What should we study and how?

Posted by on January 31, 2010 
Filed under Reading logs

As I was reading the assigned reading, I was reminded of all that I had learned in my previous educational research classes.  Our reading addressed the issue of finding the right “topic” or “question” to research, otherwise you will not have a clear starting point for your research.  Yet, when you pose these questions you need to make sure that your topic is not too broad, so that you are able to gather your data in a clear defined fashion.  Though the research design of your study will vary depending on the topic/questions to be researched, all “good” theories (as per McKinney) need to fit the data, are logically consistent, are testable, and are easily generalizable. These four characteristics should hold true in both a quantitative and qualitative research design.  McKinney then discusses the reasoning for a literature review with regards to research, and gives some basic parameters for completing the review and what can be considered a good or reliable source for inclusion.

One thing that really resonated for me with regards to this weeks’ reading was from the Bass text.  He stated, “As with many people, my heightened attention to teaching was occasioned by a crisis.”  This I have seen with some of my former colleagues in education.  There are teachers who will keep with the same teaching style and teaching components until something drastic happens, and this is how our field becomes stagnant.  You should not as an educator wait until you have an educational “train wreck” to look and evaluate your teaching style or to update the components of your course(s).  You should look at your course with a fresh pair of eyes every semester and see if you can update even one part of your course, you do not have to overhaul the whole thing at once!  I try to do this every semester, since I know I will be interacting with a new group of students, do I change everything…no, but there is always at least a few things that are new and fresh. As Bass states: “As with scholarship or research, you cannot investigate everything at once.” but as educators and scholars, we should find time to at least focus on a small area of improvement or research… it is only then that our field will reach new heights.


One Response to “What should we study and how?”

  • acastro on February 7th, 2010 7:20 pm    

    Reading Carrie Ann’s reflections on her prior educational research classes and having read McKinney’s third chapter, I see parallels between business, a traditional professional field, and SoTL. In this case, I am thinking of Lean Six Sigma (LSS). LSS is a continuous process improvement method used throughout private industry and government. Using this method, individuals or teams take core processes and streamline them, so that they result in higher quality outputs being produced more quickly. McKinney’s discussion on strategies for developing theories for a SoTL project highlights steps similar to those found in LSS.

    First, one begins with a problem or question of SoTL then uses additional data to refine it. Similarly in LSS, one must “Define” (step 1) an issue or process to improve. Identifying dependent and independent variables, stating explicit beliefs among those variables, and drawing models or concept maps, are steps McKinney highlights on page 32 that would be found in the LSS “Analyze” (step 3) phase. I imagine that as we continue with the book, we will see additional parallels to the other steps in LSS – Measure(step 2), Improve, and Control (steps 4 and 5), just as Carrie Ann has seen them between SoTL and her educational research classes.

    Why is this important? Is it important? I am not sure yet. I suppose it helps with understanding why our readings often mention viewing teaching as a practice and teachers as the “reflective practitioners” (Marchese 21). Perhaps I will revisit this string of thought as the class moves forward.

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