Dissertation Journal for Week Two…

Posted: April 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

Okay, here goes the second installation in my journal for my advanced research methods practicum!  You lucky people!

So, being the library lover that I am, I went ahead and got into Capella’s University Library.  They have this awesome little “Journal and Book Locator,” option so I went and tried to find a journal with “Education” in the title since it wasn’t one of the pull-down subject options.  Yeah, that was a mistake.  There were tons.  Next, I tried “Higher Education,” and, wham, I got 65!  Much more reasonable a number.

Of these, I decided that two of them that sounded good were:

Active Learning in Higher Education (which has been around from 2000 to present)
and
International Journal on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (which is available from 2005 to present)

Both of them sound like they might have something I’m interested in (i.e. grading and teaching in higher education).

I went into the Active Learning in Higher Ed journal and pulled up the current one (March 2011).  There were three research studies that sounded interesting:

1. Students’ experience of active engagement through cooperative learning activities in lectures (Michael Cavanagh)
2. Embedding academic writing instruction into subject teaching: A case study (Ursula Wingate, Nick Andon, Alessia Cogo)
3. An evaluation of students’ perceptions and engagement with e-learning components in a campus based university (Afam Ituma)

There are no outwardly stated research questions in two of them, so I had to make some assumptions based on what the studies looked at.

In the first one, the research question seemed to be:
To what extent did the students think that the lecture activities helped them to learn and understand the course content and maintain their interest and attention during the sessions?

In the second one, the research question seemed to be:
What is the effect of academic writing instruction/intervention for first-year undergraduate students who are in an applied linguistics program?

In the third one, the research question seemed to be:
What is the perception of a typical e-learning system by students and what are the students’ patterns of use of for the typical e-learning system?

Now for the hard part – evaluating the relation between the research question and the research method, showing how the method logically follows from the stated research question.

Students’ experience of active engagement through cooperative learning activities in lectures by Michael Cavanagh asks to what extent the students think that the lecture activities helped them to learn and understand the course content and maintain their interest and attention during the sessions.  The method was a student questionnaire with five open-ended questions.  The questions were simple, asking students if they found the “lectorials” helpful and if they kept them interested.  Responses were also simple – mostly yes and no, with most agreeing that the materials were both easy to understand and engaging.  The connection is there, but perhaps a quantitative study would have been more appropriate as it could have better gauged the level of understanding and interest.  Simply asking, “Was this easy to understand?” does not test whether or not the students actually achieved understanding.  They may think they have, but without a test to determine what they really took away from the class, it’s impossible to know if the easy of learning is merely their perception or if they truly did learn.

Embedding academic writing instruction into subject teaching: A case study  by Ursula Wingate, Nick Andon, and Alessia Cogo asks what the effect of academic writing instruction/intervention is on first-year undergraduate students who are in an applied linguistics program.  Quite obviously from the title, this is a case study.  They followed a cohort of 68 students in a class that changed from a two-hour lecture class to a “more student-centered approach” (71). The study was based off the text used, off teacher evaluation, and off student evaluation.  The teacher evaluation mostly looked at whether or not it was feasible to include the writing lessons within another course due to workload and time to teach.  Student evaluation used a questionnaire and interview (mixed methods), with the questionnaire utilizing a Likert scale to determine if students understood the objectives that they were being taught as well as their perception.  This does seem to be a good method because it allowed the study to look at overall results of the students as well as detailed information of perception.

An evaluation of students’ perceptions and engagement with e-learning components in a campus based university by Afam Ituma asks what the perception is of a typical e-learning system by students and what the students’ patterns of use are of for the typical e-learning system.  The three questions that Ituma asks are:
1. What is the students’ frequency of usage of a typical e-learning system?
2. What is the perception of students of the different components of a typical e-learning system?
3. What is the relationship between gender differences and the usability of a typical e-leanring platform?
The study used a self-report questionnaire survey that utilized a Likert scale that asked if the system was very valuable, valuable, not valuable, or never used.  The study also looked at general demographic information, including origin, age, and gender.  For the questions being asked, the method being used (quantitative) seemed to be very appropriate.

So, there you go!  Three interesting articles to take a peek at, if you ever can’t sleep at night.

References:

Cavanagh, M. (2011). Students’ experiences of active engagement through cooperative learning activities in lectures. Active Learning in Higher Education, 12 (1), 23-33. doi: 10.1177/1469787410387724

Ituma, A. (2011). An evaluation of students’ perceptions and engagement with e-learning components in a campus based university. Active Learning in Higher Education, 12 (1), 57-68. doi: 10.1177/1469787410387722

Wingate, U., Andon, N., & Cogo, Alessia. (2011). Embedding academic writing instruction into subject teaching: A case study.  Active Learning in Higher Education, 12 (1), 69-81. doi: 10.1177/1496787410387814

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