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Module 1

Our first module

Focus: introducing the course

Introduction to the course

"It's too hard!"  Ballplayer to Coach in A League of Their Own.
"It's supposed to be hard...otherwise everyone would be doing it." Coach (played by Tom Hanks).

This course is about you as a professional teacher/educator and the role that educational research plays in your professional life.1 It is also a course that is an introduction to doing postgraduate study in education.2 What I want to do is use an analogy to write about how I think you can usefully approach this course and the whole postgraduate program. It’s a common enough analogy, one you may have used yourself in your teaching, that of learning as a journey or travel of some sort. Since the place or territory we are traveling to is unfamiliar then it makes sense to do some mapping or make some record of our travels. This notion will be useful for your entire journey, that is for the duration of your postgraduate work at Griffith and beyond.3

For your journey you will need three notebooks.4 It does not matter if you use physical notebooks or digital ones, or a mix. The most important thing is to use them. The notebooks are not a matter for assessment or evaluation. If you do them well, they will be a sound basis for all of the writing that you do along the way. 

The first notebook is a log of the journey. Because we are trying to make sense of things then we can’t leave anything out. We don’t know or have decided yet what is important, what we want to give attention to and so on. This is the only way to document the changes you undergo by taking the journey.  Meetings, classes, people, resources associated with each course, reactions to your travel by others, surprises to the strangeness of the terrain, and so on, should be documented as regularly as possible. Record the time and date for all of the items you put in your log. Without such a record, your making sense of the new terrain will be lost and with it your capability to map where you are, where you have come from and the direction you want to go. As a professional you have to hand or in your mind various ‘maps’ that you use to make sense of the various fields in which you work. All this notebook is, is a device to extend your making sense of new fields, new terrains. This is therefore where you record your questions and puzzles as you trek into places you may not have imagined could exist. This is where you record your impressions, ideas, assumptions about the new, the different, the puzzling.  

The second notebook is for recording the information you gather. The common artifacts you will collect in the new terrain will be articles, sections of books and documents in general. Some of it will be provided to you. Some of it you will have to locate for yourself. How you go about locating things will, of course, be recorded in your first notebook. Again, you can use software to keep track of this or hand write it, whatever suits.5   

The third notebook is for your ad libitum6 writing. Ideas, thoughts that come to mind as you trudge across the strange terrain that is this course and the other courses of this degree. If you like, you might call this notebook the place for the good ideas you had while you were doing this silly course! This notebook may also provide good grist for some of the assignment work you will have to complete along the way.

So, armed with our three notebooks7 we are ready to tackle a journey into what we might loosely call the terrain of educational research. 


A couple of points before we head off into the unknown, think of them as the kind of advice your Mum might have given you before you went off to school or your first job. 

University study, particularly at a postgraduate level can often be a solitary and somewhat intellectually lonely experience. Using our travel metaphor, it’s like taking a journey on your own. That may be your preference. I want to suggest that taking it with others is infinitely more satisfying. I’d want to suggest that the travel will be many more times more enjoyable and fun if you begin to think of yourself on this journey as a professional who brings to the journey a rich set of experience, know-how and smarts from the fields in which you work.8 These resources, no matter how strange it may seem to you now, will be valuable in your explorations. To win the respect of your fellow travelers can I suggest that you aspire to becoming part pack rat (because you have great private collections of stuff), part librarian (because you know who knows what) and part Good Samaritan (because you go out of your way to share what you know and to help others).9 

I see a course like this less in terms of people who don’t know much about something and need to develop an understanding of it and more in terms of a collection of talented and experienced folk who bring much to the course in terms of the many journeys they have taken in other terrains. My job then is one in which I do some initial mapping for you, i.e. suggest a few places (aka modules) we might go and visit, but it is also one where I want you to become great guides, great makers of maps. 

Schedule

What follows is a rough indication of the kind of direction I think we should take. Each module is intended to support your work in identifying an educational issue of importance/interest to you (a small part of the terrain we have been wandering in) and to do some mapping of it. The first task is to prepare what is called an annotated bibliography and using mind mapping software to map the issue in broad terms. The second task builds on the first and you are required to write a short professional paper on the issue you have chosen that is suitable for publication in a professional journal. I’d be keen to see you take this task through to an actual journal and try and get it published.10

Module 2 (Reading educational research)

Before we begin our travels into educational research we take a bit of time to think about the key ideas/issues that are currently important in Australian education.11 The readings offer an opportunity to read a little about what lies ahead: what other intrepid explorers have done and experienced as they engaged with educational research (the Miretzky paper); a provocative, passionate piece that captures something of the challenges and tensions of being a teacher today (Mirochnik); and an introduction to thinking about the influence of various ‘global’ practices on and in education (Edwards & Usher) and (Burbules & Torres). Of course, engaging with these ideas takes us into the terrain of educational research.

Module 3 (Using educational research)

With a modest taste of the terrain it is reasonable to be thinking about why am I doing this? What’s in it for me as a professional (hint: thoughts about this go into the 1st notebook). This brings to the fore a relationship that is variously known as the research or theory-practice divide. The relationship, as Bates (2002) commenting on a 2000 report on the impact of educational research argues, is complex:

It suggests that the impact of educational research on both policy and practice is often complex and indirect rather than linear and straightforward and that the methodologies employed in assessing such impact need to be similarly complex. Moreover, it would appear that this particular research supports the contention that the ways in which educational research is typically produced and utilized is a part of a complex conversation about a diversity of purposes, effects and judgements rather than a more technically oriented implementation of 'what works'.

Module 4 (Writing educational research)

In terms of our metaphor, this is the time we head off into the jungle! It will be an opportunity to discuss your own work and to come to grips with making some sense of a ‘research paper’. A research paper is a finished product, like say, for example, an apple pie. You can taste the pie and make some judgement about how good it is but you don’t see anything of the messiness of the process, any of the compromises the cook had to make, how the ingredients were chosen, what she/he actually did and so on. So too with a paper. While you can work out something of the process that produced the paper, most papers flow with a logic that is commonly not representative of the processes that produced it.12  In this module we’ll also learn to make use of some of the markers in research papers that will help work out their location in the broader terrain. We will also work through the in’s and out’s of the little map we call an annotated bibliography.

Module 5 (Publishing educational research)

By now you’ll have a much clearer sense of the little piece of the terrain that has drawn your interest. We will take some time to share your work towards the professional journal article you have been working on. We will also have a look at a selection of professional journal articles and use them to work on how to structure and write one of these. 

Module 6 (Concluding the course)

In terms of our metaphor, this might be the gathering at the water hole. A time and place to step back, look back over your notebooks, your map making and your journey overall. At the end of this module I will no longer be your guide, but I hope we will cross paths many times in the future and perhaps travel together again.


Resources

Your notebooks. Not wishing to labor the point but these will be your source for everything. The more you put in the better they will be and the easier it will be to do good maps!

You and your colleagues in the course

To emphasise again, you each bring a unique set of talents, experience and know-how to the course. So, collectively, there is an important resource in all of you. Important that you don’t waste it. We will be primarily using the Google group https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/7806edn2014 and you need to join this and use it as your primary means of asking questions and promoting discussion during the course.




Readings

There are resources on this site associated with each module. I have put up some resources or links to them, depending upon how the journey goes I may want to add or subtract the odd reading. 

Digital habits

As you no doubt have noticed the world has increasingly taken on a broad range of resources which locate, produce, analyse and disseminate anything that can be rendered into a digital format. It is tempting to think of this in terms of the journey as having some kind of computer support for your travels. This is of course the case to a point. In order to work in the terrain of educational research you will need to develop, along with your notebook habits, particular ways of making good use of various digital sources and the software to access and manage them. Some of you will undoubtedly have a range of digital habits and I don’t want to add to them unnecessarily. Delegating work for a computer to do for you is not the simple matter that most assume it to be. I’d encourage you to apply a couple of simple tests when considering making use of a computer13 to do work for you:

  • Is this making my life/work easier/simpler? 

There is always a cost in learning something new. That has to be offset against the convenience/labour saved by having a computer do work for you.

  • Do I have to develop any complementary skills when I have a computer do work for me?

This is a trickier test. A simple example might illustrate the problem. When you use a calculator it is possible to make large mistakes if you don’t have approximation skills, i.e. the answer ought to be roughly 1,000.  Then when the answer comes out at 7.3 you know something is wrong. This test is particularly important when you have a computer do complex calculations for you as often occurs when you use a computer model.

In a course of this duration it will often be impractical to examine each and every piece of software you make use of but it is crucially important you maintain a sensibility about this issue as we make more and more use of computers to do things for us.

The university recommends the use of the EndNote referencing software that can be used to help automate a complex and pedantic process. You can investigate this tool and download it for free and learn how to use it with the provided tutorials. As with all technological tools, EndNote will not always be perfect and you are strongly encouraged to become familiar with the APA referencing system through available texts or online resources so that you realise when errors occur.

In the tutorial will explore how to integrate Google Docs and Google Scholar searching. Those studying online can investigate this tool using this video.

We will be making use of a Google Docs for this course. You can use your university student account to access Google Drive where you can create and edit online documents.

The other point that also needs to be made is that using computers to do things does not mean simply doing them more efficiently or faster although this is always an important consideration. When you use a computer to do something, the way you do that ‘thing’ changes. This applies as much to searching a research database for articles to actually doing research. In some fields this influence is more apparent than in others but in all fields now, the change in what it means to do research in a field is altering. 


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JNkr_zJYts&feature=player_embedded#t=0s

Tasks to complete for Module 1

Each module you will have some tasks to complete, while those attending on-campus tutorials and workshops will complete these during the sessions, those studying in mixed-mode should ensure they keep these up to date so that you can participate as part of the course cohort and I can gauge your progress and provide assistance if required. While studying online may be more challenging for some to engage with the course community, it is an important aspect of the course that you benefit from being part of our community of learners, and these tasks will help achieve this. You are most welcome to extend and initiate your own conversations in the course Google Group and you should make particular efforts to do so in the formative weeks at the start of the course. 


Task 1

Introduce yourself to the course in the course Google Group:  
  1. Who are you? Include here your name and some personal history e.g. your home country.
  2. How would you describe yourself as an educator when you first entered the education sector?
  3. How would you describe yourself as an educator now? How has your sense of self as an educator changed? 
  4. Where do you see yourself going? Think about what you would like to achieve in your study program and in your professional life when you graduate. 

Task 2

Find a research article, read it and post answers to the following to the course Google Group:   
  1. APA reference to find the article...
  2. I found…
  3. I was surprised to find…
  4. I had difficulties with…
  5. I would like to investigate further…


Other 'To do's' for Module 1

  1. If you do not have a copy of the course profile you need to download that ASAP from Learning@Griffith, it would also be helpful if you read it :-) 

  2. If you have not begun keeping the three notebooks, please do so. These can be physical or digital. 

  3. Familiarise yourself with the material on the Google Group and this website. If you have suggestions for additional information or how to’s let me know. Please note that if your read ahead, there may be sections that change, removed or expanded. The future material is there to give you a taste of what is coming (and at the moment include a lot of my planning notes) but you should progress through the first few weeks of the course with the group, particularly so that group discussions make some sense. 

  4. Using some of the search tricks we looked at, and maybe some of your own, do some scanning in the area of your topic. The thing to look out for are key phrases and terms that are used in research papers to talk about your topic. These terms will be useful in locating other papers. Log your searching and thinking in your 1st notebook.

  5. Revisit your thinking about what you understand by the term research and the term educational research. These ideas should be in your notebook.

  6.  Make a decision about whether or not you will use EndNote in your postgraduate study. If this is your last or next to last course it may not be worth the trouble. But if this course is early in your program then I’d encourage you to begin to use it. It can be downloaded from the Griffith site (Portal>Computing>Software>Download mirror). There will be a lot of software there. The version of EndNote you want is X4 (or 14).

  7.  Whether you use software or do it manually, you will need to learn how to cite references you make use of in all of your work. The style that the School of education has settled on, i.e. the one other lecturers will expect you to use is called APA 6th

  8. In terms of locating books and research papers we will talk about a variety of techniques. Use those that you are comfortable with, but try out a few new ones as well. 

  9. Do the readings for Module 2!


Reference

Bates, R. (2002). The impact of educational research: alternative methodologies and conclusions. Research Papers in Education, 17(4), 403-408. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0267152022000031379. doi:10.1080/0267152022000031379


Footnotes

  1. In this course we have students who have a long background in teaching through to those who have never taught in schools. 

  2. If you are an undergraduate or new to postgraduate study, the course provides a good opportunity to work on your reflective practice and ongoing professional renewal (this is the 10th standard from the Professional Standards for Qld Teachers).
     
  3. It is also a valuable habit to develop as a professional. 

  4. The idea of notebooks is not new. The use of three as specified is adapted from Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  5. I will encourage you to use some kind of bibliographic software for this work.

  6. Literally, at one’s pleasure.

  7. Yes. I keep notebooks for all of the stuff I work on.

  8. This applies as much to those who are teaching as to those who are about to teach.

  9. A notion from Hargadon, A., & Sutton, R. I. (2000). Building an innovation factory. Harvard Business Review, 78(3), 157-166.

  10. Good for your CV but also good in terms of working through the key ideas with which this course is concerned. 

  11. While some of the papers refer to school settings, the ideas are of significance in most forms of educational practice.

  12. By now, your 1st notebook should provide good evidence of this. Messiness is not a bad thing. Messiness is the nature of the stuff with which we are trying to come to terms.

  13. The same applies when delegating work to any machine.


On Campus Presentation






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