Share that Research Assignment for Better Results


I would like to tell you that this is the result of reading some famous "teaching across the curriculum" book, but I can't. This is the result of hanging out in the faculty room. I was talking with a first-year biology teacher. He was telling me that he felt pretty confident about teaching biology, but was less confident about teaching writing and research papers. I suggested that we share the assignment. His biology students were in the tenth grade. My language arts kids were also in the tenth grade. I said I would give him the assignment handout and copies of all the "how to write a research paper" handouts I used during that unit. He could give the subject matter assignment and I would teach them how to write the papers. He would take them to the library for research and so would I. They would get help with basic research methods from two teachers and the librarian. The biology teacher would help the kids sort out their subject, thesis statement and basic content areas. I would help them learn to write the paper, use citations and organize their research in a way that was most effective. The students would write their papers and turn them in to me. I would mark them up and have the students do a second draft, which they would again turn in to me. I would give them credit for the assignment in my class based on quality of writing, organization, use of citations, etc. The students would then turn the papers in to the biology teacher, who would grade them based on the quality of their research and content. The students had the benefit of two teachers working with them on the project. They learned more, did less "busy work" and wrote much better papers. All in all, the system worked better and the kids enjoyed a higher quality of education.

Steve Simpson is the editor of Ed.Net Briefs (, a weekly online education newsletter with more than 60,000 readers. He earned his Ph.D. in communications at the University of Washington. He can be reached by e-mail at .


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