Action Research – revised thoughts…

Here’s what I’d like to do.

Title: Encouraging teacher trainees to use technology – how can teacher trainers make a difference? (possibly sexed up along the Please, Teacher Trainer, Can I Have Some More? lines – hardly original, I know…)

Puzzle: I use different strategies at the moment (e.g. modelling of different technological tools; direct inputs from experts; direct inputs from trainees themselves; signposting to resources) but don’t know which trainees value most, ie. their perception of what makes most difference

Action: Ask them (via questionnaires, interviews, reading their reflective journals)

Change: Adjust the programme to do more of what they believe works and less of what they believe doesn’t

I know there are confounding variables here (trainees’ existing skills/confidence/attitudes; the impact of their mentor and the teaching department they’re working in) but I think I could design an AR project which isolates them and focuses on strategies on the teacher training programme itself.  I’ve emailed Alison for feedback and any comments from fellow MScMMELers would be welcome too.

By annyates

My bossy Voki

I’m going to see if a glamorous Scottish dominatrice has any more success than me in getting my students to complete their assignments….

By annyates

Action Research Project – initial ideas

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
By annyates

Task 9 – 5 stage model

I found this task harder than I thought I would!  The nine tasks set so far didn’t always slot neatly into one of Salmon’s five stages – there were sometimes overlaps and ambiguities depending on our different approaches.  Here’s how I see it:

Stage 1: Access and Motivation Task 1 Setting Up Your Blog obviously.  I found getting to grips with WordPress a challenge, though felt some satisfaction when I got there.
Stage 2: Online socialisation Aspects of Task 1 (introducing yourself) belong here – I’m glad we did this straightforwardly instead of having wackiness imposed on us as can sometimes be the case with face-to-face and virtual introductions.  Task 2 built in a greater degree of technical   challenge, at least for me – posting a picture and a video.  Some people moved themselves onto stage 3 here, posting course-related instead of or as well as personal videos.  Task 3, the account of our personal   course-related skillset, is still online socialisation but definitely with a   learning focus – we could see whose skillset was similar to our own (it’s useful for me to work with other teacher educators sometimes) and whose complemented it (important both ways for gap-filling).
Stage 3: Information exchange Task 4 the blogroll was definitely about tutor-student   and student-student information exchange.    The ability to revisit tasks has been useful for me here – initially, I was delighted to draw on the course-related blog recommendations made by Liz and fellow students.  More recently, I’ve added a couple of my own that college colleagues have suggested to me as my PLN (so pleased I know what that means now) develops.
Stage 4: Knowledge construction Salmon says that it’s here students become online authors not just transmitters of information.  I think Task 5 (thoughts on blogging) and Task 6 (design project   ideas) are stage 4 e-tivities – this was the first time I found myself using the blog to process my understanding of e-learning in any depth at all.
Stage 5: Development Tasks 7, 8 and 9 might belong here.  Salmon believes the focus now is on the development of yourself and others.  I initially felt inhibited about posting my thoughts on other people’s design projects.  I didn’t feel I knew enough myself about what was required, though a benefit of this form of   communication is its asynchronicity (?) – I can go back and comment as my own thoughts clarify and reading widens and potentially becomes useful to others as well as myself.  The referencing task allows us to practise our own Harvard skills and provide examples which Liz can feedback on – again, this can benefit ourselves and others.  And I’m hoping that task 9, this application of the 5 stage model to our group blog, has moved my own design project further forward…..

I’ve enjoyed blogging and have gained much from it: technical skills as well as a forum for information exchange and ideas development.  Because we post to our own blogs, not to the group blog, communication is sometimes fragmented – I’d be interested to know how this series of activities would work with one central group blog.  I wonder if there might be advantages – I would probably have interacted more, leaving more comments in response to other people’s posts instead of only responding when a task explicitly asked me to – though no doubt disadvantages too – I value the personal nature of my own virtual space and have perhaps been more willing to make lengthier, discursive comments when I’ve wanted to without feeling I’m hogging a communal space.

By annyates

Task 5 – What do you make of blogging?

I’ve enjoyed the technical and creative challenge of setting up a blog and I kind of like having one – sad, my (grown up) children would say.  I don’t post regularly, but this isn’t related to blogging, rather to participating in the course as a whole – I don’t engage actively on a regular basis but in short bursts.  I’m aware that I’m a words not pictures person – an annual September resolution, usually abandoned by October, is to use more visual imagery in my teaching – so I’m glad I’ve learned to post pictures and videos.  I’m not yet unconsciously competent in my use of tags, etc but can usually work out how to do things when the need is pressing.  I’ve found reading other people’s blogs very useful – I’ve spotted videos that I’ll use in my own teacher training practice and have set up iGoogle as my home page on the basis of Debs’ post.  Jing and Google reader next!  I feel guilty that I’m undoubtedly taking more than I’m giving.  I really hope that something I post will be useful to somebody before the module ends, but any contributions of mine are likely to be worthy (aka boring) not exciting – I’d be delighted if anyone found my snippet of academic writing on Biggs’ constructive alignment theory useful but somehow……..

By annyates

Task 8 – Harvard Referencing and Models

The model of constructive alignment (Biggs, 2003) can usefully be applied to my design project: an etivity which aims to engage trainee teachers in experimenting with different functions on their personal smartphones and sharing their experiences with peers via online posts.  For Biggs, learning is created or constructed by students, not transmitted by their teachers.  The teachers’ role is to design an environment in which three key components of learning (intended learning outcomes; teaching and learning activities; and assessment) are aligned.  The intended learning outcomes would be for trainees to explore, evaluate and reflect on the use of personal smartphones in teaching; the online and work-based teaching and learning activities would support the students in achieving the desired outcomes by asking them to try out different smartphone applications and post their thoughts on affordances and barriers; the assessment would be a journal entry reflecting on the role of emerging technologies within their specialist teaching area.  All learning would be constructed by the students rather than imparted by me as the tutor; my role would involve designing a learning environment which adheres to constructive alignment principles and facilitating learning within it.

Biggs, J. B. (2003). Teaching for quality learning at university. Buckingham: Open University Press/Society for Research into Higher Education. (Second edition)


Task 6 – Design Project

My current idea for a design project is around m-learning.  I work with teacher trainees in the lifelong learning sector, many of whom have their own smartphones.  My plan is to engage these learners in experimenting with different applications, which they could then evaluate for the group.  I’m considering asking them to try out: relevant apps (eg. some of top 100 iPhone apps for teachers; RSA Vision; Kindle for iPhone); capturing (and sharing?) their reflections immediately after a teaching practice session; using the camera function to capture learner evidence; texting as a communication tool.  There are lots of other possibilities and I’ll have to manage the potential tension between maximising choice/learning and manageability.  I hope too that there’s the potential for theorising (situated learning and social constructivism?).  This is probably too broad at the moment but I’d love to do something along these lines….

Task 3

I’ve jumped the gun slightly and managed to cover some of task 3 in task 1.  So just to re-iterate:  as a teacher trainer with a background in English teaching, I’d see myself as being reasonably well-placed academically and pedagogically and not so well-placed technologically, though I’m up for experimenting with new ways of teaching/learning which make the most of new technologies.  Last week, inspired by the first session and a little bit of reading of Gilly Salmon, I created what I suppose can be theorised as a Collaborative learning activity for the Curriculum module of the second year in-service PGCE (Lifelong Learning) programme.

By annyates