Mention the word "research" to most teachers, and we all think of research papers. We know we need to require our students to complete more research activities, but there is a limit to how many research papers we can actually grade. (Can you tell I spent the majority of my weekend grading research papers?)
I designed an extensive group research project several years ago that is one of my favorite assignments for students. Working in groups of 3 or 4, students must research both sides of a controversial issue and then create a portfolio of the research that they find and deliver a 20-minute presentation to the class. The purpose of the assignment is for students to complete extensive research, to annotate at least 20 sources, and to deliver an interesting and informative presentation over the information they learned.
Although I designed the assignment for accelerated high school seniors, the project could be altered and used with younger students or maybe even used as is so long as the teacher prepares students for each facet of the project.
The portfolio contains
- Printed copy of the PowerPoint for the presentation
- Printed copy of a brochure that students create for distribution
- Copy and analysis of a survey that students must administer online
- Copy of all sources students find
- Annotated bibliography of at least 20 sources
- One case study
- One editorial cartoon about the topic
- One photograph related to the topic
- A work log for members of the group
- Self-evaluation of each group member
- For AP courses students are also required to create an AP synthesis question on their topic.
While this group project requires hours and hours of work from students, most students enjoy working on the project because they are allowed to select their own topics and read and discuss the research with their peers. In essence, they do their best to become experts on their topic so they can teach the class. The assignment is valuable because it requires students to read critically, research, prepare an oral presentation, annotate sources, integrate technology, create visual aids (PowerPoint and brochure), work together as a group, and field questions from members of the class.
If you are interested in assigning a similar assignment, my course website includes the handouts and rubrics I use: