I’m a 6th grade teacher that has yet to understand why money is spent and where it came from… When our new principal came in three years ago, he dug up the time capsule and buried it outside of his office window (so he could keep an eye on it I suppose). He then added a huge addition to an outdoor amphitheater that never gets used. Guess what? It still doesn’t get used. I think the contractors were on site for 4 months. I’m guessing that wasn’t cheap. Now I hear that construction crews are tearing out a large chunk of teacher parking to add ANOTHER drop-off area to the school. I think we are losing ten parking places. Maybe I’ll be parking at the neighborhood park next year.
    (Q4)…I love the idea of earth-shattering surprises. Maybe here I can apply something I learned from our PBVUSD Parent Surveys/studies we conducted in Cummins’ class. One of the major themes from the parents was the idea of “If the district wanted information or help…then JUST ASK FOR IT.” It’s almost laughable. If we have questions about anything. Look at the population of users and ask them what they think.
    Troy

    • In response to Q4, I think it is amazing that something so simple, like asking parents for their input, not just in school site council meetings or PTA forums, but by using surveys or interviews can give schools great information on how best to serve the school population. I have been a teacher for 13 years, and my daughter has been in the public school system for 5, and I have yet to see my school give a survey to parents or been asked to take a survey as a parent. Since parent involvement has been linked to improved student academic success, it seems more energy should be put into finding out what parents think.

      • It’s interesting that you experienced the same issues that the parents we surveyed were experiencing. When I announced to the parent meetings (during Cummins’ class) that we were going to give the parents a “voice,” they were literally shocked, indicating that most had never been consulted in any school site decision-making process. It seems like parent involvement has always been part of the “trifecta” for student achievement…interesting that “we” sometimes ignore its existence.
        Troy

    • You crack me up Troy. I love the part where you say, “Guess what, it still doesn’t get used.” It is sad that schools have no money but principals still spend money on new techniques, etc., but teachers never use them. I

    • Troy I love that you have your own library! Our librarian is housed on two sites. With her lunch and travels, our students don’t have access during their lunch. This year, she is going to take her lunch after the students’ lunch, hopefully this will give our students more access.
      In this case, the fault is with admin.(which I am part of!) for creating such a schedule,not with the hard-working, school-hopping classified employee. I am hoping (been bugging and repeating whenever I get the chance) that we could give her her FTE status, by making her a 1/2 time librarian at one site and fill in the remaining hours with an aide position. Then, the school that doesn’t have her could hire their own 1/2 librarian. Two 1/2 time librarians have more hours at their schools than splitting one.
      I know there are contractual issues involved, but this is what I am hoping (pestering) to happpen.
      Your students are more than lucky to have your for a teacher.

  2. Q2: I am intrigued by the use of cameras in this research project. I really like Troy’s use of cameras in his curriculum also. I am not sure about using this methodology at my school site, but it would be interesting to use it as a component of a reseach project myself and other cohort members are working on involving the effectiveness of the performance based system Lindsay Unified has implemented. I can envision asking students to take a picture of: the tools in which they use to access their performance level in each classroom, what the classroom looks like on a typical work day, examples of their work, etc… I think these pictures along with surveys, and interviews would enlighten the research immensely.

    Q4: I think research studies such as these, even though they appear to reveal common sense results, are important in order to get the stakeholders to understand and accept what is really needed to improve and change systems. These types of studies can confirm anecdotal or hypothetical causes and/or solutions that may not have been considered otherwise. As I learned in a previous research project, the most simple solution can be overlooked, as it is just that, too simple to seem to be of real value, when in fact, it is exactly what is needed.

    One thought I had in regards to this research project, but unrelated to any of the discussion questions, was whether or not librarian approachability was analyzed? In my experience, from my first encounter in my small town library to the many university libraries I have used, the most frequent interaction I have had with librarians has been negative, as they often have made me feel as if I were bugging them or that what I was asking was so evident how could I waste their time even asking it. I wonder what the research revealed in this regard? Because of these experiences, I do not ask the librarian anything unless I am desperate. Not to brown-nose or anything, I do like the CSU Fresno librarian that has helped our cohort. He seems to be an exception.

    • I agree with you Becky when you say, “The most simple solution can be overlooked, as it is just that, too simple to seem to be of real value, when in fact, it is exactly what is needed.” This was clearly illustrated through many of our analysis projects through Dr. Cummins’ class. I think that most of our “best” solutions that we had chosen based on potential for success, research, and equitability are solutions that have not been fully explored by our clients of the study.

  3. Perhaps the “act” of having the research project take a primary role is the message that we send that tells everyone that there is an “official” issue that needs to be dealt with. It’s funny how society (sometimes) tends to complicate things, even though the good intentions are there. On another note, you are not the only person that I have heard talk about a negative interaction with a librarian. I like Dr. Newell too!

  4. 1. The design of The Library Study was very interesting. How would you use this type of design at your school site? Is it feasible considering the human and time resources that would be required?
    At my school this type of design study is somewhat feasible. The librarian at my school is amazing and goes above and beyond to help all of the students. She is there a before and after school for a minimum of an hour beyond her work schedule, during all lunch periods, and during recess. However, we do not have the human and resources needed to open the library during the evenings and weekends that some students may require for success. That aside, my librarian does provide individual, small group, and whole class mini-lessons on how to use the library and conduct research.

    2. One of the most intriguing parts of the study was the use of cameras. What is an example of camera use at your school site and what would be the benefit of using this approach?
    I found the use of cameras in this study very intriguing. The only difficulty that I can see with using cameras at my school site is in dealing with my “high profile” parents. I think that there would be a lot of legal issues that we could run into. However, I would love to use this idea during my dissertation with Lindsay’s PBS. It would be interesting to have the students use to cameras to see how they feel their about their school day routines, learning activities, PBS, and if they are able to access their own learning achievements.

    3. During the facilities discussion in the study, reference was made to the use of remodeling grant money to redesign a 23,000 square foot section of the library. Since it is not realistic that most of us will have access to this type of funding to leverage during a formal study, how might we focus on facilities issues without funding to change anything?
    We could focus on the physical layout of space within the facility. Sometimes, changing the layout will make it more conducive for the needs of the students.

    4. It seemed that the information the researchers gained from the study was far from earth-shattering or surprising. Why are formal research studies even necessary for this type of project? Why does it take a study to flush out information and mobilize stakeholders?
    Formal research studies, such as this one, are often needed to show stakeholders the documentation that they require before they are willing to consider making a change. In this situation, without this simple research study, several changes could have been made to the library that were not conducive to improving student research practices since the librarians did not have a clear objective of what the students really needed.

    • Anna:
      You are very lucky to have the access to the library and the devoted librarian at your site. Like Troy, my middle school does not offer enough open hours before, during, and after the school day in which students can access books and the facility. Many schools have had to cut back on library access due to the budget, and my school is no exception. I cannot see this type of study, specifically related to the library to be of much value at my school at this point in time. I do, however, really think the design of this study could apply to other research studies that might benefit my school site. For example, surveying or interviewing staff, students, and parents about how the school day is set up could be of great value. Using mapping, cameras, and student website and scheduling input could create a great deal of buy in from students also. The leadership at my school creates a schedule based on how easy it is to set up, with no regard for what the teachers and students need or want. I think by implementing the strategies used in the library study and using the results as a guide, my school would be able to develop a schedule that could produce profound affects on academic achievement and student and staff motivation.

      • Excellent observation about using this type of study design for an approach to changing the instructional schedule for the school day. I see real potential for several action research projects that follow this study design. It is very time consuming and labor intensive, so it may very difficult to replicate at the high school level.

  5. The design of The Library Study was very interesting. How would you use this type of design at your school site? Is it feasible considering the human and time resources that would be required?

    Response: At my school, the librarians are wonderful! They read to the students before they go to look for their books, they are there to help them with finding the “just right” book, and they are an integral part of our Battle of the Books program. Unfortunately, their time is limited by the funding source they are paid through. The usage of the library was an almost monthly “public comment” at our board meetings last year. The a.m. librarian comes in when school begins and the p.m. librarian is pulled to do office work for most of her assigned hours. The library is closed much too frequently for meetings and such. The Middle School is where the time in the library is so very important. There was talk as the Board was looking at plans for the remodeling of the Middle Schools to move the library closer to the main street and perhaps partnering with the Kern County Library system to have the library open to the public in the evenings and Saturdays. Sadly, the KC library system for most of our students and their families is not what it should be. So the design would not work for us until such time as the State / Federal leaders see fit to provide the monies to ensure the services are available.

    One of the most intriguing parts of the study was the use of cameras. What is an example of camera use at your school site and what would be the benefit of using this approach?

    Response: At my school, as at my previous schools, cameras are used by teachers for classroom projects and for the yearbook. Camera use, for the most part, is not a big issue for us. Most parents sign the consent for their child’s photo to be taken/used. The approach that was used has some real potential for my school site I think. I think that I could use the idea of taking pictures of things at school and around school to have my students do a writing activity to introduce the school / their class/ my class to new students.

    During the facilities discussion in the study, reference was made to the use of remodeling grant money to redesign a 23,000 square foot section of the library. Since it is not realistic that most of us will have access to this type of funding to leverage during a formal study, how might we focus on facilities issues without funding to change anything?

    Response:The issue of facilities without funding, unfortunately, is a reality for many schools. I think that many schools go to the bond process to find monies for the improvement of / repair of facilities. I know of a teacher in my district who has wanted to have an amphitheater built at her school site. She knows that the District will not fund such a thing and so she has been looking at other funding ideas, the most recent being the Donor Choose website. I think that we will need to keep looking for other options to fund many things in the future. We will need to get creative!

    It seemed that the information the researchers gained from the study was far from earth-shattering or surprising. Why are formal research studies even necessary for this type of project? Why does it take a study to flush out information and mobilize stakeholders?

    Response: I think that I agree that the information was not earthshattering or surprising for those of us in the field and who are challenged to provide what we know the students need with limited resources. I think that studies like this are necessary more to bring ideas to the forefront and have the stakeholders become more aware.

  6. It was very interesting to read of the various activities that occur at each of your schools in relation to librabry usage. I think the fact that the study was done at a college level would definitely alter the perspective of the library, librarian, student usage, professor expectations, etc.
    1.The design of The Library Study was very interesting. How would you use this type of design at your school site? Is it feasible considering the human and time resources that would be required? Though I am not currently at a school site the last site I was at was a middle school in which the library had been relocated into a much smaller space in order to make room for physical fitness equipment that had been purchased and the reality that there hadn’t been a previous plan for where to put that and what construction codes would be required. While I was there I obtained a grant from Target corporation to re-do the library and (paint/decor/murals/purchase chairs, tables and benches,etc), $7500 worth of books and volunteers for the day to read with students, create bookmarks, display student artwork etc. It is really amazing what interest a little time and effort can add to the entire “library” experinece for students.
    2.One of the most intriguing parts of the study was the use of cameras. What is an example of camera use at your school site and what would be the benefit of using this approach?
    Again at the middle school I obtained several grants from Donorschoose.org for various items and when that occurs you agree to submit photos. The Admin. would not allow student photos to be submitted so we had to get very creative but the students really enjoyed taking pictures showing off all pof the items we had received and Thank you posters without showing their faces : )
    3.During the facilities discussion in the study, reference was made to the use of remodeling grant money to redesign a 23,000 square foot section of the library. Since it is not realistic that most of us will have access to this type of funding to leverage during a formal study, how might we focus on facilities issues without funding to change anything?
    Perhaps identifying a need, proposing valid solutions that make sense, creating a strong support system and making sure you have all of the required information prior to making a proposal is the best way to begin. All too often we come up with great ideas but have no idea why/how/when decisions were made in the first place so we are uninformed and don’t bother to investigate the “big picture”.
    4.It seemed that the information the researchers gained from the study was far from earth-shattering or surprising. Why are formal research studies even necessary for this type of project? Why does it take a study to flush out information and mobilize stakeholders?
    Without sounding too negative because I do believe in the power of data to make decisions…perhaps at times we rely too much on demanding that “research shows” we need to do something before becoming invested enough to mobilize our efforts???

  7. I think studies help provide feedback from a multitude of stake holders and participants. Simply sending a survey home to parents or giving one to students can give you more information about a school campus than talking to the principal or walking the grounds. A study that includes parents and students provides opinions and realities that might be unavailable to administrators because of the position they are in. Student perceptions of the school can give information about student motivation, student life on campus, and student by-in. From parents you might get information about why they might not be as involved as they could be, their perception of how welcome they feel they are on campus, and how they believe the school operates in respect to academics and discipline. With these results and simply by being given surveys parents might feel like they are being included, which might lead to increase mobilization on the parental front. These parents might not have been willing to come to school to vocalize their opinions, but through a survey or other research methods they are being given that opportunity.

  8. 1. The design of The Library Study was very interesting. How would you use this type of design at your school site? Is it feasible considering the human and time resources that would be required?
    This was definitely an interesting study. Currently, neither of my school sites have libraries, which benefits no one. However, I remember when I was a teacher and VP in PBVUSD, the libraries seemed unproductive. The librarians didn’t teach students research strategies, read them books, etc. All they did was check books in and out and order supplies. So, it would be interesting to do a study to see if elementary and middle school libraries are conducive to students needs. Do they help them to be better researchers and students?

    2. One of the most intriguing parts of the study was the use of cameras. What is an example of camera use at your school site and what would be the benefit of using this approach?
    I love cameras. In fact, sometimes I tell students there are hidden cameras in the classrooms to get them to confess to their bad behavior. : ) I think cameras can definitely catch what we as administrators, teachers, etc., don’t have time to see. With this kind of concrete evidence, nothing can be denied. Cameras can also be used to see what behaviors students display in the library, PE, cafeteria, etc. This data can help make productive changes at a school site.
    3. During the facilities discussion in the study, reference was made to the use of remodeling grant money to redesign a 23,000 square foot section of the library. Since it is not realistic that most of us will have access to this type of funding to leverage during a formal study, how might we focus on facilities issues without funding to change anything?
    I wish we had this kind of money to spend on our research studies. However, I think a study can be done with no money. Just see what it is you want to research, see if another library has what you are looking for, and if you can use that library in your study. There are certain ways of getting around spending money to conduct research.
    4. It seemed that the information the researchers gained from the study was far from earth-shattering or surprising. Why are formal research studies even necessary for this type of project? Why does it take a study to flush out information and mobilize stakeholders?
    I am a big proponent of using data to drive instruction or change. I think this was just a way to condone or prove the need for change. Research is necessary, but huge studies like this that are expensive, time consuming, etc., need to be well thought out and conducted for a good reason.

  9. A colleague and I conducted a similar study, albiet on a smaller scale at the new Fresno State library. Although there was no immediate impact of our findings, I’m happy to note that the library in now making some changes.
    The biggest challenge we had was the “gaining of entree” like I mentioned in class. The points stated about “stakeholder representation” is key. The more you can involve everyone, the better.
    http://www.fresnostate.edu/socialsciences/anthropology/ipa/index.html

  10. Actually, I’m very interested in question number three and will come back to the others a little later. Now, a little tid-bit about me is that I love DIY projects and am an HGTV junky. I like to paint and refurbish furniture…I’m sort of an amateur, but I love doing it. On those shows, one of the best tips and tricks for a space (usually housing, but in some cases restaurants, etc) is that it doesn’t have to be changed, but repurposed. And, there are so many situations in schools and school building facilities that are begging to be repurposed along with the times. A great example is not rebuilding or changing a library, but moving everything around inside of it to be more functional. Another example is Bakersfield High School. There were/are rumors that facility changes will be made in order to make pick-up/drop-off more feasible at the school. That makes sense since it is currently a logistical nightmare. However, in my opinion, a school without funding might be able to make small changes that alter the existing facilities to become more functional. For instance, it is great to have “G” Street entering the campus, but the “Campus Way” alongside the school could work just as well. Some well placed signage that leads drop-off/pick-up away from the main entrance, leaving that for emergencies, staff, and appointments might be able to clear that area for the safety of students. It is a minor example, but looking at the summary, this was what might need to be done for more library usage for research. It might not have been upping staff or library hours, but instead putting more and more information online because of this generations desire to be more…orbital when it comes to libraries.

    Great post!

  11. Good plans Andrew! I agree with you, repurposing can often resolve the issue at hand without great expenditures. In my district, there was a major change done to redo the bus loop and drop off at two of the schools that share the same land facilities. The changes did not resolve the issue, and, in my opinion, made it worse in some ways because traffic can only move in one directions causing more back up into the street. The best solution, again in my opinion, would have been to change the start time of the Elementary school with the one of the other elementary schools so that the students at the two schools that shared the facility would not overlap. I also think that the stakeholders need to be asked about things such as this. When the facilities need to be reevaluated or redone, it is often those who use the facilities who have the best ideas of how to fix a problem without spending great chunks of money. These are the people who are not often consulted. The same is true about better use of employees. The employees can often give better ideas about time usage, job descriptions, and other trivial things that make up the every day life of the people who work with the students but they are often the ones who are not consulted or whose ideas are not seen as possibilities. Those who work far from the action or who are not part of the action are the ones who get the ideas through that the stakeholders have to find a way to work with and around to achieve the goals of the educating the students. I think I am in a ranting mood right now. I just finished reading a pamphlet on how I should vote for an upcoming Proposition battle and am reminded that the children are the important factor in all of this!

  12. #3
    One difference we are trying out this coming year computer access for parents. Many of our parents leave for work long before dawn and can only visit with teachers during the early afternoon, while teachers are teaching. We are going to have three computers for parents to log onto to check grades, our website, sent emails, and even use for private needs such a bill paying etc. We also are going to have a parent meeting regarding the technology to communicate. This too isn’t earth shattering, but hopefully it helps the communication with school and is a benefit to our parents’ lives.

    # 4.I think we think we know the problem and the solutions before we even start. These methods gave a picture of the smaller, doable things that would really make a difference.
    This past spring, I gave a parent survey and was surprised by the number of responses we received. Something that was on both the staff survey as a plus and also on the parent survey was something I take for granted: In the mornings, I go between the buses and the front parking lot, greeting students as they come to school. At the 8:00 bell, I shut the side gates, so student must use the office gate entrance and remind students and parents that if they left 5 minutes earlier, they would be on time to school. Parents said they love to see me before 8:00 and dread seeing me after 8:00, but that they liked it and appreciated me reminding them. So, after the survey, I didn’t let the little things keep me from the parking lot. I don’t make it every day, but I also don’t miss it for something that can be done after 8:30. Without the survey, I would not have known this was important.

  13. We have been trying to increase parent involvement and have had dinners, buses to PIQUE, later meetings, etc. I think we will need to do a parent survey to see what would help to get them to meetings, instead of using our “knoweledge” that hasn’t yielded impressive results.

    • Increasing parental involvement has been a struggle for many years at your district. I think that overall the district does well with providing many opportunities for parents to become involved. However, parent surveys are a great means of trying to increase parental involvement. Perhaps the surveys could be sent home with the beginning of the year student handbook forms. In addition, I think that the surveys need to be sent out regularly (one or two times per year) so that adjustments can be made to accommodate as many parents as possible since their is a large number of families that move in and out of the district seasonally.

  14. I really enjoyed this article because it illustrated what can happen when the entity requesting the research is truly interested in taking action based on the the answers from its stakeholders. To address your first question, we actually engaged in a small study when considering whether to change the school schedule to add a nutrition break for students and staff. After a visit to another campus with a successful nutrition break in their schedule, the majority of the staff was unmoved by the need for a nutrition break. At a staff meeting, we asked for volunteers to engage in a day-long observation of a student. Several faculty members volunteered. I selected high school students representative of different grade levels, participation in school activities, learning needs, and mode of transportation to and from school. For example, one teacher observed a freshman, EL student who walked to school every day. Another teacher rode the bus to observe her senior athlete who traveled one hour on the bus to get to school. The teacher/researchers were provided a substitute for the day. The instructions for the researchers were to start the day by walking or riding to school with the student and then going to each class period with him/her – including lunch – and then participating in any after-school (school-related) activity. The teacher/researchers found the five-minute passing period did not allow sufficient time for students to go to the bathroom and get their books before going to the next class. (The teacher/researchers had to request a hall pass to go to the bathroom). They also reported that for students who rode the bus and engaged in after-school activities – such as band or athletics – these students would go for over six hours without a meal (if they had breakfast in the morning). The faculty was amazed and appalled by little time that students had to transition from class to class, go to the bathroom and eat a meal during the day. As a result of the research findings, the faculty overwhelmingly voted for a change of schedule to include a 20-minute daily nutrition break. Like their colleagues at the school which was visited, the students overwhelmingly approved of the change. The human and time resources required was minimal, but had a huge impact on the schedule. The use of cameras would have added tremendously to the study. I believe we needed a study so that the faculty reviewed the facts (findings) and did not rely exclusively on their own perceptions.

  15. 1. Our library at VOCS is not a key project for us, but we have a few projects that would be beneficial to have student input. We are in the need of more classrooms and a physical education area provided by the PEP Grant. These projects would be great to include student input. It would be feasible to develop a survey and response questions for these projects. Our student council group could help design the survey instrument and pilot the process of accessing student input on the projects. If structured well, one could solicit student responses on these projects, which would be beneficial coming from the key stakeholder.
    2. We have a project every year where students do drawings for the new T-Shirt logo. I think utilizing drawings as a visual representation of their own ideas, as part of a survey response would be effective. Students may represent their ideas better by drawing them, then articulating the ideas on paper. The drawings could be accompanying with short survey questions in reflection and response to the drawing itself.
    3. If funding was not an option, as part of the survey and collection of information you could build parameters of working more efficiently with what you have. For example, someone stated earlier restructuring the parking lot in a different way. Sometimes just reinventing the space currently used can be done using more creativity and less money. Soliciting donations could also be a way to fund a project. Although this is more difficult it can be done in tandem with other ideas. Moreover, if you utilize all ideas collected and turned them into student projects for the duration of the project is another way to be creative about completing projects.
    4. Often times people like to see a formal analysis done instead of anecdotal information or hearsay. Having valid and reliable information for stakeholders to review can carry a lot of weight in making decisions, even if it is confirming what you already know. For example, let’s say you are spending a lot of money on IPADS in the classroom. The governing board and stakeholders want to know if they are useful for students and can increase productivity and learning in the classroom. We know they probably do increase these things in some classrooms and in others there is probably a decrease in productivity and student learning. A formal study would provide clarity and validity to these questions.

  16. It seemed that the information the researchers gained from the study was far from earth-shattering or surprising. Why are formal research studies even necessary for this type of project? Why does it take a study to flush out information and mobilize stakeholders?

    I think that some schools use the results from the research to motivate personnel to make changes. It’s one thing to tell your teachers that we need to do x, y, and z. But it’s much harder to argue with what researcher find on your site. I believe that people sometimes need that extra “kick” to motivate them to do something because then the motivation comes from someone else, leaving them with someone on which to blame the changes.

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