South Shore Regional School Board

Canadian Points of View Reference Centre™ Supports Information Literacy Skills Development for Students in Nova Scotia

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At a Glance

South Shore Regional School Board
Nova Scotia, Canada

Institution Type:   Schools
Related Products:   Research Databases

Overview

The South Shore Regional School Board of Nova Scotia provides education to approximately 7,500 students who reside in Lunenburg and Queens counties. The 29 schools within the South Shore Regional School Board have access to a number of EBSCO resources through the Nova Scotia Department of Education. These include Explora, Literary Reference Center, History Reference Center, Science Reference Center and Canadian Points of View Reference Centre, a database containing resources that present multiple perspectives on current topics. This content helps students better understand controversial issues, recognize and develop persuasive arguments and essays, and develop critical thinking skills.

The deepest learning happens when students are discussing and engaging with each other using the language of the topic, using the evidence to defend their points.

Erin Dunn-Keefe
Literacy Coach
South Shore Regional School Board

Solution

Erin Dunn-Keefe began working as a literacy coach for the South Shore Regional School Board in 2016. She is one of two literacy coaches hired by the board to support classroom instruction and model effective strategies for teaching information literacy. Dunn-Keefe spends her time travelling among classrooms in the region’s middle and high schools, helping teachers improve students’ skills in reading, comprehension, vocabulary, research and writing. Some of the classes she visits include English Language Arts, English as an Additional Language, Math, Science, Chemistry, Global Geography and Sociology.

“Most school boards focus their literacy support on the younger grades, which is where a lot of that belongs,” Dunn-Keefe explained. “However, our school board has been noticing that students are struggling with reading, writing and speaking as they’re leaving high school. We think that’s another crucial time to check in with kids to make sure they’re reading great content, they understand what they read, they’re talking about what they read, and they can write about it. That’s where a resource like Canadian Point of View Reference Centre really assists us.”

Working with classroom teachers, Dunn-Keefe develops lessons based on the curriculum unit. Canadian Points of View Reference Centre has been useful in supporting lessons that require students to write persuasive arguments, talk about issues intelligently with each other, and engage in formal debate. The database covers 185 topics of interest, each with an overview (objective background), point (argument) and counterpoint (opposing argument). Each topic also features a Guide to Critical Analysis to help students read critically, evaluate the issue, develop their own perspective, and write or debate an effective argument on the topic. The database also includes related materials: thousands of magazines, newspapers, radio and television news transcripts, primary source documents, reference books and more. In addition, Text-to-Speech functionality enables students to hear HTML articles read aloud. Dunn-Keefe said the feature is especially helpful to students with learning differences.

Dunn-Keefe described a recent lesson she prepared for Kerry Keefe, a sociology teacher at Bridgewater Junior-Senior High School. The lesson focused on the impact of divorce in Canadian families. The whole class read the topic’s Overview article; then the class was split into two groups. One group read the point essay, “Divorce is Harmful to Children and Creates Instability in Society,” while the other group read the counterpoint essay, “Divorce is a Reality for an Increasing Number of Families.” Each group was then asked to determine the strengths and weaknesses of their essay’s argument and nominate two students to participate in a jigsaw discussion. The lesson aimed to teach students how to talk with each other about a topic, using the text evidence in front of them rather than relying on their opinions or what they may have seen online or on YouTube.

“The deepest learning happens when students are discussing and engaging with each other using the language of the topic, using the evidence to defend their points,” Dunn-Keefe said. “Is it important that they can write about it? Yes. But when they can debate and discuss and back up their opinions with evidence from reliable Canadian sources, that, for me, is a success.”

Kerry Keefe, the sociology teacher who implemented Dunn-Keefe’s lesson, said Canadian Points of View Reference Centre has been “an exciting addition” to his course. In the past, he would search the internet looking for information on current issues, but now he can easily implement a dynamic seminar or debate using reliable resources.

“My students were very enthusiastic about the divorce lesson and they are now beginning to create their own social issue seminar using Canadian Points of View Reference Centre,” Keefe said. “This is a real gem!”

Dunn-Keefe said it is important that students hone their information literacy skills while they are still in high school so that they will not be overwhelmed by college-level research, writing, and debate.

“It can be really frightening for students,” she said, “especially if they’re in a rural area and they go off to these big universities in big cities. They may feel a bit intimidated, so — in the safe environments of their small high schools — they’ve got to be able to debate each other, and the information they are debating with needs to be valid.”

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