So, this unit, I need to look at research questions and methods of research. Fun!
These are my current research questions (subject to change many times over):
- Will there be a relationship between assigned grades and course outcome assessments?
- What, other than achievement of course outcomes, do instructors use when assigning grades?
- Will the use of a course outcome assessment rubric change the grades that teachers assign to student project?
Next up – I will explain why it is appropriate to my specialization, how it will address the problem I stated, and the variables and information I will gather to answer it. I will also explain and justify my methods of data collection.
First, you need to know my problem statement:
The problem in question is that subjectivity of grades means that they do not accurately provide a measurement of the success of students to reach the course outcomes. Course outcomes must be assessed separately to ensure that course outcomes are being reached.
Now, after doing some more reading, I think I would like to change my research questions to
- What is the relationship between assigned grades and course outcome assessments?
- (I’ll keep number 2): What, other than achievement of course outcomes, do instructors use when assigning grades?
- Do instructors, when shown the difference between course outcome assessments and grades, choose to change grades and/or their method of grading? If so, why and how?
And, of course, the questions may still change even more, but for now, I think they are more focused.
So – how is it appropriate to my specialization? Well, my specialization is adult and post-secondary education. With SACS (the local regional accrediting association) requiring that colleges find a way to measure whether or not students are learning what they are supposed to be learning, it’s appropriate for me to look at what is being measured and how. Many colleges do not have a separate assessment for course outcomes, and so if teachers are not measuring course outcomes with their grades, then how is it possible for students to know if they’ve achieved them? And how is it possible for the school to know if a student has achieved it?
Onto variables! This is the hard part for me. I always get them confused. Independent variables are those that cause, influence or affect outcome; they are the antecedent. Dependent variables are those that depend on the independent variables; they are the outcome. Maybe this means that my independent variables would be the assignment that the instructor would use to measure the course outcome and the rubric that is used to assess that course outcome? But I’m not sure, and I’m not sure what the independent variable would be. Help anyone?
Finally, information I’ll gather. This is, I hope, an easier one.
For the first question – what is the relationship between assigned grades and course outcome assessments? – I’ll be asking instructors to grade an assignment both on their own and using an assigned rubric that will measure the course outcomes. I will record both sets of numbers and then determine if there is a relationship between them. Do high grades equal high achievement of course outcomes? (I’m thinking that isn’t necessarily so…)
For the second question – What, other than achievement of course outcomes, do instructors use when assigning grades? – I’ll be asking the instructors to discuss how they grade students. If they’ve used a rubric of their own, I will want to know that and see it. If they use other influences, such as the instructor who once told me I should give “A for effort,” then I will hope that they are honest and tell me that, too.
For the third and final question – do instructors, when shown the difference between course outcome assessments and grades, choose to change grades and/or their method of grading? If so, why and how? – I will present the results of the grades to the instructors, letting them know the differences that exist between measuring course outcome and grading an assignment. Then I will ask them – again, assuming honesty – whether or not they will change the way they grade, and if so, how they will make that change.
Of course, at this point, this is all theoretical, and I haven’t even gotten feedback on the project I turned in last week, so we’ll see what my instructor has to say…