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Research as Reflexive Practice: Inquiry, Interpretation and Worth

This week’s readings led to a great deal of reflection on why we take up educational research.  The readings provided specifics related to how to conduct qualitative, quantitative and action research including how to conduct a literature review, literature mapping and the use of working titles from Creswell and  how to use reflection to guide research through reflexive inquiry from Hendricks. The more important reflection for me was that researchers need to truly understand what work is worth whiling over and therefore worthy of conducting a research inquiry.  Creswell (2014) warns that research projects require a great deal of time and energy and therefore a researchers must examine how their research topic can help fulfill them personally in the pursuit of understanding a topic of inquiry (p. 27).  Creswell provided questions that a researcher must ask oneself about whether a topic should be studied. Creswell addresses the standard questions such as does the “study add anything new to the body of research” and does the research add to the collected knowledge of a topic (p. 27).  Something new that Creswell adds to the discussion is the notion of how research can be used to further civil society.  He asks us to consider if the research inquiry “lifts up the voices of the underrepresented groups or individuals” (p. 27).  The idea that research can be a means in which to further social justice and to address ideas, beliefs and transform society is powerful and with it come great responsibility for the researcher.

Once such means of determining the worth of a research topic, which Hendricks (2013) addresses in Chapter 2, is through the use of reflexive inquiry (p, 31). Through this practice educators “place present thoughts and actions in the context of past thoughts, actions and history” (Hendricks, 2013, p. 31).  They therefore ground their research inquiry in their experiences acknowledging that they influence their beliefs and actions (p. 31).  Similar to that of of reflexive inquiry, Hendricks stresses that the nature of qualitative research “is to understand and interpret phenomena as they occur in natural settings” (p. 3).  This desire to study situations and contexts, rather than to control them allows researchers to “make meaning” from the deeply complex and nuanced situations that exist in our schools (p.3).  Jardine, Clifford and Friesen (2002) take up this work of using research to make meaning such as Hendrick describes.  In their writing they explain, “simply put that our research is interpretive in character.  It also means that classroom events that we are interested in are themselves interpretive in character” (Jardine, 2002, p. xxii).  Jardine acknowledges that classrooms are made of complex relationships and living histories that cannot be controlled but can be studied in order to make meaning together with students.  As we begin to consider our topics of inquiry for our research may we endevour to “while over a topic – working at it, composing it, composing ourselves over it, remember and cultivating one’s memory of it” and in doing so learn and share with others something worthwhile about ourselves and the world (Jardine, 2002, p. 226).


Creswell, J. W. (2014). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative and Mixed Methods Approaches (4th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.

Hendricks, C. (2013). Improving schools through action research: A reflective practice approach (3rd ed.). Montreal, QC: Pearson Education.

Clifford, P. Friesen, S. Jardine, D. W. (2002). Back to the Basics of Teaching and Learning: Thinking the World Together. New York: Routledge.

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How to Blend Online Learning?

Current Models of Blended-Learning at ADLC:
At the Alberta Distance Learning Centre, the majority of the students we currently teach are those who primarily attend bricks and mortar schools but “choose to take one or more courses entirely online to supplement their traditional courses” (Staker, 2012 p. 14). This self-blended approach is one in which the students experience indirect blended learning by engaging in online learning for a portion of their schooling while attends the majority face-to face.

Another subset of students that ADLC serves is full-time online students in a fully online model. This approach involves very intentional instructional design choices that include, “Supplemental, Replacement, and Emporium models including web-based, multi-media resource, commercial software, automatically evaluated assessments with guided feedback, links to additional resources and alternative staffing models” (Twigg, 2008, p. 4). What we are looking to move towards with this group is a redesign that shifts towards an enriched virtual model where students would blend their time between online delivery of content and instruction and face-to-face experiences and opportunities for instruction. In this approach, rarely would students attend a bricks and mortar school every day, but could use the physical space and face-to-face connection with teachers and peers to supplement their online learning experience.

Redesigning Professional Learning:
As ubiquitous access to technology increases in K-12 classrooms, a shift in the way in which learning is designed and delivered is beginning to materialize. In the k-12 education, technology enhanced learning, whether it be a version of blended, or fully online is a growing and developing area of education. In 2012-2013, 10.3% of Alberta K-12 students took some form of distance education (Barbour, 2013). This trend will likely only increase in the future due to increased access to technology, better understanding of connectivist approaches to learning and demand from learners. As teachers begin to shift their classroom practice towards technology enhanced learning in its variety of models and classifications, a need for deep understanding of the pedagogy, theory and practice of this type of learning has emerged. Because online and blended learning is complex and continues to evolve, a need for professional development for pre-service and in-service teachers within the K- 12 system has materialized.

The Alberta Distance Learning Centre and the Centre for Distance Education at Athabasca University have begun to redesign their traditional delivery of both teacher professional learning (ADLC) and graduation level courses (AU). In a partnership that pairs, a PhD professor from Athabasca University with a practicing teacher researcher in K-12 online and blended learning, a process of co-creating and co-delivering a new model for professional learning in online and blended learning is being prototyped. The goal is to offer a series of micro-courses that will provide professional development in the theory and practice of online and blended learning. This redesigned model will use either a fully online or an enriched online model to create professional development that is more substantial than a one day seminar and less time demanding than a graduate level course commitment. These courses are designed to teach the theory of online and blended learning through the practice of engaging in the experience that model research informed best practice. Through this learning experience, practitioners will develop a deeper understanding of the opportunities and implications of technology enhanced learning for k-12 students.

Barbour, M. (2013). State of the nation: K-12 Online learning in Canada. Retrieved from http://www.openschool.bc.ca/pdfs/state_of_nation-2013.
Staker, H. & Horn, M.B. (2012). Classifying K to 12 Blendded Learning. Boston, MA: Innosight Institute. Available online at: http://blendedlearning.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Classifying-K-12-blended-learning.pdf
Twigg, C.A. (2008). Six models of course redesign. Available online from http://www.thencat.org/PlanRes/R2R_ModCrsRed.htm

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