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Action research and reflective practice in university teaching. MALTHE LTHM003. Some learning and teaching issues…. Why are students not attending my lectures? Why don’t students read? What can I do to enthuse my students?

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some learning and teaching issues
Some learning and teaching issues….
  • Why are students not attending my lectures?
  • Why don’t students read?
  • What can I do to enthuse my students?
  • What can I do to help students become more analytical in their writing?
  • How can I help students to link theory with their practice?
  • What is going wrong in my seminars when my students don’t speak?
  • Why won’t students use the library?
  • Why are retention and progression rates falling?
  • What can I do to make my lecturing style more accessible?
outline
Outline
  • Why pedagogical action research?
  • Pedagogical action research in the university context
  • The role of reflective practice
  • The scholarship of teaching and learning
  • The case for Pedagogical action research
pedagogical action research a definition
Pedagogical action research: a definition
  • “the fundamental purpose of pedagogical action research is to systematically investigate one’s own teaching/learning facilitation practice with the dual aim of modifying practice and contributing to theoretical knowledge”. (Norton, 2009)
  • Using a reflective lens to look at some problem and then determining a methodical set of steps to research

that problem and to take action

university context is crucial
University context is crucial
  • Unless we take into account the influences that are operating on us within the university context it is unlikely that carrying out pedagogical action research will be as influential as it might be:

‘ University departments are hives of intrigue and conspiracy. Trying to reach an understanding of issues concerned with teaching and learning, therefore, implies getting to grips with a whole range of human issues such as the attitude of students, the politics within departments and the ethos and environment of the institution’

(Kember, 2000, p.25)

the university context
The university context

According to Fanghanel’s (2007) framework, there are filters that are fluid and influence the choices academics make to privilege certain activities over others:

  • The micro level (internal predispositions, aspirations goals)
  • The meso level (the department, the discipline)
  • The macro level (institution, external factors, research –teaching nexus)
the micro level academic identities
The micro level:Academic identities
  • Why did you come into Higher Education?
  • How would you describe your primary role- researcher or teacher?
  • Which do you enjoy the most?
  • Which do you spend the most time on?
  • What does your department//institution expect you to do?
  • Why when we have more work than time, do we apply to ‘buy ourselves out of teaching’?
  • Do academics ever ask to ‘buy themselves out of research’?
meso level of practice your department
Meso level of practice: your department
  • Departments and how they are run have a huge influence and hold on academics
  • Tacit knowledge: “that’s the way we do things around here” – more powerful than any formal mechanisms such as CPD, induction etc, includes:
    • norms, discourse and value sets associated with assessment, teaching practices, researchculture as well as daily work practices.
  • Can cause stress for new academics who are trying to establish a role identity, professional knowledge and competence (Norton et al, in press)
meso level of practice the discipline
Meso level of practice: the discipline

Neumann, Parry & Becher’s (2002) adaptation of Biglan’s (1973) subject classification:

Pure

A

B

Hard

Soft

C

D

Applied

description of quadrants
Description of quadrants
  • Hard pure knowledge: concerned with universals, simplification and a quantitative approach.
  • Soft pure knowledge: tends to be holistic concerned with particulars and is likely to favour a qualitative approach
  • Hard applied knowledge : derived from hard pure knowledge, concerned with applications (ie mastering the physical environment), aimed at products and techniques
  • Soft applied knowledge: derived from soft pure knowledge, concerned with enhancing professional practice,aimed at protocols and procedures.
implications for how academics view teaching and research
Implications for how academics view teaching and research

Neumann et al findings:

  • hard pure and hard applied - strongly committed to research and less committed to teaching, (generally seen as relatively straightforward and unproblematic), collaborative research and teaching
  • soft pure and soft applied - greater emphasis on scholarly knowledge that translates readily into teaching, more emphasis on individualistic enquiry and not so much acceptance of joint teaching
macro level of practice
Macro level of practice:
  • External factors:
    • Globalisation
    • Managerialism
    • Internationalisation
    • Entrepreneurialism
  • Institutional policy particularly relating to teaching and research:
    • Selection and Promotions policies
    • Resourcing
    • Recognitions and value
action research a practical solution
Action research: a practical solution

“Action research is action-and-research (Dick 2000). Action research combines twin aims in a single process. Action researchers wish to improve some aspect of professional practice or social process, while generating new knowledge at the same time. Action research is not action for research (doing something to increase understanding), nor research for action (increasing knowledge to be applied later). These two purposes come together in a single project.” Hughes (2004)

the role of reflective practice in action research
The role of reflective practice in action research
  • Over-used term (Knight,2002)
  • Reflective practice should be seen as systematic, active and enabling us to give up what sometimes might be our most dearly cherished beliefs about teaching and learning:

‘reflective thinking is always more or less troublesome…it involves willingness to endure a

condition of mental unrest’

(Dewey, 1910)

reflection applied to education
Reflection applied to education
  • Work of Donald SchÖn (1983) The reflective practitioner
  • SchÖn’s thinking developed from earlier work with Argyris on the distinction between

‘Espoused theories’ and ‘Theories in use’

  • Argyris, C & SchÖn, D. (1974) Theory into practice. San Francisco: Jossey Bass
how does reflective practice link to pedagogical action research
How does reflective practice link to pedagogical action research?
  • Action research enables us to reflect on our practice systematically (Parker, 1997)
  • Action research enables us to take control of our own CPD
  • Action research can help us transform our professional perspective
  • Action research is often collaborative and thus guards against being too inward –looking and serving to confirm our previously-held assumptions
the scholarship of teaching and learning sotl
The scholarship of teaching and learning (SOTL)
  • Contested in the literature and not yet readily accepted by the UK sector but its core elements are valuable in helping to raise the profile of teaching in universities
  • Boyer’s (1990) four domains of scholarship:
      • Discovery
      • Integration
      • Application
      • Teaching
  • Boyer argued that the scholarship of teaching should have its own status and recognition
brown s 2008 definition
Brown’s (2008) definition

…if we are serious about it, “research-informed teaching” goes far beyond the usual idea that students are taught by research active lecturers and that the content of the curriculum reflects the outcomes of lecturers’ research. I see it as a synonym of how an institution brings together its academic research and scholarship – both disciplinary and pedagogic – and its student education so that both are enriched. (Emphasis added)

brown s conclusions
Brown’s conclusions
  • We should make a serious effort to integrate staff research and scholarship with student education at all levels.
  • The keys to this are an approach to the curriculum which sees every student as a researcher, together with a broader approach to what is meant by “research”.
  • Staff engagement in pedagogical research is also a professional requirement. (emphasis added)
sotl why is it important
SOTL- why is it important?
  • SOTL includes both ongoing learning about teaching AND the demonstration of teaching knowledge ( Kreber & Cranton, 2000)
  • SOTL helps to raise the status of teaching, enables teachers to teach more knowledgeably and provides a framework in which teaching quality can be assessed (Trigwell & Shale, 2004)
  • SOTL has the potential to bring about significant change to how the sector sees the goals and purposes of a higher education (Kreber, 2005)
key elements of scholarship of teaching and learning chalkely 2003
Key elements of scholarship of teaching and learning (Chalkely 2003)
  • “Keeping abreast of developments in the theory, and practice of teaching, particularly in one’s own discipline or specialist field;
  • Reflecting carefully and critically on one’s own teaching and on its successes and failures in promoting high quality learning;
  • Engaging in pedagogic research so as to help provide a firm basis of evidence for the adoption or rejection of particular learning and teaching methods;
  • Contributing to the communication and dissemination of good practice in the learning and teaching of one’s discipline or specialist field:
  • Bringing to one’s work in teaching and curriculum development the same high standards of intellectual rigour and peer review which are commonplace in research.”
the scholarship of teaching what s the problem bass 1999
The scholarship of teaching: what’s the problem? Bass (1999)
  • Bass makes the telling point that one of the differences between scholarship (teaching) and discipline based research is the way we think about the problem:

In teaching, the problem is something we don’t usually want to have and we’re ashamed of it

In research the problem is at the heart of the enquiry process and we’re proud of it

changing the status of the problem
Changing the status of the problem
  • In pedagogical action research, this is precisely what happens….
  • The teaching problem:
    • Psychology students don’t use enough journals in their essays
  • The research problem translated into a research hypothesis:
    • A multi-layered intervention (librarians’ input, revised formative assessment, exemplars ) will increase the use of journals in an essay

(Norton, Norton & Thomas, 2004)

the case for pedagogical action research
The case for pedagogical action research
  • We are living in a time when research is viewed in terms of measurable outputs (REF and impacts)
  • Pedagogical research (of any sort, including action research) has been seen as having less value than subject research, but there is a change…
    • We recommend that the Research Excellence Framework explicitly recognises and gives credence to research into pedagogy and the teaching within, and across, disciplines. In other words, a chemistry lecturer who researches teaching in chemistry must have a category in which such activity can be recorded and recognised with new "expert pedagogic research" panels established, if necessary, and able to do that job. (IUSS, 2009)
action research in the context of pedagogy
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 occurred”

Lindsay, Breen & Jenkins (2002)

7 characteristics of action research kember 2000
7 characteristics of action research (Kember, 2000)
  • A social practice (Not decontextualised from environment or spearating researcher form the researched)
  • Aimed towards improvement (Essential)
  • Cyclical (not necessarily simple spirals of reflection, acting, planning observing but progressive refinements
  • Systematic enquiry (does not mean ’soft option’)
  • Reflective (outward not inward)
  • Participative (guards against making mistaken assumptions about one’s own practice)
  • Practitioner determined (driven from own need to know)
action research a practical solution1
Action research: a practical solution

“Action research is action-and-research (Dick 2000). Action research combines twin aims in a single process. Action researchers wish to improve some aspect of professional practice or

social process, while generating new knowledge at the same time. Action research is not action for research (doing something to increase understanding), nor research for action (increasing knowledge to be applied later). These two purposes come together in a single project.” Hughes (2004)

action research as improving practice
Action research as improving practice

“Action research is simply a form of self-reflective enquiry undertaken by participants in social situations in order to improve the rationality and justice of their own practices, their understanding of these practices, and the situations in which the practices are carried out”

(Carr and Kemmis 1986).

criticisms of action research
Criticisms of Action research
  • Not ‘proper’ research as seen in the positivist scientific tradition (issues round generalisability, validity)
  • Largely un-theorised descriptions of practice
the methodological cum organizational problem lindsay et al 2002
The methodological-cum-organizational problem (Lindsay et al, 2002)
  • Managers rarely use pedagogical evidence so while academic staff can and do make changes within their own courses, the chances of influencing institutional policy in learning and teaching are modest, but practical principles can help:
    • Choose research studies that are directly relevant to your institution’s policies
    • Design studies where evidence is compelling as possible (often quantitative)
    • Present your findings to as many committees as possible
reponding to the criticisms
Reponding to the criticisms
  • Positivist research is a narrow view where experimental design and cause and effect seeking is privileged over any other form of enquiry
  • Kember (2000) suggests ‘sensible adaptation’ and fine tuning’ rather than generalisability and validity
  • Bartlett & Burton (2006) say that action research is inevitably unique as its carried out by professionals in the context of their own working practice. They suggest concept of ‘relatability’
responding to the criticisms 2
Responding to the criticisms (2)
  • Bartlett & Burton (2006) argue that the description of practice can often actually constitute the data
  • Cotton & Griffiths (2007) in framing descriptive accounts we have to draw on the theoretical in order to make our research accessible and meaningful to those wedisseminate it to.
  • In order to be action research rather than curriculum development or reflective practice- it must be subject to peer scrutiny and review. It’s critical questioning and appraisal that makes it research
pedagogical action research as an intensity spectrum adapted from kember 2006
Pedagogical action research as an intensity spectrum(adapted from Kember 2006)

Reflection Action research Action research

on L & T on L&T which contributes to

theory

Seminar Refereed Journal

paper conference paper paper

pedagogical action research reflective practice and sotl killing three birds with one stone
Pedagogical Action Research, reflective practice and SOTL: killing three birds with one stone
  • Carrying out research on your own teaching and/or on your students’ learning is interwoven with being a reflective practitioner.
  • Pedagogical action research is an empowering form of CPD, particularly in engaging with the scholarship of learning and teaching (SOTL)
  • Pedagogical action research needs to be disseminated and open to public scrutiny through peer reviewed conference papers and journal articles
pedagogical action research some additional benefits
Pedagogical action research: some additional benefits

Researching pedagogical problems, using a traditional research model (e.g. lit review, aims, methodology, analysis, interpretation,) has additional benefits of:

  • telling you about your own teaching/and or your students’ learning: Reflective practice
  • By applying your findings to modify some element of your teaching: Improving student learning
  • Engaging in the pedagogical literature, aligning yourself to communities of subject practitioner/researchers encourages conference attendance: Continuing Professional Development
  • By being rigorous is just as worthy as subject research
pedagogical action research and reflective practice
Pedagogical Action Research and reflective practice
  • Carrying out research on your own teaching and/or on your students’ learning is interwoven with being a reflective practitioner.
  • Pedagogical action research is an empowering form of CPD, particularly in engaging with the scholarship of learning and teaching (SOTL)
  • Pedagogical action research needs to be disseminated not only to share good practice but to ‘grow’ the initiative/intervention/field of enquiry by bringing on board other professionals in a further cycle of research.
pedagogical action research and reflective practice1
Pedagogical Action Research and reflective practice
  • Carrying out research on your own teaching and/or on your students’ learning is interwoven with being a reflective practitioner.
  • Pedagogical action research is an empowering form of CPD, particularly in engaging with the scholarship of learning and teaching (SOTL)
  • Pedagogical action research needs to be disseminated not only to share good practice but to ‘grow’ the initiative/intervention/field of enquiry by bringing on board other professionals in a further cycle of research.
the role of reflective practice in action research1
The role of reflective practice in action research
  • Over-used term (Knight,2002)
  • Reflective practice should be seen as systematic, active and enabling us to give up what sometimes might be our most dearly cherished beliefs about teaching and learning:

‘reflective thinking is always more or less

troublesome…it involves willingness to endure a

condition of mental unrest’

(Dewey, 1910)

reflection applied to education1
Reflection applied to education
  • Work of Donald SchÖn (1983) The reflective practitioner
  • SchÖn’s thinking developed from earlier work with Argyris on the distinction between

‘Espoused theories’ and ‘Theories in use’

  • Argyris, C & SchÖn, D. (1974) Theory into practice. San Francisco: Jossey Bass
how does reflective practice link to action research
How does reflective practice link to action research?
  • Action research enables us to reflect on our practice systematically (Parker, 1997)
  • Action research can help us transform our professional perspective
  • Action research is often collaborative and thus guards against being too inward –looking and serving to confirm our previously-held assumptions
references
References

Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee - Eleventh Report Students and Universities (2009) chaired by Phil Willis http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.com/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmdius/170/17002.htm

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