Category: Research Methods

Do research, take action! Assignment #1 515

In reading about the various types of research, it has been difficult for me to determine where I stand as a researcher. I never thought of myself a researcher because I didn’t realize what I was doing was research. I simply considered myself as only a teacher. However, this article has enlightened me to the fact that I have actually been doing research although at a surface level.  I am noticing that as I read more and more research articles I lean towards qualitative research methods specifically because I don’t use quantitative methods of assessment very often within my classroom. Qualitative aligns with my pedagogy because it is a relational approach. Throughout all the research I have read in these last few weeks, I have yet to find one that holistically aligns with who I am as a teacher (and now a researcher).

value and action

“value and action” by palooja is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In the book, Action Research in Education Chapter Title “Getting to Grips with Perspectives and Models” Mary McAteer outlines the fundamental difference between the everyday inherent reflection used by educators and the action driven reflection within action research. I have long battled with the idea of teachers being stagnant, rolling out the same lessons year after year. This chapter, has helped me to understand that action-research can help to solve the problems that educators face. Mary McAteer states “…action research is predicated on the concept of a more critically reflective practice, which challenges the teacher to move beyond the ‘normal’ evaluation of practice to more problematising approach; one which raises questions, and seeks alternative perspectives” (McAteer., 2013, p.4). This resonates with me as a researcher because when I research a concept or idea, it will be important to look at conclusions that oppose with my own beliefs. In doing this, I should be able to redefine my perceptions by either strengthening my beliefs or allow me to shift my thinking to ensure I am always seeking best practice.

In thinking about myself as a researcher and what sparks my interest in researching, McAteer provides an important insight that teachers simply “[hope] that they will be taught new and better ways of doing, and can initially find it both frustrating and challenging to be told that there is no quick-fix solution on offer” (McAteer., 2013, p. 5). This as a reader was eye opening, as it highlighted the fact that teachers are so often bogged down in their everyday responsibilities that they want the band-aid solution to the problem. The issue with this concept is that it doesn’t force educators to research a variety of solutions and it also erasers the opportunity for the solution to be meaningful. The irony of this is that educators continually ask their students to dig deep and find connections to what their learning as opposed to providing surface level answers, yet educators might not do this themselves due to time constraints. However, education has a vast amount of areas that require improvement and without the due diligence of teachers to address the issues and inquire for solutions, the education system, along with teaching becomes a linear, ineffective learning space.

McAteer provides a variety of models and schematics to illustrate different ways to view action research. Figure 2.2 is more linear in terms of its representation, Figure 2.1 is simple and aligns more with what I have been taught as a reflective teacher. In using either model, McAteer describes the “cyclic nature of action research, the outcomes of each cycle informing the development of the next” (McAteer., 2013, p. 7). This idea of teaching in a cyclical way is one that I have been grappling with within teaching. For some students and teachers, it appears that learning is simply learn and explain. Whereas I believe that learning is cyclical and interactive in nature. Instead, this chapter has solidified the concept that as a researcher and educator that ideas are never finished, that they can be redefined, challenged, solidified and developed further. After being affirmed by this notion McAteer also brings to light an issue that I struggle and may continue to struggle with at times. The idea of confidence in ones own research. Due to the fact that I currently align more with qualitative research I find the idea of objectivism to be unobtainable. If I am going to conduct research that seeks to identify a problem within my teaching then the use of my own experiences is a key competent to that. I agree with McAteer that, “many teachers base their teaching on experiential learning approaches, and acknowledge the importance of the attitudinal and affective responses of these approaches, it would be difficult to imagine them describing knowledge of and in the classroom as objective, value free and not strongly bound up in the individuals involved” (McAteer., 2013 p. 13).

No hands up

“No hands up” by warrick1 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Social Media Use – Pro’s and Con’s (Assignment #1a)

The article, Women scholars’ experiences with online harassment and abuse: Self-protection, resistance, acceptance, and self-blame (2018) by Veletsianos, Houlden, Hodson and Goose, outlines key concerns that face educators who use social media. The reader of this research would be primarily educators, researchers and stakeholders. This research was comprised of qualitative data due to using interviews to assess information. The use of this research was to determine the effects of online harassment and abuse on the abused. It states that “women scholars cope with harassment in ways that are consistent with how women in general cope with it, although scholars may face institutional and peer pressures to be online due to their work” (Veletsianos et al., 2018, p. 4702).

This article provides another consideration to social media in contrast to DeGroot, Young, and VanSlette’s article Twitter Use and its Effects on Student Perception of Instructor Credibility (2015).  DeGroot et al. provides a framework that paints social media as a positive opportunity to be seen as a more credible educator by students. Whereas, Veletsianos et al.  focuses on the potential hazards of using a social media account as an educator. These two articles, demonstrate the delicate balance that is needed when using social media as an educator. This idea of a delicate balance is one that is difficult to grapple with. The idea of being able to broaden the horizons of a classroom through using everyday technology is exciting. However, the unforeseen retaliation that can occur is one that can effect an educator for life. The question begs, is using social media worth it or not?

“Genuine Social Media” by Vintuitive is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Whether an educator or anyone engages in social media or not, it is imperative that “prevention measures” such as “training and resources to develop self-protective abilities” (Veletsianos et al., 2018, p. 4702) are available to all people.  This understanding of social media should not simply be presented to educators but to all citizens who engaged in using it. Furthermore, it is not simply the idea of prevention that needs to be in place but also the specific and directed modelling of positive social media use.  Technology will not cease to exist but instead it will continue to grow and develop. Thus, as educators and a society as a whole, it’s important take it upon ourselves to use it in ways that positively impact the world. We cannot shy away from it and we cannot run from it, so let’s embrace it and allow it to be a way in which we positively connect with one another.

Mixed Methods: Math, Science, Technology and Teaching (assignment #2)

In the article Preparing children for success: integrating science, math and technology in early childhood classroom by Hengemah Kermani and Jale Aldemir, the focus aimed to discover whether applying “purposeful math, science and technology curriculum projects and activities would support Pre-K children’s performance in these subject matter areas” (Kermani & Aldemir., 2015). It is also important to note that the participants were early childhood learners with majority deriving from low-income families. Research “shows that children from low-income families, on average, demonstrate lower levels of competence in math prior to entering school, and these gaps persist or widen as schooling continues” (Kermani & Aldemir 2015, p. 1505). This article demonstrates the idea that if students are given specific language and knowledge in these subject areas at an early age than they would become more proficient in the subjects themselves. Their proficiency would allow them to become stronger problem solvers. In order to measure this, the study involved four classrooms where both teachers and students voluntarily participated. Of these classrooms, two were randomly chosen to receive the specific science, math, and technology intervention. Instead of being afraid of the overuse of technology the study demonstrated how “computer technology and software can aid young children’s inquiry-based learning by proving age-appropriate everyday problem situations” (Kermani & Aldemir., 2015, p. 1505). I continually use technology within my classroom in order to increase the access to these types of situations. Technology does not have to be something we fear but instead we can allow it to aid us in life skills and bridge vast knowledge that teachers cannot always comprehend themselves. Furthermore, the study states that “[t]eachers’ lack of professional knowledge and self-confidence in teaching math and science as well as integrating technology has also been found to be a contributing factor for the increasing achievement gap” (Kermani & Aldemir., 2015, p. 1506). This idea of lack of professional knowledge is one that is prominent in elementary school teachers due to the fact that they are expert generalists. However, in being a generalist we end up knowing lots of little facts about many things as opposed to being able to dive deep into a subject such as water pollution in science. When diving deeper into a subject we use technology to aid the knowledge gap, this should be no different for students as they should be taught those skills.

The research methods used are mixed-methods as it uses “both quantitative and qualitative means of data collection and analysis” (Kermani & Aldemir., 2015, p. 1514). The reason for this was because the researchers wanted both statistical data to determine the increased confidence in the teachers to teach the subjects, as well as the increased knowledge base of the students in these specific subject areas. Both standardized tests and interviews were used to determine students increased knowledge and it was determined that students displayed an increased ability to comprehend and explain their understanding of these various concept in the treatment group.

If this study was conducted using only quantitative research, I believe the results would have been lessened as the study heavily relied on recorded video sessions to determine students understanding. Had the researchers simply just looked at the test results of some of the standardized tests then they would have missed the conversations and revelations students had within the classroom discussion. Furthermore, math has a standardized test provided to teachers, whereas science does not and therefore the tests are subjective towards what the teacher believes the students should know or have learned. Given that two different types of tests were given to the subject groups, the quantitative data collected would need to be categorized in different ways. In the article Assessing the Quality of Mixed Methods Research: Towards a Comprehensive Framework by Alicia O’Cathain she states that when using mixed-methods that “inferences are drawn from the whole mixed methods study—met-inferences—not simply from each component (O’Cathain. ,2015, p. 6) Therefore, if this study were to only use quantitative data then they would simply miss much of the big picture.

In using a different research method as well, the research would be drastically impacted as they would be unable to illustrate not only the students increased learning, but the confidence level of teachers as well. Teachers not only used a survey to explain their increased confidence in their ability to teach these concepts but video recordings allowed for the assessment of the quality of their teaching. Children were given tasks such as project based learning and child-centered activities and their success in these activities cannot be simply defined by only quantitative methods.

If the research were conducted in a quantitative method only the impact on the reader would be less as well. This study clearly outlines the varying positive impacts that technological, scientific and mathematical intervention had on both the students and teachers. Without the mention of video recordings, one to one collaboration meetings and encouragement of paired student work the data would simply reflect the increased learning but not the method in which it was achieved. Without the combination of both quantitative and qualitative research the study would only provide the statistics or observations versus the strong impact that early intervention can have in student development. Also, what is being researched would be impacted negatively as well seeing as the video recordings allowed for the researchers to conclude that the teachers “were better able to engage children with questions to explore a topic, to plan more meaningful lessons to investigate a topic with hands-on and open-ended learning opportunities, and to assistance children in discovering patterns and relationships including compare and contrast” (Kermani & Aldemir., 2015, p. 1520). Without the qualitative data of video recordings and observations what was being researched, would have been limited to the surveys of teachers confidence levels and students understanding, but would lack the specific teacher-student interaction that was found.

This article was extremely interesting to me as I have grown up in a generation that has grappled with the use of technologies in school. I am from the a generation of new teachers and often we are faced with the struggle of keeping up with technological advances, but were never explicitly taught how to use technology when we were in elementary school. This study has given me the insight that technology, when used in a specific way, can be integrated successfully into the classroom. The idea that technology aids teachers in the knowledge gap is one that many teachers struggle with. In many classrooms, the teacher is seen as the knowledge holder versus the facilitator of knowledge. I view myself as a facilitator as the world is vast especially in the concepts on science, math and technology. It is unreasonable to believe that one person can provide all the answers to the questions that arise during discussions of these subjects. Therefore, this study has provided me with further validity that technology can be an appropriate tool for students and teachers.

With that being said I do wonder, how this study would further their exploration into a larger population of schools? They were only able to test four classrooms of fifty eight Pre-K students. Would the availability of resources be the same for older students? Would the findings be as positive if the study were conducted with medium to high income families? “A total of 20 software games were evaluated and those receiving high marks on three distinct features, Child, teacher, and technical features, were chosen for the use in this study. This narrowed our selection for use with children to 10 software games” (Kermani & Aldemir., 2015, p. 1509). How would the continual development of the intervention in terms of the technological math resources arise with funding and licences? I ask this question specifically because in terms of using technology for math games within the classroom, as some districts have struggled to provide adequate app access, thus diminishing the effectiveness of technology in math.

Scooter Rider Math Fan” by cogdogblog is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“Science!” by ultrakickgirl is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Reflection With Purposeful Action (assignment #1a)

"diary writing" by freddie boy is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

SONY DSC

"Reflection Eternal" by Ben Chun is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0  

This article explains that research diaries are meant for specific reflection on the processes of learning and researching. “Diary writing is seen as an opportunity for reflection and inner dialogue” (297) and that “[r]eflection as part of self-dialogue can be honest and open” (298). I believe that reflection in the world of teaching is crucial because it allows us to be critical of our practice. If we are unable to be critical and question how we teach then we are not continuing to demonstrate and seek best practice. By “…writing down thoughts and decisions [we] can document changes in thinking” (297). Our roles as educators are to be fluid in that what and how we teach continues to change as we adopt better understandings of the curriculum. I believe this idea of fluidity should be a concept that is taught to our students as well. They should learn to continually progress their understanding and build their knowledge of varying perspectives. One of my fundamental goals for students is to help them become life long learners. This should be no different for educators. Educators are constantly reflecting. However, they are often missing the critical part of action after reflecting. A research diary allows for deeper connection to our thoughts because “[r]eflection as self-dialogue reminds us that conscious reflection is an important part of development within mediated action” (299). To me, the key difference between simply reflecting and a research diary is the fact that reflection simply happens for most educators. Whereas, when writing a research diary you are consciously reflecting with the intent of action afterwards. Therefore, a research diary allows you to create a plan and connect to your previous thoughts and alter them in order to better your ideas. The idea of a research diary is one that fits with my pedagogy, in that it encourages constant change and redefining your understandings of best practice.