Our first module
Focus: introducing 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 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
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.
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
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.
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'.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Introduce yourself to the course in the course Google Group:
Find a research article, read it and post answers to the following to the course Google Group:
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
If the presentation does not show, please use Module 1 Presentation http://prezi.com/j6wkflqzyhli/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share