Teaching with Intention

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Category: Research Methods

Learning is Messy: Final Thoughts for 515 and 568

“who has the time.” by GYLo is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 

You know when you are organizing your home or garage and things usually get messier before they get better? I am in the messy stage of developing my research project question. I knew when I started my master’s degree that my goal was to inform and enrich the development and implementation of my Environmental Science 11 class next spring. Over the past six years I have been inspired by the changes in education in BC, and I have taken advantage of professional development opportunities regarding inquiry, indigenous curriculum, assessment, and curriculum development. I am excited to offer a course to students that is guided by their interests and questions, has a positive impact on their local community and environment, and offers authentic hands-on science experiences with local experts. I am bringing all of my learning together in the development of Environmental Science 11, so there seems to be many opportunities for a research project. In the past month I have also been introduced to a variety of research methodologies and been continually inspiration by my peers so that now I feel like a kid in a candy shop that can’t make up her mind.

Thankfully, not everything is messy.

I have learned many things thus far that I can say with certainty I will incorporate into my teaching practice. The phrase “Voice and Choice” has come up regularly, and it has become a focus for me when developing a student centered learning environment. I have appreciated the authentic invitation to contribute and ask questions during and after class, and am reminded how imperative it is that the teacher is approachable and encouraging. Furthermore, I have valued opportunities to choose the pathways for my learning. What a worthwhile experience it is to be a student again and have that perspective when I return to my classroom!

While considering my assessment practices for a student-driven inquiry based curriculum I recognized that I will need to provide my students with choice regarding how they display their learning. Originally, I had it planned out that students would complete weekly reflections on their learning as blog entries and present evidence of their learning in an e-portfolio. My perspective has changed significantly in the past month and my preconceived notions have been challenged. Students needn’t be restricted in how they provide evidence of their learning. I have begun to appreciate the potential roles that technology can have for assessment, but also in project organization (Trello, OneNote), refection (Flipgrid, blog posts), communication (WhatsApp, Slack), and learning from and inspiring others (blog posts, Twitter, and other social media platforms). I look forward to offering and welcoming a variety of ways for students to learn, reflect, organize and present their work.

I have become a more informed user of technology and am grateful that I can implement and pass that knowledge on to my students.  BC FIPPA Guidelines, BC Cloud Computing Guide, and Creative Commons, will be important resources for helping students become informed and responsible digital citizens. For myself, learning more about the responsibilities and repercussions of having an online presence have helped me develop my PLN with confidence and intention and I have begun to tap into an educational community that is rich in experience and knowledge.

Here comes the messy part: Identifying and developing my research question.

Learning is messy, and we have to be comfortable with risk, failure, growth and revision” -George Couros

When I started this program my question was “How can technology be used to facilitate communication and collaboration in the classroom?” Technology will be an integral part of communication and collaboration, I am sure, but technology is no longer my focus. My attention has turned to how I can support communication and collaboration in a broader sense.  This might include teaching specific communication skills, facilitating Scrum meetings, being more(or less) involved in student-mentor interactions, and considering how technology can be implemented for effective communication.

Recently, while writing a blog post for 568, I realized that building positive relationships is my primary goal, and that communicating, cooperating, and collaborating are the stepping stones towards that goal. John Spencer’s twitter post raised the question of whether skills of collaboration can be learned (and taught) as a progression from effective communication skills to cooperating and finally to collaborating.

So I am left wondering, is my question “How can I support collaboration in my classroom?” or “How can I teach communication skills, cooperative skills and collaborating skills?”

Things get even messier when I consider my research method. I began this month really excited to conduct the type of quantitative analysis I am so familiar with in my science classroom. Anaylzing test scores was out of the question, as my Environmental Science class was not going to be assessed through traditional testing methods. Questionnaires with scaled answers from 1-10 could be used to analyze student perceptions of the course, their enjoyment, their engagement, their learning, etc. Alternatively, I could collect data on the type(s) of technology that students chose to use for communicating, and how frequently they used that method of communication. Dr. Alexandra D’Arcy presentation regarding the UVIC Human Research Ethics Board raised some serious concerns for me, and it became clear that I do not want to jeopardize the trust and relationships that I build with my students for my own educational purposes.  Now I am considering a reflective self study or a qualitative analysis using interviews with community mentors that can be used to inform and improve my practice (and hopefully that of other educators).

Learning about research methods, ethical considerations, and watching Kitchen Stories (by Bent Hamer, 2003) have raised many questions about what exactly I will be researching and how I will go about my research. I, the researcher, am interested in researching collaboration with community mentors in the Environmental Sciences.  I am interested in the following questions:

  • How might effective collaboration skills be taught, encouraged and facilitated?
  • How might collaboration influence student interest in Environmental Science?
  • How might collaboration impact student ability to engage in scientific inquiry?
  • Will collaborating with high school students be a valuable experience for community mentors?

Ultimately, I hope that my research will have value to myself and other readers interested in implementing collaboration during student-driven inquiry projects in science.

The article I read for my last blog assignment in EDCI 568, Activity Features of High School Students’ Science Learning in an Open-Inquiry-Based Internship Programme,  has provided me with some structure for moving forward with the 7 key features of activity theory; tools, subject, communication, rules, object, division of labour, and outcome. These features can provide a framework for teaching and assessing collaborative inquiry projects, and they can also provide a framework of learning for students. These 7 key features, when considered within the context of the 5 R’s (respect, relevance, reciprocity, responsibility, and relationships) from A Case Study of the First Nations Schools’ Principals Course, can provide a strong foundation for intentionally teaching and developing respectful relationships that can contribute to effective collaboration.

To conclude, the experience of returning to research this past month has been extraordinary. My ultimate goal is to provide positive and meaningful learning experiences for my students, and I believe that can be achieved through engaging in collaborative inquiry projects. I have been introduced to many valuable tools for communication, organization, networking and reflection that will assist me in designing and implementing inquiry-based learning opportunities in Environmental Science 11.  Further analysis of research will help me discover how I can best support students when engaging in collaborative relationships with community members. Although things are messy at the moment, I have learned two very powerful tools that will facilitate my professional growth and help develop my research project.

  1. Returning to research and developing my professional learning network has inspired me and informed my practice.
  2. Constructing blog posts has been instrumental for processing, organizing, and synthesizing information.

These two activities will be allow me to thoughtfully develop research that will ultimately lead to improvements in my teaching and thereby in student learning.

 

 

“Organization” by Ms.Palania is licensed under CC PDM 1.0 

Storytelling in Science

“Storytelling – The One Eyed Evil” by London Permaculture is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

 

Earlier this week we read two very different papers on decolonization written by Dr. Shauneen Pete, and had the privilege of meeting Dr. Pete in our EDCI 515 class. The first reading, Idle No More, left me frustrated and agitated. I wondered if my reaction was simply a mirror of the spirit in which the chapter was written (as Dr. Pete was transparent in her writing regarding her frustration with teaching pre-service white teachers). My demeanor changed drastically when I started reading Meschachakanis, A Coyote Narrative: Decolonising Higher Education. It was brilliantly written and thought provoking, and displayed the powerful impact that storytelling can have on the reader. Dr. Pete explored decolonising practices in higher education through storytelling, and it prompted me to consider the role of storytelling in the science curriculum.

In this blog I will

  1. review why indigenous knowledge is required content in the BC Curriculum
  2. explore the validity of storytelling in science
  3. Consider the role that storytelling had in my response to the readings by Dr. Shauneen Pete and how that relates to storytelling in science
  4. provide resources to further investigate the role of storytelling in science

Why is indigenous knowledge required in BC Curriculum?

The New BC Science Curriculum requires

that the voice of Aboriginal people be heard in all aspects of the education system; the presence of Aboriginal languages, cultures, and histories be increased in provincial curricula; and leadership and informed practice be provided.

Why is it imperative that our education system respond to the Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commision of Canada? A thorough answer to this question might recount details of BC Human Rights, The Indian Act (original and revised), Bill C-31, residential schools,  and countless other references and historical events, however I would like to respond by highlighting a few statistics involving BC Indigenous students (as presented in January 2019 during a series of workshops on Indigenous education in science).

  • Aboriginal students who self-identify make up 8% of SD61 student population
  • Aboriginal students represent 30% of those in Behaviour Support Programs
  • Aboriginal students make up about 2% of those taking senior science and math classes in GVSD high schools
  • 6 year completion rate for Aboriginal students is 59% (provincial  is 69%)
  • 6 year completion rate for Aboriginal students living on-reserve is 40% (provincial is 57%)

As educators, we have many resources to draw upon when responding to the call to action. First Peoples Principles of Learning provides a valuable lens for teacher teams when drafting curricula.

Below I have noted some thought provoking videos for teachers new to the discussion of reconciliation, or videos that can be used for initiating conversations of reconciliation with learners:

8th Fire – 500 Years in 2 minutes

Murray Sinclair – What is Reconciliation (3 min)

Reconciliation Through Indigenous Education (2 min)

How to Talk About Indigenous People (2.5 min)

Martin Brokenleg video (9 min)

Martin Brokenleg’s video opens with the statement that First Peoples learning is embedded in memory, history and story. It might follow that storytelling is a crucial method for learning indigenous scientific knowledge.

An exploration into the validity of storytelling in science

The oral tradition of story telling is responsible for transferring knowledge in Indigenous culture. Gloria Snively & Wagnosts’a7 Lorna Williams spent 40 years writing the book Knowing Home: Braiding Indigenous Science with Western Science. Chapter 14 is titled “Storytelling is our Textbook and Curriculum Guide” and it explains the importance of storytelling to the Kwakwaka’wakw people. Stories provide rules, regulations and life lessons, they reveal interconnections with nature, and build upon the understanding that the land is the foundation of their teachings. Stories provide the wisdom of respecting all things and the value of community and working together. The authors take the reader through 8 ecology lessons that progress from spring science in March to salmon release in June.

In this unit of study the lessons explored how the Kwakwaka’wakw made their living in the natural world. Students experienced and explored the exact territories that their ancestors walked. They were exposed to the beauty of the territories and the stories that were imbedded in nature. There were stories about the trees, mountains, lakes, rivers, rocks, birds, and fish.

In the article Indigenous Storytelling as Research  Judy Iseke conducts interviews with Metis elders and discusses storytelling as a pedagogical tool. Iseke concludes that

Indigenous storytelling pedagogies encourage broader understandings of identity, community, culture, and relations. (pg 573)

When it comes to analyzing methodology of Traditional Western Science and Indigenous Knowledge Systems I appreciate the views of Gilbert Onwu in Indigenous knowledge systems and science and technology education: A dialogue: 

I don’t think we should be looking at IKS with the same lens of judgment as we would do with Western science”.

He goes on to defend that each system requires different forms of verification, and that by not doing so we would be compromising one system at the expense of the other “and in the process lose the beauty of what the two systems could provide alongside each other.” (pg 6) What a wonderful concept. That each system has its own value, and that they each fill a void of knowledge present in the alternate approach. The scientist can reach a more thorough understanding by considering Traditional Western Science and Indigenous Knowledge together, rather than if only one of the systems were employed.

With this in mind, how can I apply the 4 R’s to the oral tradition of indigenous peoples? Is it appropriate to do so? In an attempt to understand storytelling in comparison to other qualitative research methods it can be an interesting exercise. The researcher includes generations of indigenous people that have passed their knowledge and wisdom on for the benefit of their community and future generations. Storytelling as research reveals intricate connections between self, community and the land that expand well beyond a single lesson, focus or discipline. The researched includes information passed on through many generations that is specific to the community and culture of the listener. Lastly, I am honoured to be invited to participate in the research of storytelling as the reader (or more, the listener), as the wisdom captured by storytelling can also benefit learners of non indigenous decent. Yes, it is interesting to consider storytelling through the lens of these four R’s, however I am reminded of The Five R’s for Indigenizing Online Learning: A Case Study of the First Nations Schools’ Principals Course and the five R’s (respect, relevance, reciprocity, responsibility, and relationships) seem to be a more appropriate approach when analyzing storytelling.

There are additional significant differences between the systems of Traditional Western Knowledge and Indigenous Knowledge. Co-author of Indigenous knowledge systems and science and technology education, Mogege Mosimege, brings up the point that

questioning is a critical component that seems not to be dominant in IKS and I think it is true that this does not help developments in IKS to advance beyond where they are. (pg 8)

Another stumbling block for IKS (when compared to traditional knowledge) is the reproducibility of the science. Without written documentation verifying knowledge gained through IKS is difficult. It seems to be a delicate balance between respecting each system for the qualities they possess, and suggesting alterations that might enhance credibility, validity, or rigor. In Canada, with relationships between settlers and indigenous people being delicate as we work towards reconciliation, it might be wise to leave the future of IKS to indigenous peoples and respect their knowledge systems for the unique contributions they provide. I hesitate as a settler to impose any more of my colonial ways on indigenous people, and instead I propose that we (white people) recognize and admit to the limitations of Traditional Western Science and practice respect and gratitude for the unique contributions of storytelling.

Conclusion

A significant difference between the two readings by Dr. Shauneen Pete was that of storytelling. When storytelling was used to discuss decolonization of higher education I was more open to listening and learning as I was invited into relationship with the author. Storytelling allows the listener to relate the stories to their own lives, make connections and draw new meanings. It includes cultural context that can otherwise be overlooked and reveals new perspectives that expand our understandings. When we compare Indigenous Knowledge Systems of storytelling to Traditional Western Science we might conclude that one fills a void in the other and vice versa. Through storytelling the author invites the learner into a deeper understanding of the natural world that nurtures relationship and connectedness. I am grateful to Dr. Pete for sharing her stories with us, and reminding me of the importance of relationships and connections when it comes to living, learning and teaching.

Resources to Further Investigate the Role of Storytelling in Science

Additional resources for First Nations Education in Science are available from

 

Decolonization

The last few days have been quite a ride.  The three assigned readings;

have taken me through such a range of emotions, I am hoping that blogging about it might allow me to put some of my thoughts to rest tonight for a good nights’ sleep.

I hope I’m not alone when I admit that “Idle No More” left me frustrated and agitated.  I wondered if my reaction was simply a mirror of the spirit in which the chapter was written (as Dr. Pete was transparent in her writing regarding her frustration teaching pre-service white teachers). I am a very willing learner when it comes to Indigenous experience and ways of knowing, and in my experience my agitation simply signals that I have more learning to do.  And so I jump into the second reading.

I thoroughly enjoyed the second reading, and appreciate the insights that Dr. Pete had with respect to her readers.  It was brilliantly written and provoking, and I appreciated it very much.  Storytelling is so incredibly powerful. Furthermore, I appreciate Dr. Pete’s call for action for non-indigenous educators to educate themselves.  Resources abound, and I have echoed the sentiment that we (settlers) do not have an excuse to be ignorant.  That being said, I still have so much to learn. I am grateful for the respected authors noted in Dr. Pete’s work.

To finish my readings tonight, I had the pleasure of considering the Five R’s for Indigenizing Online Learning. I found the approach and foundation to the research welcoming and inspiring.  I am shocked that a new category for evaluation had to be created in order for the course to be accredited. This framework reflects so many of my goals, and I wonder about implementing a similar guiding foundation to my Environmental Science course, and allowing these critical R’s to penetrate my teaching practice throughout all of my teaching assignments.

I also am also considering the research methodology of the third article and how a similar approach would be beneficial for the implementation and evolution of my upcoming Env. Sci class.  I will certainly be revisiting this paper for further inspiration.

 

Informal Blog Post: Take One

I woke up this morning really excited to dive into my goal of interacting on social media and building my PLN. In particular, I wanted to follow some blogs that have been introduced to us in class, and take some time wandering around Twitter to find people that will inspire me professionally.  This is my first informal post, one that I will not submit for grading. I am consciously refusing to edit and re-edit, and just want to journal my experience navigating this new realm. Will it be as interesting and rich as promised?

I started by re-reading Christine Younghusband’s blog post titled Evolution of My PLN and love the idea of making new friends on Twitter.  I am part of a facebook group of fitness enthusiasts that has over 50 members from across North America, and I have had the pleasure of meeting a few of those individuals after first establishing a friendship on facebook. I wonder if participating in Twitter and reading blogs can offer me the same inspiration and sense of community.

I then looked up Christine Younghusband’s blog. Within 5 minutes I was reading about a course Christine taught in the Summer of 2018 called “Quantitative Approaches to Environmental Education”.  Crazy. Taking my masters was a decision I made to inform and support the implementation of Environmental Science 11 in our School. I thoroughly enjoy math, and look forward to using quantitative analysis with my students to evaluate our marine and land environments. Now I am repeating a sentence from Christine’s blog in my head: “It was very serendipitous”. Yes it is. Listed in the required reading for Christine’s class is a book by Judson, Gillian (2018) titled “A walking curriculum: Evoking wonder and developing sense of place (K-12)”, which appears to fit in beautifully with the ideas I have for my class next spring so I promptly ordered it through Amazon.  I watched Gillian Judson’s Tedx Talk  titled “Engage Emotion, Engage Imagination” and followed her on twitter.

She has 18.1K followers and is following 14.2K twitter accounts. I’ll checked them out later:) I also made note of the fact that she offers workshops to school districts…perhaps a ProD opportunity I can suggest. Thirty minutes in and this has already been so fruitful. I could stop now, but I haven’t even read a blog or dove into twitter! This will likely be time consuming, but I am already assured it will be worth it.

I commented on a blog post from Christine, noting our similar areas of interest and thanking her for directing me to some valuable resources. This is easier than I thought! One hour in and I am switching gears to check out Ian Landy, AKA Technolandy.  Second blog in and I am reading his post regarding his chat with #TIEgrad. He recommends some hashtags, handles, and blogs, and I have followed Katie White @katiewhite426 (I really appreciated her positive, inspirational tweets) and Dean Shareski @shareski. Wondering what to do next I looked up a friend and respected colleague (also a twitter enthusiast) and checked out who she follows. I added Ted-Ed, Elisa Carlson, Ally Hoffman (who I did my practicum with way back when), Daniel Pink (I have read and thoroughly enjoyed his books!), Chris Hadfield (he has such an endearing personality), TomWhitby, Alan Clark (colleague at Spectrum), Ramy Gerber (VP of our neighboring elementary school where I have helped create a shared garden space), UVIC, Bruce Bidney (my principal) and Greater Victoria SD. I’m losing steam, so I’m going to close by updating my twitter profile as this influenced who I followed greatly.

Not bad for my first day.

 

Posting with Intention

I’m very nervous about this post. I am a pretty private person when it comes to my personal life and growth, especially online, but this week I have been faced with some challenging questions. Why am I so quiet on social media?  Why do I resist putting myself out there? In order to reflect on these questions, I am going to review the week of classes for EDCI 515 and 568 chronologically, as my progression of thinking has been guided by our daily discussions and guest speakers.

The assigned reading for Monday included Twitter Use and its Effects on Student Perception of Instructor Credibility, by DeGroot, Young & VanSlette (2015).   This article brought out all the insecurities I have when it comes to social media. Will I sound simple or uneducated? Will I make a spelling mistake? Will peers that are reading it judge me? Will some peers judge me on the fact that I am trying to further my practice (yes, I know this would be driven by their own insecurities, but it still impacts my engagement on social media). Do I have significant contributions to professional discussions? At the end of it all, I am left to ask myself why am I so worried about what others think and why am I lacking the confidence to participate? I spent a fair bit of time considering these questions, and the answers are fairly personal, but I am confident that they are not unique experiences so I will risk being vulnerable and just go for it.

As far as worrying about sounding simple or uneducated, my passion drives me in all areas of my life and my passion often supercedes my abilities. I regularly find myself in arenas that I don’t feel comfortable or confident in.  When it comes to my teaching practice, I am aware that although I have been teaching for more than 20 years, I only have 10 years of full time service to draw from. I have not stayed in one subject area for very long, therefore have not become an expert in any specific discipline. I started my career in a junior high school teaching math and science for 3 years, then taught Home Economics for almost 10 years while I had our three children. I swallowed my fears and jumped back into high school math 8 years ago, and embarked on teaching senior biology and science only 5 years ago. That’s not very much time in any single area to form much expertise, and someone with more experience could easily disregard what I have to say.

When it comes to peers judging me for going back to school and diving into research, technology, and 21st century learning, I think this is a big influence that limits my use of social media. Where I work, many teachers are quite verbal when it comes to disrespecting the ‘ivory tower’, and professional development in general.  Five years ago I helped start a committee that considered collaboration time for teachers in order to help with implementing new curriculum, provide an avenue for meaningful professional development, model lifelong learning for our students, and encourage a sense of community among a divided and often isolated staff.  Four years ago, we were able to have collaboration time included in our instructional time. Since then, there has been a significant portion of the staff that has been very public in their dislike of collaboration. Out of our initial group of 4 teachers that started the committee, 3 have moved to other schools or the school board partly due to this conflict. This is where my mantra of  “Go with the goers” comes from, but it is challenging sometimes.

Why am I so worried about what other people think? This question goes back a long way to when I learned to really value my privacy. In junior high and high school my family went through some very difficult times when our family business burnt down and my dad succumbed to addiction. Our struggles were often very public, and at one point all my teachers were given photos of my dad to help keep me and my sister safe at school. I did not handle the pressures very well, and drew a lot of negative attention to myself. This negative image seemed inescapable until I moved from Vancouver to Victoria in my mid-twenties. I really valued having a new identity and the opportunity for a fresh start.  Significantly participating in an online community scares me. I have valued flying under the radar for over 20 years, and engaging in social media feels like I am willingly putting myself in a vulnerable position by opening myself up to the public.

Two subsequent readings, Public comment sentiment on educational videos: Understanding the effects of presenter gender, video farmat, threading, and moderation on YouTube TED talk comment, by Veletsianos, Kimmons, Larsen, Dousay, & Lowenthal (2018) and Women Scholars’ Experiences with Online Harassment and Abuse: Self-Protection, Resistance, Accpetance, and Self-Blame, by Veletsianos, Houlden, Hodsen and Gosse (2018) pushed me to consider my absence on social media further.  I have experienced being dismissed and ridiculed for my contributions several times in my career. I am confident it had more to do with the other individuals’ insecurities and arrogance, however it still requires courage to put myself out there. Drawing from the categories of coping presented in Women Scholars’ Experiences with Online Harassment and Abuse: Self-Protection, Resistance, Accpetance, and Self-Blame, I certainly subscribe dominantly to the strategy of self-protection by eliminating opportunities for harassment altogether. I compartmentalize my professional and personal online identities, I choose privacy options that significantly limit who can see my posts, and regularly draft a post that I delete immediately when I consider how they may be interpreted or what responses they might elicit.

For a long time, it was easy to refrain from social media as my husband is a police officer and worked undercover for many years.  Jesse Miller’s presentation on Safety, Privacy, and Professionalism on Tuesday afternoon reinforced all my reasons for minimizing my engagement with social media. For our safety and anonymity, my husband and I both delayed becoming engaged in any social media at all until a reunion brought me to facebook only 6 years ago, and my husband signed up for facebook only 3 years ago. When I recently discussed privacy setting choices with my husband for this progrem, Trevor surprised me and said there was no reason to limit myself to posting with regards to my professional growth. It has been easy to remain silent and disengaged on social media so far, however now I have some choices to make for myself.  I would like to get to a place of resistance and acceptance (coping strategies outlined in Women Scholars’ Experiences with Online Harassment and Abuse: Self-Protection, Resistance, Acceptance, and Self-Blame), however, I am sensitive and admit to sometimes being emotional. The time it takes to rebound from negative interactions is time that I don’t wish to donate. Will the benefits of putting myself out there outweigh the time and energy it will take to digest potential negative responses?

The assigned reading for Thursday was Scholars Before Researchersby Boote & Beile (2005). This article reminded me of the richness of research and information available that can inform my teaching practice, and I had to admit that social media is a valuable tool for sharing relevant, interesting, and applicable scholarly writing and educational practices.  I was reminded that I am embarking on my masters degree to improve my teaching practice, and to enable me to facilitate a richer and more engaging learning environment for my students. Although sitting on the sidelines might feel safe, it is neither fulfilling, inspiring, nor of much personal benefit.

In conclusion, I realize that fear is driving my resistance to engaging in social media for professional development.  I have not let fear stop me from doing anything of value in my life thus far, and now that I have identified my obstacle I intend to conquer it. The benefits associated with connecting with a larger community of professionals and the conversations that could result appear to far outweigh the cons of disengaging and remaining a consumer of online content rather than a contributor.  I would love to hear about the benefits of social media that you have experienced in the comments! Thanks for listening, and I look forward to our online conversations.

 

 

Assessing the Reliability of Data Concerning Educational Blogging

Assessing the Quality of Mixed Methods Research: Toward a Comprehensive Framework (O’Cathain, 2010)  provides valuable insight and information on qualitative and quantitative research methods separately, in order to introduce and describe the leading framework for analyzing mixed method research.  The article closes with an invitation for researchers to apply the outlined model to their own work, in hopes of further developing the framework and understanding of how to assess the quality of mixed methods research.

It is important to note that a potential limitation of the mixed method framework presented is that the author, Alicia O’Cathain, builds upon the framework of Tashakkori & Teddlie (2003) and states that they have “what is still the most comprehensive approach to assessing the quality of mixed methods research” (O’Cathain, 2010).  The fact that Tashakkori and Teddlie are the editors of O’Cathain’s paper raises the concern that if there were oversights, mistakes, or bias in the original framework presented by Tashakkori & Teddlie, they would not likely be objective editors of the study and able to reveal such problems.

The discipline of research methodology is new to me, and although I take time to scrutinize procedure, bias and context of research, I have been limited in my approach to analyzing research.  As a high school science teacher, I am further limited in my experience as my focus is often on quantitative research, hence I have chosen a research article that uses qualitative methodology.  In the article, Using a Project Blog to Promote Student Learning and Reflection (Worthington, Reniers, Lackeyram, Dawson, 2018) the role of blogging in student learning and reflection is analyzed.  I am keenly interested as this is a practice I plan on implementing in my Environmental Science 11 class in next school year.

My teaching philosophy and practice is evolving from that of traditional direct instruction to an inquiry based model.  My experience in school was during the 80’s and 90’s when conventional teaching methods dominated.  During my undergrad I began to experience a more authentic learning environment, and throughout my 20 year teaching career have thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the opportunities and enthusiasm inquiry based teaching and learning affords.  My intention for teaching Environmental Science 11 is to:

  • inspire students to participate in caring for the natural world through passion projects mentored by local environmental groups;
  • instill confidence in their abilities to contribute to a larger community of environmentally responsible individuals;
  • use the inquiry based teaching model to promote critical thinking;
  • encourage students to motivate others to be environmentally aware through social media and community interactions.

My goals for this class are not conducive to traditional teaching practices, hence students will be assessed on reflections and projects rather than traditional tests.  My optional article to review and consider in light of Assessing the Quality of Mixed Methods of Research: Toward A Comprehensive Framework, is Using a Project Blog to Promote Student Learning and Reflection.  My purpose for choosing this article for reflection is to further my understanding of qualitative methods and research, and consider the effectiveness of using blogs to promote student learning in senior Environmental Science classrooms.

The three research questions focused on in Using a Project Blog to Promote Student Learning and Reflection (Worthington, et al. 2018) are:

  1. How frequently did students write blog posts?
  2. What content did students write about?
  3. What functions did the students’ blog posts serve?

The qualitative research undertaken in Using a Project Blog to Promote Student Learning and Reflection is designed to inform instructor practices (Worthington, et al. 2018).  Three undergraduate students were instructed to use blogging to reflect, communicate, brainstorm, evaluate literature and document team creations throughout a curriculum mapping project as a co-op work placement.  Little direction as to how to use the blogs was given to the three students, however several weeks into the project they were requested to add a task list describing their weekly activities in their blogs.

Worthington, et al. (2018) give evidence from previous studies that suggest blogging increases connectedness among students (Miceli, Murray, Kennedy, 2010), improves knowledge integration outside of class (Halic, Lee, Paulus, & Spence, 2010), and encourages cognitive, meta-cognitive, and affective learning (Chu et al., 2012).  The author also refers to research that highlights the benefits of grading blogs (Chu et al., 2012) and providing structure for blog engagement (Divitini, Haugalokken, and Morken, 2005).

The results of this study suggest that the use of blogs helps guide projects and promotes learning.  Using the comprehensive teaching of O’Cathain, I will investigate the research methods of a qualitative analysis of blog posts undergone in the study by Worthington, et al. (2018) and suggest how a subsequent study might address any shortcomings.

Summary of Findings

     Research Question 1: Frequency of Blog Posts.

The frequency of blog posts were analyzed by counting the number of blog posts, and using Microsoft Word’s word count to determine the length of the post.  The average post length was 568 words, and an average of seven posts per student per month were written.

     Research Question 2: Content of Blog Posts.

The content of blog posts included curriculum-related issues such as pedagogy and Bloom’s taxonomy, and personal reflection.

     Research Question 3: Function of Blog Posts.

The functions of blog posts included organization, communication with their faculty supervisor and one another, summarizing learning outcomes, share links to resources and upload documents for future reference.

Analysis of Qualitative Methods for This Case Study Using the Quality Framework for Mixed Methods Research (O’Cathain, 2010)

     Planning Quality.

Care was given to be transparent in situating the study and shaping the research questions, methods, analysis, and reporting.  The feasibility of the study was good.

     Design Quality.

The design was appropriate for addressing the research questions.  Strengths and weaknesses were not considered in depth, and weaknesses were not addressed in the design.  Specifically, the primary author, P. Worthington, was one of the participants in the study and also developed the codebook used to analyze the results.  At the time of the co-op, the participants were not aware that the blogs would be analyzed retrospectively, but it does bring in to question whether the participant/author may have had an idea for future research during her participation of the co-op.  Also, the time that each student participated in the co-op varied greatly in duration and time of year.  Overall, I would rate the design strength of this study as poor as the sample size is too small to infer reliable conclusions and the controls of the design were inadequate.

     Data Quality.

Admittedly, I struggle to give an informed opinion on analytic adequacy and analytic integration rigor as I am unfamiliar with data analysis techniques for qualitative research.  That being said, the analytic adequacy seems to be compromised due to the author’s participation in the study.  As noted above, the participants were not aware that the blogs would be analyzed retrospectively, however, the author may have personally experienced opportunities for reflection and learning due to blogging, and thereby developed the study to verify her conclusions.  If this were the case, she could not have been objective in her analysis.  Furthermore, there are many quotes in the article to evidence higher level thinking, communication, organization, and reflection, and now that I know that one of the authors is a participant it brings in to question the motivation for the article.  Was it an opportunity to bring attention to the quality of the author’s own use of blogging?  I don’t believe it completely negates the data, the research, or it’s implications but it definitely raises concerns and my stance is that the conclusions warrant further investigation.  The data transparency and rigor appears to be sufficient, and sampling adequacy was poor.

     Interpretive Rigor.

Interpretive transparency and consistency were weak, and theoretical consistency was good as the inferences of the study were consistent with current knowledge.  Interpretive agreement was weak as the sample size was too small and the objectivity of the author is questionable.

     Inference Transferability.

From the findings of the study I have sufficient reason to believe that  blogging will assist with student organization, learning, and reflecting in senior secondary environmental science classes.  However, I am not confident these findings will be consistent across all my students as not all participants will be highly motivated, as they were in the study, therefore ecological transferability is good and population transferability is poor.

     Reporting Quality.

Reporting availability was good as the study was successfully completed within time,money and staffing constraints. The reporting transparency was also sufficient as many key aspects of the study were described thoroughly.  The yield of the study was good as the conclusions could have far reaching implications.

     Synthesizability.

The study has poor design (due to small sample size) and data quality which limits the reliable application of this study.

     Utilitity.

Utility of this study was good as prior research supports the research conclusion that blogging promotes student learning and reflection.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the research conducted in the study Using a Project Blog to Promote Student Learning and Reflection is important for informing the teaching practices of educators.  I believe the implications of this study can extend beyond the Post Secondary environment in which it took place and has value for teachers, students, software companies, education researchers, ministries, and school districts. These stakeholders would benefit from further research involving a larger pool of more diverse students to warrant widespread support of  blogging to enhance student learning and reflection practices.  The authors of the article would have benefited from reading O’Cathain’s work, supported by Tashakkori and Teddlie, as their work could have contributed to the planning, design quality and data quality of the study, hence improving the validity and reliability of the findings.

 

Author Biographies

Paisley Worthington is currently an undergraduate science student at the University of Guelph.

Jennifer Reniers (PhD) is the Educational Analyst in the Office of Teaching and Learning at the University of Guelph

Dale Lackeyram (PhD) is the Manager of Educational Development, Centre for Open Learning and Educational Support at the University of Guelph

John Dawson is a Professor and Director in the CBS Office of Education Scholarship and Practice (COESP).

 

References

Chu, S. K. W., Chan, C. K. K., & Tiwari, A. F. Y. (2012). Using blogs to support learning during internship. Computers and Education, 58(3), 989-1000. http://doi.org.ezproxy.library.uvic.ca/10.1016/j. Compedu.2011.08.027

Divitini, M., Haugaløkken, O., & Morken, E. M. (2005). Blog to support learning in the field: lessons learned from a fiasco. Proceedings of the 5th IEEE International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies (ICALT 2005), 219-221. http://doi.org.ezproxy.library.uvic.ca/10.1109/ ICALT.2005.74

Halic, O., Lee, D., Paulus, T., & Spence, M. (2010). To blog or not to blog: Student perceptions of blog effectiveness for learning in a college-level course. Internet and Higher Education, 13, 206-213. http://doi.org.ezproxy.library.uvic.ca/10.1016/j.iheduc.2010.04.001

O’Cathain, A. (n.d.). Assessing the Quality of Mixed Methods Research: Toward a Comprehensive Framework. Sage Handbook of Mixed Methods in Social & Behavioral Research, 531-556. doi:10.4135/9781506335193.n21

Miceli, T., Murray, S. V., & Kennedy, C. (2010). Using an L2 blog to enhance learners’ participation and sense of community. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 23(4), 321-341. http://d0i.0rg/10.1080/09588221.2010.495321

TashakkoriA., & TeddlieC. (2003). The past and future of mixed methods research: From data triangulation to mixed model designs.

Tashakkori, A., & Teddlie, C. (2010). Sage handbook of mixed methods in social & behavioral research. SAGE Publications.

Worthington, P., Reniers, J., Lackeyram, D., & Dawson, J. (2018). Using a project blog to promote student learning and reflection. The Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 48(3), 125-140.

 

Mixing the Methods of Research Methodology

 

As defined by the Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries:

Research: a careful study of a subject, especially in order to discover new facts or information about it

Methodology: a set of methods and principles used to perform a particular activity

It follows that Research Methodology is the careful study of the methods and principles used to do research.

 

My teaching experience  has been that of a Science Teacher that implements the Scientific Method in order to do research with my students. In my area of study, quantitative data is often considered the only relevant data.  If you do the Scientific Method properly, your results should be reproducible and reliable over and over again. But as I sit and contemplate my research methodology in light of Ellis, Adams, and Bochner’s article: Autoethnography: An Overview and Engin’s article: Research Diary: A Tool for Scaffolding, I am confronted with the limitations of the research practiced in my classroom; for both student and teacher. Students perform the scientific method.  I rely on quantitative data for assessment. I regularly journal my thinking with respect to my teaching practice, and I encourage my students to reflect on their learning through writing, however I have failed to consider that this process will enhance the quality of research that goes on in the classroom for both teachers and learners.

I recently attended a series of workshops on Indigenous Perspective in Science.  I was humbled greatly over the course of our workshops, where my foundation of Traditional Western Science and the Scientific Method was revealed as a limiting and narrow perspective.  One example of this narrow perspective is the myth that reliable science and scientific discoveries are the result of the scientific method. Another example includes the definitions of living and non living things. Before I dive in to the consequences of this narrow view of Traditional Western Science and the Scientific Method, it is interesting to consider the definition of Science.

(As defined by the Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries)

Science: the knowledge about the structure and behaviour of the natural and physical world, based on facts that you can prove, for example by experiments

There is no doubt that science has been performed since the beginning of higher level thinking primates.  From understanding that a rock can break through a shelled organism, to identifying and synthesizing the gene that is responsible for the enzyme lactase, I am comfortable labeling the acquisition of that knowledge ‘science’.  So, science has been practiced long before the definition was put into print, and long before the scientific method became the accepted method for research in the 19th century. And yet, I was unaware that by restricting myself and my students to the scientific method I was undervaluing the contributions of those that came before me. And similarly, in the study of ecology (the study of relationships between organisms and their physical surroundings) detailing the difference between living and non living things contradicted the views and experience of indigenous peoples and their intimate understanding of interconnectedness.

It was not until I accepted that my view was narrow, and my knowledge and experiences limited, that I could work on creating an environment in my classroom that is more respectful of the individual.  Through my experience exploring Indigenous Perspectives in Science, the work of Ellis, Adams and Bochner and also of Engin,  I can confidently approach the analysis of my teaching practice qualitatively.

My reflections of the reading Autoethnography: An Overview, are limited to my experience as a science teacher with a current focus on Indigenous Perspectives. I am struck with the absence of autoethnography in the classroom, and am once again humbled at the amount of information and connections I am preventing by not engaging in this approach.

  • Scholars have acknowledged how the “facts” and “truths” scientists “found” were inextricably tied to the vocabularies and paradigms the scientists used to represent them (KUHN, 1996; RORTY, 1982) These results were that of social science inquiry, however I would like to suggest it would be valid to explore these limitations in scientific inquiry.
  • It is understood that  different  people possess different assumptions about the world. When we are learning or participating in a philosophical chairs activity, or a socratic seminar, we are limiting the conversations to those of like minded individuals and thereby limiting the learning. Just a few examples of where our learning is incomplete without a wider lens include renewable and non renewable energy, GMO’s, Genetics, space exploration, evolution and pharmaceuticals versus traditional medicine.
  • The importance of community and connection in the classroom is paramount for meaningful learning, and I am committed to the inclusion of all learners, from all experiences and backgrounds. As noted earlier, I am working to honour indigenous perspectives in my classroom and create a learning environment that values one-another’s  knowledge and experience.  This paragraph from Autoethnography: an Overview really highlighted the purpose of this approach as a research methodology is to foster mutual respect and understanding.

    When researchers write autoethnographies, they seek to produce aesthetic and evocative thick descriptions of personal and interpersonal experience. They accomplish this by first discerning patterns of cultural experience evidenced by field notes, interviews, and/or artifacts, and then describing these patterns using facets of storytelling (e.g., character and plot development), showing and telling, and alterations of authorial voice. Thus, the autoethnographer not only tries to make personal experience meaningful and cultural experience engaging, but also, by producing accessible texts, she or he may be able to reach wider and more diverse mass audiences that traditional research usually disregards, a move that can make personal and social change possible for more people.

    Please note, that in the context of indigenous peoples, it would be appropriate to refer to accessible stories and knowledge rather than accessible texts.

I have not encountered autoethnography in the context of the science classroom, however I would like to explore this approach and the rich content it affords with respect to indigenous perspectives.

The reading of Research Diary: A Tool for Scaffolding is yet another approach that has been overlooked in many science classrooms.  In this article, Engin states

that in the research process, data collection should not be separated from reflection and analysis, as all process feed into each other. Reflections involve writing about the process of research.  This includes analysis of strengths and weaknesses of each stage of research, as well as personal thoughts on the research process.

I would like to suggest that a research diary would not only be useful for students to reflect on their learning, but also useful for students to critique their experimental methods and scientific discoveries, thereby uncovering potential biases.

Personal Reflections

I carefully study my teaching methods, and the efficacy of my practice, and yet I have not approached the study of my teaching from the discipline of Research Methodology. I have been limited to  quantitative research, and mostly quantitative assessment, and look forward to experiencing the significant learning that a qualitative perspective will bring to my classroom.

Reflections on the 4 R’s: the researcher, the research, the researched, and the reader

Prior to my learning, I would have responded that my role as a researcher was to research good teaching strategies, new discoveries in my discipline, and my efficacy as an educator.  I would research my efficacy by using student assignments, reflections and test scores, which would include both qualitative and quantitative data. The reader of my research (both summative and formative student assessments) would be student and parent.

Prior to my learning, I would have responded that the student role as a researcher was to perform carefully constructed or delivered scientific experiments, research the course curriculum, and research the effectiveness of their study habits. Students would research the course content, their behaviours and their thinking as learners. The reader of student research would be the teacher, and often each other.

After my learning, differences between teacher and student as researcher disappear.  The learning community becomes united in what is researched and and we all become the readers. The scientific research as curriculum may remain, however new content is introduced as we learn more about each other, ourselves, the learning process, and the deep context of who we are, where we live, and what has formed our thoughts and experiences. As individuals who feel valued, respected, and confident the reader extends beyond student, teacher and parent, to community and perhaps beyond as we take our research and learning beyond the classroom.

I am excited to implement research diaries and the approach of autoethnography in my science classroom and in my teaching practice. I expect the invitation to deepen our connections with course material and each other will provide a rich learning environment that extends beyond the classroom.