Thursday, March 30, 2017

Week 17 - Introduction into Research in Education

What is research?
There is much debate surrounding definitions of research and more particularly education research. Here are some useful concepts related to research:
"Educational research is not just a way to come up with new ideas about teaching and learning, but most often it is a way to convince us that the ideas we already have are worth exploring - that they are worth buying into" (Morrell & Carroll, 2010, p.2).
"Research is a process of steps used to collect and analyze information to increase our understanding of a topic or issue. At a general level, research consists of three steps:

Pose a question.
Collect data to answer the question.
Present an answer to the question." (Creswell, 2011, p.3) For more information on research in education, including how research projects are designed, you could take a look at the first chapter of Creswell (2011) which you can find in the reference list.
The main things you should take away from this reading are:
What research is and the roles that it can play
The basic steps in the research process
The nature of quantitative and qualitative research
Different types of research design in education

How Research can Support Teachers – Evidence Informed Practice
You may have heard the term evidence-informed practice or evidence-based practice used in relation to schools and education. Evidence-informed practice refers to the ways in which teachers and schools use research evidence, in conjunction with other sources of evidence (such as student data) and their own expertise to make decisions and to support their teaching. It is based on the idea that to be their most effective teachers should engage with research and keep up to date with the latest developments in their curriculum areas and in the discipline of education more generally.
For further reading on evidence-informed practice, read Coe's (1999) short but incisive article, available in this week's media, which makes the point that "The only really sound evidence about what works comes from actually trying it." (p.5)

Choosing a Research Topic
This week you should focus on identifying an area that you would like to research and develop for the Teacher Inquiry project. It is anticipated that you will focus on this topic area for the two main assessments. The list below provides possible areas to focus on. You may select a topic outside of this area, however, we suggest that if you do so you get advice from the postgraduate team about whether it will be suitable for the assessments.

Suggested Topic Areas (with links to the first 16 weeks’ topics)
Assessment – Creative Ways of Assessing (DIGITAL Week 9)
Key Competencies of 21st Century Skills (DIGITAL Week 2)
Leading Change (LEADERSHIP Week 8)
Innovative Leadership Practice (LEADERSHIP Week 3, Week 6)
Growth Mindset (LEADERSHIP Week 5)
Design Thinking (DIGITAL Week 14; LEADERSHIP Week 14)
Entrepreneurship (DIGITAL Week 10; LEADERSHIP Week 10)
Blended Learning (DIGITAL Week 7)
Game Based Learning/Gamification (DIGITAL Week 15; LEADERSHIP Week 15)
Inquiry or Problem Based Learning (DIGITAL Week 10, Week 13; LEADERSHIP Week 13)
Agile and/or Lean Concepts in Education (DIGITAL Week 11; LEADERSHIP Week 11)
Collaborative Learning (DIGITAL Week 4)
Technology Practices (Coding, Robotics, 3D Modelling & Printing, Game Development etc.) (DIGITAL Week 3, Week 5, Week 8, Week 12, Week 15, Week 16)
Digital Media Tools and Pedagogies (DIGITAL Week 6)
Innovative Learning Environments (LEADERSHIP Week 12)

Note that it is possible that you might want to focus on a specific aspect of one of these topic areas (e.g. for blended learning you might focus specifically on the flipped classroom model or the station rotation model).
How Your Chosen Topic Maps to the Course Assessment
During this course, you will:
Engage with the research literature to explore your chosen area for the Teacher Inquiry project and what is already known about in the area
Analyse how the research literature could help to support and inform the project and your practice
Identify ideas, opportunities or gaps within the research literature that you could build upon in the project
Use the research literature as a basis to develop and justify an Teacher Inquiry project plan, which engages with your community in addressing the chosen area/topic
Demonstrate how you will utilise evidence from your Teacher Inquiry project in your practice and evaluate the potential influence this evidence will have for you and your community.

How to Select Your Topic Area
Decide on the topic area you want to focus on for this course. You may choose a topic from the list or select your own topic. To help you to decide on your topic it might be helpful to think about:
a question you have about your practice
an issue that you are currently facing
an area of your practice that you would like to develop
a particular initiative or intervention that you would like to trial in your practice.

Pine (2009) suggests some ways to identify your topic:
conversations with your colleagues; professional literature; examination of your journal entries and teaching portfolio to identify, for example, patterns of teacher/student behavior or anomalies, paradoxes, and unusual situations; dissonance between your teaching intentions and outcomes; problematic learning situations in your classroom that you want to resolve; a new teaching strategy you are eager to implement; an ambiguous and puzzling classroom management concern; or your curiosity about testing a particular theory in the classroom.
Caro-Bruce, Flessner, Klehr & Zeichner (2007) suggest some questions that might help you to identify an area:
What would I like to improve?
What am I perplexed by?
What am I really curious about?
What do I think would really make a difference?
What is something I would like to change?
What would happen to my students’ learning if I did _______?
How can I implement _________?
How can I improve _______?

Kaupapa Maori Research
According to the Rangahau website, there are 8 key elements or principles of Kaupapa Māori research:
Tino Rangatiratanga - The Principle of Self-determination
Taonga Tuku Iho - The Principle of Cultural Aspiration
Ako Māori - The Principle of Culturally Preferred Pedagogy
Kia piki ake i ngā raruraru o te kainga - The Principle of Socio-Economic Mediation
Whānau - The Principle of Extended Family Structure
Kaupapa - The Principle of Collective Philosophy
Te Tiriti o Waitangi - The Principle of the Treaty of Waitangi
Ata - The Principle of Growing Respectful Relationships

Manifesto for Evidence-Based Education" Robert Coerefers to an approach which argues that policy and practice should be capable of being justified in terms of sound evidence about their likely effects.
The notion of "evidence" is not without problems. Many will say that one person's "evidence"may be another's opinionated nonsense.
We need a culture in which evidence is valued over opinion, in which appropriate action (or in action) is valued over just action for the sake of being seen to do something. By advocating such a culture, we hope to reclaim debates about policy and practice for the professionals who know most about them. In this way we hope to be able to do justice to the enormous responsibilities and hopes that are attached to education.
The only worthwhile kind of evidence about whether something works in a particular situation comes from trying it out
The results of experiments can sometimes be disappointing, and this has led to some rejection of the experimental method of enquiry. However, this is a version of "shoot the messenger": if the method is sound but fails to demonstrate the success of a particular strategy, then perhaps the strategy is at fault. Educational researchers are often disappointed if they get negative results, but negative results, particularly if they were to prevent us from wasting time and money on ineffective policies, might actually be more useful than positive ones.
There are three main ways in which education could become more "evidence-based". These concern, firstly, the development of evidence-based policies, secondly, of evidence-based practice and, thirdly, the general promotion of a "culture of evidence".

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