I’ve taken a pragmatic view of this blog so far, only using it to complete formative tasks as set – it’s been a bit like having your homework passed round the class. This is useful – I’ve certainly found reading other people’s homework helpful – but I’m going to try to use it in this module for planning and reflecting on the action research project. So far, I’ve read the action research chapter in Martyn Denscombe’s Good Research Guide (very clear, straightforward and accessible as a starting point) and found some background resources on Zina O’Leary’s The Essential Guide to Doing Research.
Here are my initial thoughts:
I want to develop the curriculum through a technological enhancement for second year in-service teacher trainees on the PGCE/Cert Ed (Lifelong Learning) programme at my own FE College. There are twenty six trainees in two groups, one tutored by me and one tutored by a colleague. The programme is delivered traditionally, with trainees attending a weekly three hour evening class. They complete two modules, one of which requires them (amongst other things) to produce a reflective journal. Although we sometimes undertake classroom activities to support the production of the journal, it is essentially produced privately and individually. Trainees hand in a hard copy three times a year, typically a week in advance of a face-to-face individual tutorial at which it’s discussed. No significant use is made of technology in this process; whilst occasionally trainees submit journal entries and receive feedback electronically, this method tends to be reserved for those who are unable to attend tutorial at the given time.
Ideally, I’d like the whole Teacher Practitioner File which evidences this module and of which the reflective journal forms part, to be compiled as a student-owned e-portfolio. However, I’m mindful of the need to start small! I’d therefore like to focus on the first part of the reflective journal only. The trainees’ brief from the module handbook is as follows:
RJ1. Using reflection and feedback to improve teaching and learning
In this section, you need to demonstrate the use of regular, sustained and independent reflection to evaluate and improve your own teaching and inclusive practice. Drawing on appropriate specialist texts, your reflections must show how you introduced new ideas and thinking into your practice, and the impact this had on teaching and learning. As a guide, your reflections in this section should normally cover at least six separate learning sessions in addition to any teaching observation reflections you draw on – however, you are encouraged to discuss different ways of approaching this section with your module tutor.
At this stage of the course (January), most trainees will have produced between one and three of the required six reflections. They could be asked to produce their next reflection electronically, either within a discussion forum or as an e-portfolio within the college’s VLE. I’m keen for reflections to be shared, i.e. published within the group, and for peer interaction and possibly peer assessment to take place. There would therefore be a comparison between the early reflections, produced privately and with only tutor-student interaction and feedback, and a later reflection, published within the group and with the potential for peer interaction and feedback. I’d like to focus on trainees’ views of the two experiences, and the method I’ll probably use is interviews, maybe supplemented by questionnaires.
Things to note for mulling over later:
- The extent to which this project might be subverting the PGCE/Cert Ed brief’s requirement for independent reflection – am I a dissident already?
- The extent to which I should liaise with my colleague who tutors the other second year group. This project, even confined to my group, will have an impact on her and I need to consider this dimension
- The extent to which my own newfound enthusiasm for all (well, most) things technological might influence the findings and so needs to be taken into account to avoid bias – my trainees know about it and it could influence their responses
Next steps for me:
- Do some wider reading about action research and try to understand more about the different models/perspectives within it
- Think more about research methods, especially about reliability, validity, bias and ethics, initially through working through the material in the module’s Assignments>Educational Research folder
- Investigate the e-portfolio function of the college’s VLE – I’ve not used it before, so this will be useful, even if I decide to stick with a familiar discussion board for the project itself