Librarian Randell Schmidt Committed to Helping Students Master Research Methods

As a “fact person” GSB head librarian Randell Schmidt has made it her ultimate goal over the years to teach students ways in which to access, assess and assimilate information through research methods. The co-author of a book entitled Lessons for a Scientific Literature Review: Guiding the Inquiry in 2008, Schmidt also published a second book titled, A Guided Inquiry Approach to High School Research, this March.
Schmidt’s motivation for writing each of these step-by-step guides first developed with the introduction of the Scientific Literature Review (SLR) at Gill St. Bernard’s in 1999. While the SLR initially served as an assignment for 11th grade psychology students at Gill, it soon became a mandatory part of the school’s 11th grade science curriculum and, today, is believed to be one of the most important projects a student can complete in his or her junior year. The SLR, which breaks down complex research methods into a simple process, marks the final part of a three-year research and writing series for ninth through 11th grade students at Gill St. Bernard’s, a series that focuses on the critical skills necessary for a smooth and effortless transition to college. Along with the SLR, additional programs taught by subject teachers—with help from the school’s librarians—also include GSB’s Ninth Grade Seminar and an American studies research course for sophomore English students. “These programs ensure that, by graduation, Gill’s students are adept at interfacing with electronic databases, distinguishing source materials and conducting independent investigations across numerous disciplines,” said Schmidt. “Over the years, alumni have indicated that they have received prestigious appointments as undergraduate research assistants, and have thanked me for the foundations they learned through Gill.”
Among these graduates is Sydney Sherman ’11, a double-major in astronomy and astrophysics, and physics at Penn State University. Sherman, who has been awarded a grant from Penn State’s Eberly College of Science for a paper she is authoring, will also present her research at an upcoming exhibition. “Learning about reliable sources of information at Gill has contributed to my success at Penn State,” said Sherman, now a sophomore. “Because of GSB, I was confident coming into college, and knew that I could write and think at a high level.”
Based on GSB’s Ninth Grade Seminar, Schmidt’s most recent publication, which was written with assistance from alumni Courtney Puglisi ’06 and Geoffrey Schmidt ’00, will provide high school freshmen with introductory lessons in scholarly research to develop an understanding of the inquiry process. Schmidt's experience with freshmen at Gill St. Bernard's throughout the years was so inspirational that she chose to dedicate her latest book to them. “The intelligence, stamina and good humor of my freshmen students was critical in developing every part of the materials found within this book, so it seemed only natural to recognize their impact with a dedication,” Schmidt said.
Already, Schmidt has begun generating ideas for a third book, which she hopes to publish by 2015. This spring, she will also share her expertise as a moderator at the Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries’ (CiSSL) third International Research Symposium in New Brunswick, N.J. An event sponsored by Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, the 2013 symposium themed Digital Youth, Inquiry, and the Future of the School Library…Research to Practice, will include scholars and educators spanning the globe, from Australia to Sweden to the United States, and attempt to answer the question, “How can schools prepare to deliver a 21st century education for digital youth?”
Gill St. Bernard’s is a private, coeducational day school for students age three through grade 12, located in suburban New Jersey. Each of the three school divisions provides a rigorous, meaningful, and age-appropriate curriculum, and all students benefit from the environmental learning opportunities that exist on our 208-acre campus.