The Facts and finders Programme

When an opportunity presents itself, don’t be afraid to go after it.

This year we had an opportunity; an opportunity to do something WE want-the Facts & Finders programme. This programme, developed to build practical research skills in students, had two major goals:

  1. To encourage students to pursue their sense of curiosity about the world and identify their areas of interest. 
  2. To build the skills required to get access to the right information at the right time in this world of abundant information and misinformation and what lies in between the two.  

Students aren’t often given the opportunity to grow and learn in their area of personal interest. Every child is different, and a single curriculum, common for all does not do justice to individual curiosity. Research formalises curiosity. It is ‘poking and prying’ with a purpose.

Step 1 – Choose 

Pursuing your passions makes you more interesting, and interesting people are enchanting. For that, first, we needed to be exposed to a whole bunch of information to recognise what our area of interest really is! We had to be taken to a point where we can ask ourselves ‘am I really interested in this?’. Recognising our area of interest was especially difficult, for all these years we’ve been told that this is what you are supposed to learn or pursue. Not often we are asked what we would want to pursue. 

What are usually quoted as ”hobbies” or “extracurricular activities” – those interests that you want to take forward, or something that you just see or come across, heard in the car or you know somebody else who talks about it – it doesn’t matter where that interest came from, but the fact that we are willing to dig deeper into it was given importance. Most if not all our research topics were based on personal experiences. For example, Fatema Kagal had a very interesting topic which was about “Bullying and Peer Pressure”. She said: “I have personally been through it and wouldn’t want someone else to go through it, I would like to motivate them and wouldn’t want them to lose their self-respect and be confident”. Another topic was “Disneyland” by Sarrah Sakarwala. She told us – “I chose it because I visited Disneyland earlier which made me eager, seeing all the rides over there and all the management and stuff, I was eager to know more about it”. Stet Fernandes said, “When I was in the 6th grade that was the first time when I had seen an actual snake and that is the time I got very interested in them”. Some students took a different, more practical approach like Ruqaiyah Fahim, who said – “I chose Medical Science as a subject for my research project because I want to choose it as a profession”.

Step 2 – Minimise

After some intense thinking and the finalization of our topics, the next logical thing to do was to minimise, narrow down to what exactly in the broader topic we were interested in, to a point where we had only one question which was then broken down into even simpler questions. We compiled it all in the form of mind maps, then criticized each others’ work in groups, took feedback, conducted sessions on how to ask good questions, etc. So, we realized that some questions gave us very superficial answers. If we put those questions on YouTube or Google, you would very easily find the answer. Is that really “research”? No, we need to ask questions that are a little harder or where the answers themselves are a little more complicated. So, we went through sessions on how to ask good questions, and went back to the drawing board, asked a central question and created sub-questions from that. We also went through the checklist that we had for a good question. 

Step 3 – Hurdles and Feedback

We then did a little bit of study on how to comment on google documents.

Rajani ma’am told us –  “ There are things we sometimes assume that we all know but through this process, I realised there were some students who didn’t know how to give a comment on google documents. So, I ended up teaching that explicitly, that this is how you give a comment and after giving a comment you can also reply. You can have a conversation in the comments”. There were always all these extra hurdles and little pockets of information. In the giving and taking feedback stage, we needed to learn what good feedback is, for example when you say “ this question is not good” it helps nobody. You have to reason it out and be precise about what is wrong or what needs changing.  This was inculcating vital collaboration and communication skills into the project.

Step 4 – Organise

Our questions were now looking all lovely. But what is a question without answers? We had sessions about the reliability of sites and what plagiarism is and how it can be avoided. About making your research your own!

Once we sort of started getting a lot of information and answers to our questions, we learned organization skills. Essentially, we learned the skill to take all the information and put it down in a usable manner. Sometimes it can be an information overload, so how do we avoid that and say this will go here – this will go here and this will go here? That is the organization of information. So, we did that through Wakelet and we had all our information and answers.

Step 5 – Present

The presentation was the overwhelming part, at least for me. This step included a lot of writing-reframing things that have already been framed by professionals who wrote the websites in the first place but adding a little bit of ‘you’ into it. The topics we chose varied, so did our fashion of presentation. Some of us wrote\made presentations on Powtoon, or on PPT, or on Google Slides and some of us went outright and created entire videos on their topic. For example, there are a few students who chose topics which were easy to make – like a short film. So, they have enacted a few scenes out and recorded that. Essentially, all of that involves some amount of writing. You are taking all the information that you have found and you are thinking on how to present that in a creative and interesting way. For me personally, ma’am kept reminding me that not everyone who is going to watch your video will be interested in your topic but on the other hand, they are interested in the fact that YOU are the one making it, so bring a little bit of yourself into the presentation.

What did we learn?

We asked Rajani ma’am about what triggered this programme. Why did you choose to conduct this little experiment on us? She told us,  “The trigger was definitely my conversation with students over the years, and there is no way that a set curriculum can actually address all the different interests that students have because no two students are alike. No student is the same, so there is no point in planning something that is the same for everyone. For that’s my biggest trigger. It is an area of interest for me personally to really get you guys to explore.” 

She also rightly pointed out that when I do something I am interested in on a personal level I am going to add more value to the world, I will not be doing it because “I have to”, instead because “I want to”.

Lastly, facts and finders were more than a research project. It was about learning so much more. We learnt how to listen better. We played some GK games. There are a countless number of skills we will take ahead with us in our lives. From just a few classes a week and some flipped lessons, we are very proud to present not only a project but an entire experience!

Rajani ma’am has been the biggest inspiration to us throughout and we can say that her “experiment” was a huge success for all of us. So congratulations to us for working hard and making our own way here! We cannot wait to start the next research project!