Tag Archives: Research Process

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).

Reference:

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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What Grows Here?

dont-judge-each-day-by-the-harvest-you-reap-but-by-the-seeds-that-you-plant-22 (1)Blame it on the two feet of snow on the ground and the fact that it is May the 5th, but I have gardening on my brain.  Seeds are strewn across my table, potting soil is piling up in my garage, and my hands itch to dig in the dirt.  I want to get messy, scatter seeds, and watch, impatiently waiting for something new to grow.  I really want to tend my garden.  Sometimes people ask, why would I bother with a garden?  My backyard is the size of a postage stamp and there is barely enough space to kick a soccer ball around, let alone grow potatoes.  Gardening takes time, and hard work, and aren’t we busy enough?  Do we actually grow enough food to make it worth our efforts?  Those of us who garden know the answer is more than yes.  The work is challenging and the results are often unpredictable.  As we plant our seeds it is hard to determine if this variety and that soil will yield the best crop.  We read up to date science and apply our current best practice of gardening.   We bring this combination of knowledge and skill to our garden and hope and pray for the best.   When things fail, we adjust and redo.  When they thrive we record the winning combination to use again on future gardens.  It is more than worth the effort, as through the process we learn and grow ourselves.  Gardening  is not defined by the sum of it’s parts, it is defined by the iterate process.  It is through this process that we the gardener grow…not just our seeds.

Question, Research, Plan, Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, Repeat.

This is the same hope and aspiration we have for our curriculum development prototyping work.   We are often asked questions like: Why bother to contribute to this process?  What if anything in schools will really change?  Will the effort you put in produce?   When asked over and over why we would take up such challenging, unpredictable work the answer is because we grow through the work.  That is the intention. It is the same hope we have our students in our schools.  We develop curriculum prototypes just as we would garden.  Through an iterate process that is as important if not more than the finished product.  We plant seeds of thought, seeds of hope, seeds of inspiration and pray that our future students will reap the rewards.  When we notice students are no longer thriving, we will analyze, evaluate and once again begin the iterate planning process with an essential question:

“What grows here?”

Jim Parsons and Larry Beauchamp envisioned for Alberta Education a Curriculum Development Process that would allow for iteration to be applied to curriculum that is flexible, responsive, relevant, inclusive and engaging for all students.  It is a process that at its heart is about learning and growing.  Not just for students but for all of us in our community (garden) of learners (growers).

Curriculum Development Process

“So what grows here? In the end, I guess we do. And isn’t that why we garden in the first place?” -Lois E. Hole

When envision what a curriculum prototype could look like, my colleague Alison Van Rosendaal posed the question, “If the metaphor for our old curriculum was the industrial model or more specifically the conveyor belt, what is our new metaphor for curriculum?”  In our conversation, she shared the following video.  We found this to hold a lot of potential for creating a new metaphor.

Keep planting, keep sowing and never ever stop growing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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