Action Research and Pedagogy

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					Action Research and Pedagogy

           Lin Norton
        Education Deanery
         Liverpool Hope

               Outline of presentation

1. The need for reflective practice in
2. What is pedagogical action research?
3. Practical suggestions for carrying out
   par projects
4. Suggested workshop activity exploring
   the potential of the Ideal*** Inventory
   as a research tool for par

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  Why is it important for university teachers to
           be reflective practitioners?

 1. The government agenda on:
      •        widening participation in HE
      • professionalisation of university teachers
 2. The need to take account of the student
 3. Personal and professional satisfaction

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               The Government Agenda on:
                 widening participation

  •    Continue to increase participation of 18-30yr olds
       to 50%
  •    Meet economy's need for higher level skills
  •    Raise participation for students from non-
       traditional backgrounds and lower income
  •    Establish stronger links with business and
                         (DfES, 2003).

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           Diversity of students and widening
Since the diversity of students has so dramatically increased,
our previous assumptions about them may be very wide of the
mark (Gibbs & Simpson, 2003):
   •Sophistication of knowledge background & study skills
   •Conceptions of learning (Saljo,1979; Marton, Dall’Alba &
   •Conception of knowledge (Perry, 1970)
   •Expectations of higher education (Sander et al, 2000)

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                     First year students
•Do not read readily
•Are not as numerate or as computerate as we assume
•Do not find it easy to write (essays, lab reports, exam answers)
•Dislike group work and team working and presentations
•Have a conception of learning that is passive and incremental
rather than active and transformational
•Believe that knowledge is certain and stable
•Are strategic in their approaches to studying (they see the
assessment as defining the curriculum)
•Expect that they will be taught rather than having to be
autonomous learners
•Distrust self and peer assessment
•Are scared of problem-based learning approaches
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     Some questions to promote reflective
   practice in teaching ( adapted from Brown, 1999)

•What kinds of things do we want our students to learn?
•What learning opportunities do we provide?
•What feedback do we provide?
•What assessment tasks do we set?
•What methods of assessment do we use?
•What do the students learn?
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                   How do we know???

•Through assessment? – strategic students, declarative rather
than functioning knowledge (Biggs 2002)
•Through course evaluation? – influenced by student
characteristics and lecture charisma
•Through pedagogical research – generic (scholarship of
teaching and learning) and subject specific.
•Through carrying out our own action research where the
aim is to modify practice

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     The Influence of the Higher Education

“The student experience is the main
function of higher education. We have to
take that experience seriously - we need a
national body to raise its standing.”
                                  Leslie Wagner
               Interim Chair of the HE Academy

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                HEA strategic plan 2005-2010

Strategic aims and objectives
1.   To be an authoritative and independent voice on policies that influence student
     learning experiences
2.   To support institutions in their strategies for improving the student learning
3.   To lead, support and inform the professional development and recognition of
     staff in higher education
4.   To promote good practice in all aspects of support for the student learning
5.   To lead the development of research and evaluation to improve the quality of
     the student learning experience
6.   To be a responsive, efficient and accountable organisation
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           So what does it mean for us and our
                       teaching ?

•    Pedagogical publications will help professionalise the
     role of the teacher in higher education.
•    The knowledge that we get from researching our own
     teaching can be put to immediate practical use,
     unlike some more theoretical or abstract research.
•    Researching our own teaching encourages us to
     learn from the wider pedagogical research literature.
•    Pedagogical research is increasingly being
     recognised as RAE research output.

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                What is Action Research?

“ practitioners developing their
  understanding of their professional
  practice- not by reference to any
  externally generated theory or
  generalised principles but by reference to
  their experience tested in their own
                             (Bridges, 2003, p183)

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                     Action Research
                in the context of pedagogy

“ The primary aim of action research is to solve a
  problem within the process of the research. In
  the context of teaching your subject, it
  contributes both to pedagogical knowledge and
  to the subsequent modification of your teaching
  practice and your students‟ learning…
…It is a cyclical process of planning, action, and
  investigating the state of affairs after action has
            Lindsay, Breen & Jenkins (2002)

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         How to get funding / support [1]

The Higher Education Academy's Connects
 – Funding
   This comprehensive search facility is the place to find financial
   support for education projects, services and research. All current
   funding opportunities across the sector are listed, easily searchable by
   a number of criteria.

    Access over 1000 centrally-funded learning and teaching projects:
    details of workshops, case studies and other investigations focused
    around both generic and discipline-specific themes can be found here.

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        How to get funding/support [2]

• HEA subject network:
     – Many subject networks fund projects up to
     – Some offer small amounts of money ( £30 -
       £300) for case studies
• PAR funding at Hope:
     – (annual up to £1,000 on annual theme)

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                Advice on project planning

• Identify a project for which there is a teaching
  or learning need and seek innovative ways of
  addressing the issues. (Charles Juwah, Robert
   Gordon University)

• Keep the project realistic…have SMART
  objectives, look for opportunities to
  disseminate information both internally and
  externally (Bernard Moss & Susan Wright, Staffordshire

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How to disseminate pedagogical action
          research projects

Through Learning and teaching
     Improving Student Learning Symposia (ISL)

     Higher Education Academy Conference

     European Association for Research into
      Learning and Instruction (EARLI)
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         Disseminating through Journals

• Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education
• Innovations in Educational and Teaching
• Studies in Higher Education
• Educational Action Research

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   Recent examples of action research issues
               in Psychology
Should a research methods course be teacher led or
student-orientated? (Shortt, 2002; Mason, 2002)
Can we use more detailed assessment criteria to
increase marking reliability and give better feedback
to students? (Elander, 2002)
How can we deal with students‟ dislike of
presentations? (Sander, Sanders & Stevenson, 2002)
How can we respond to students need for more tutor
support and contact in a work-based module?
(Wrennall & Forbes, 2002) Study Day
                       CARN                          19
 23 May 200519
     The process of carrying out Action
   Research: an easy step by step approach

   Identifying a problem/paradox/ issue/difficulty
   Thinking of ways to tackle the problem
   Doing it
   Evaluating it
   Modifying future teaching.
                                      Norton (2001)

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    Using the Ideal***Inventory to
 research learning and teaching issues
  Originated as the Ideal Self Inventory (Norton,
  Morgan & Thomas, 1995), later developed to measure
  perceptions of:
  Students (Tilley & Norton, 1998; Williamson &
            Norton, 2002)
  Lectures (Mazuro et al, 2000)
  Distance learning tasks (Garner et al, 2001)
  Curriculum (Norton, 2001)
  Musical performance (Walters, 2001)
  The really good student (Walters & Norton, 2004)
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          What makes a really good student?
               The ideal ***inventory
•In the column headed ‘the really good student’ write down up to five qualities or abilities that you think
a really good Higher Education student has.
•In the column headed ‘the not very good student’ write down the opposite of these qualities or abilities.
It does not necessarily have to be the ‘literal’ opposite. It could be something that a not very good
student does or is instead of what a really good student does or is.
   the really good student:                                                 the not very good student:

                                                              

                                                              

                                                              

                                                              

                                                              

3. By circling one of the seven marks between each of your two statements please express how close you
feel you come to being a really good student at this point in time. For example, if you feel you are very
close to the really good student’s ability or quality, circle the mark nearest that column. If you feel you are
the complete opposite, circle the mark nearest the not very good student column. If you are somewhere in
between, then circle the mark that best represents your position.
      23 May 200522                              CARN Study Day                                            22
                    Workshop suggestion
                  for small group discussion
STEP 1. Each individual completes a blank inventory on the:
              „ideal‟ student
               assessment task
In groups, agree a composite inventory

If appropriate, rate yourselves or your own experience using
the composite version
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   For a complete list of references, please
   email Lin at:

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