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Accessing Archives: Primary Sources and Inquiry-based Learning in K-12 Classrooms


With the widespread adoption of the Common Core State Standards, K-12 teachers are required to utilize primary sources as tools to promote inquiry-based learning. This dissertation used ethnographic methods to investigate how teachers integrate primary sources into classroom instruction by gathering qualitative data on their information practices and the forms of knowledge they draw on when finding, evaluating, and using primary sources to promote inquiry-based education.

The investigation resulted in a rich description of the information practices and forms of scholarly and professional knowledge used throughout different stages of the integration process. The first phase of the study consists of semi-structured interviews with teachers from four different school districts. The interviews were used to gather data on teachers' beliefs surrounding inquiry-based education and experiences teaching with primary sources. The second phase of the study consists of a nine-month participant observation period at a laboratory school. The study was designed to observe daily activities and collect implicit experience-based information, including the types of tacit knowledge associated with the act of teaching with primary sources. The investigation largely focused on understanding the practices related to how teachers find, evaluate, and use primary sources.

By examining the practices of teachers who are actively teaching with primary sources, this dissertation disentangles the complex relationship between unstated educational practices, national educational standards, and the archival processes that are undertaken as part of classroom instruction, such as locating primary sources for lesson planning. The study values the experiences of teachers as a source of practical knowledge that can inform theoretical knowledge and promote intelligent practice among both teachers and archivists. Ultimately, this study is an opportunity to perform proof of concept work for the field of archival studies that can improve information services for K-12 teachers and allow information professionals to play an enhanced role in promoting collaborative efforts between schools, libraries, and archival repositories.

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