Action research in teaching & learning

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  • 1. Action Research in Teaching and LearningA practical, down-to-earth guide for those who work in teaching and learn-ing in universities, this book will be indispensable reading for those whowould like to carry out action research on their own practice. Lin S. Nortonsconcept of pedagogical action research has come from over twenty yearsexperience of carrying out such research, and more than six years ofencouraging colleagues to carry out small-scale studies at an institutional,national and international level.This accessible text illustrates what might be done to improve teaching/supporting learning by carrying out action research to address such questionssuch as: What can I do to enthuse my students? What can I do to help students become more analytical? How can I help students to link theory with their practice? What can I do to make my lecturing style more accessible? What is going wrong in my seminars when my students dont speak? Action Research in Teaching and Learning offers readers practical advice onhow to research their own practice in a higher-education context. It has beenwritten specically to take the reader through each stage of the actionresearch process with the ultimate goal of producing a research study whichis publishable. Cognisant of the sectors view on what is perceived to bemainstream research, the author has also written a substantial theoreticalsection which justies the place of pedagogical action research in relation toreective practice and the scholarship of teaching and learning.Lin S. Norton is Professor of Pedagogical Research and Dean of Learningand Teaching at Liverpool Hope University. She was awarded a NationalTeaching Fellowship in 2007 and continues to champion the importance oflearning and teaching by extensively publishing in journals and books.

2. Action Research in Teachingand LearningA practical guide to conducting pedagogicalresearch in universitiesLin S. Norton 3. First published 2009by Routledge2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RNSimultaneously published in the USA and Canadaby Routledge29 West 35th Street, New York, NY 10001Routledge is an imprint of the TaylorFrancis Group, an informa businessThis edition published in the TaylorFrancis e-Library, 2009.To purchase your own copy of this or any of TaylorFrancis or Routledgescollection of thousands of eBooks please go to www.eBookstore.tandf.co.uk. 2009 Lin S. NortonAll rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced orutilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, nowknown or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in anyinformation storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing fromthe publishers.British Library Cataloguing in Publication DataA catalogue record for this book is available from the British LibraryLibrary of Congress Cataloging in Publication DataA catalog record for this book has been requestedISBN 0-203-87043-3 Master e-book ISBNISBN13: 978-0-415-46846-6 (hbk)ISBN13: 978-0-415-43794-3 (pbk) 4. To the three most important people in my life:Bill, Chris and Heather. Thank you for everything. 5. Contents List of gures ix List of tables xi Acknowledgementsxii Foreword xiii Preface xv 1 Putting pedagogical action research into the university context: what are the pressures?1 2 Why be a reective practitioner?21 3 Why engage with the scholarship of teaching and learning? 36 4 What is the case for pedagogical action research? 50 5 Where do you start a pedagogical action research study? 69 6 What are the most suitable research methodologies?87 7 How can you analyse qualitative data in pedagogical action research? 115 8 How can you analyse quantitative data in pedagogical action research? 131 9 How can you develop and adapt pedagogical research tools?15510 What are the ethical issues involved in pedagogical action research? 17911 Going public: How can you grow the inuence of your ndings? 194 6. viii Contents Appendix A Some suggested methods of reecting on practice 220 Appendix B An example of a research protocol taken from the WriteNow CETL research programme 223 Appendix C Case study showing how qualitative and quantativedata can be combined228 Appendix D Exploring ways of measuring conceptions of learning 230 Appendix E An example of a completed participant information sheet 232 Appendix F Consent form template 235 Appendix G Case study of a pedagogical action research study toillustrate some ethical issues236 Appendix H Ethics submission template239 Appendix I Example of an unsuccessful abstract that was submittedto a conference as a research paper 241 Appendix J Example of a successful abstract that was submitted to aconference as a research paper243 Appendix K Example of a letter to the editor of a journal accompanyinga rewritten manuscript244 Appendix L Example of a response to reviewers comments246 Appendix M Example of a budget for an internally funded research bid 248 Bibliography 250 Index261 7. List of gures1.1 Representation of Neumann, Parry and Bechers (2002)description of disciplines 125.1 Bar chart showing average number of journals used inassignments in three psychology courses815.2 Bar chart showing average number of journals used inassignments of two cohorts of counselling psychology students815.3 Bar chart showing average number of journals used inassignments of two cohorts of crime psychology students835.4 Bar chart showing average number of journals used by crimepsychology students who also took counselling psychology 836.1 Decison chart for deciding on an appropriate research method 926.2 Scattergram showing a positive correlation between number oflectures attended and coursework marks1106.3 Scattergram showing a negative correlation between averagenumber of weekly hours socialising and exam marks 1116.4 Scattergram showing no correlation between number ofseminars attended and exam marks1128.1 Bar chart showing frequency count in response to thequestionnaire item We are expected to learn the topicsourselves1398.2 Pie chart showing frequency count in response to thequestionnaire item We are expected to learn the topicsourselves1409.1 An example of the ideal self inventory1569.2 An example of a completed ideal lecture inventory 1579.3 An example of a learning objectives questionnaire on seminars 1619.4 The module assessment questionnaire (adapted from Steward,Norton, Evans and Norton, 2003) 1669.5 Hypothetical example of a RoLI prole for Suzy 1689.6 Sljs (1979) hierarchical conceptions of learning 170 8. x List of gures9.7Sample of data showing stages of reective thinking in psychology students at the beginning of the year (adapted from Norton, Kahn, Van Arendsen and Walters, 2001)17310.1 Venn diagram showing the interrelating aspects of PedD, PedR and PAR within the scholarship of teaching and learning 18011.1 Decision chart for deciding on appropriate methods of disseminating an action research project 19511.2 Suggested methods of disseminating pedagogical action research 196 9. List of tables6.1 Allocation to experimental groups based on ability1046.2 Calculation of composite ranking for ability and motivation 1046.3 Dr Jones records on attendance, socialising and examinationperformance 1107.1 Percentage of total information units (N = 23) in eachcategory, content analysed from responses to the questionWhat do you think university teaching is all about? 1277.2 Comparison of percentages in each category divided intoprogramme completers (15 units) and beginners (8 units) 1288.1 Raw data on weekly hours spent reading, from Dr Jonesresearch1328.2 Raw data in response to the questionnaire item We areexpected to learn the topic ourselves1388.3 Comparison of exam performance before and after the electronicdiscussion intervention 1468.4 Results of Wilcoxon test comparing exam performance beforeand after the electronic discussion forum 1478.5 Results of Students t-test for related measures comparing examperformance before and after the electronic discussion forum1478.6 Comparison of exam performance between groups withdifferent interventions 1498.7 Comparison of exam performance between electronic discussionand extra reading using MannWhitney test 1508.8 Comparison of exam performance between electronic discussionand extra reading using Students t-test1508.9 Contingency table based on types of question raised in lecturesand seminars1519.1 Comparison of third year psychology students with tutorsratings 164C.1 Correct identication of library classication numbers from theEnglish Department, adapted from Norton and Norton (2000) 229 10. AcknowledgementsI am grateful for the support and encouragement of Patrick Smith who, withgentle good humour, motivated me by acting as a critical and constructivefriend throughout the writing of the draft chapters. Special thanks go to myhusband Bill Norton who has not only been a co-researcher in some of theaction research studies described in this book, but who has also helped mepractically with the bibliography and proofreading. Finally, I would like tothank both the reviewers of my book proposal as many of their suggestionshave been incorporated here. 11. ForewordProfessor Lin Norton has written a book which, in many ways, is unusual, ifnot unique, making for interesting and informed reading. Throughout, thetone is both light and accessible without being simple and it is imbued witha tangible commitment to the processes of learning and teaching, along withthose dilemmas and ambiguities with which inhabitants of classrooms at alllevels are familiar. Even before the expansion of higher education, there have been manybooks concerned with effective teaching and enhancing student learning.Unsurprisingly, since such books tend to be written by academics, theyadopt a traditional, research-based and informed stance towards the topics oflearning and teaching, citing the same authorities and research ndings aswell as tending towards the theoretical at the expense of the practical. In aminority of cases the opposite is the case with authors producing highlypractical advice and precepts intended to inform the novice teacher. Withthe former approach the danger is that the reader will struggle to understandand apply the discussions to the practical realities of their classrooms, whilstwith the latter there is a danger of reducing the processes of learning andteaching to a menu of mechanistic, quick xes. One of the distinguishing features of Lin Nortons book is the balance itstrikes between these two positions. It is written in a style and adopts anapproach which renders it both accessible and informative, underpinning thediscussion of practical, classroom-based issues and scenarios with a compre-hensive knowledge of the elds of pedagogy and curriculum. This founda-tion of knowledge and experience, however, serves to inform and illustratethose practical issues which are set out and does not dominate them. Lin Norton is not afraid of acknowledging the complexities and con-structive ambiguities (Lampert, 1987) of classrooms there are few, if any,quick and easy solutions however such ambiguities are only constructive ifthose involved in teaching and the facilitation of learning choose to acceptthem as challenges inherent in teaching and learning, viewing them as oppor-tunities for personal learning and development rather than inconveniencesdistracting lecturers from their existing research commitments. 12. xiv Foreword Throughout the book, pedagogical action research is used to foreground adeep concern with the processes of learning and teaching whilst being sen-sitive to the human and social aspects of those relationships and transactions,which originate in classrooms and often continue beyond them throughoutadult life. Such an emphasis on the softer aspects of learning and teachingserves to distinguish this book from many of its contemporaries; however, forthose whose interests are rooted in the processes of learning and teaching, forteachers as well as students, it represents a signicant addition to the eld.ReferenceLampert, M. (1985) How do teachers manage to teach? Perspectives onproblems in practice, Harvard Education Review, 55 (2): 17894. Professor Patrick SmithBuckinghamshire New University 13. PrefaceWhy are students not attending my lectures?Why dont 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 dont speak?Why wont students use the library?Why are retention and progression rates falling?What can I do to make my lecturing style more accessible?If any of the above issues resonate with your own experience then you are notalone. Most of us who work in an academic role in universities do so becausewe have a commitment to helping students learn, develop and grow. Yetsometimes this process does not always work as well as we would hope, as thelist of questions illustrates. Our students do not appear as interested or engagedin the subjects we are teaching, they do not use the libraries, they do notattend our lectures or seminars regularly, and perhaps worst of all, retentionand progression rates fall. Is this the fault of the students, the system, dwind-ling resources, the governments current agenda, or is it something to dowith the way we are teaching or supporting their learning? Of course, it is very likely to be a combination of all these factors, andmore besides, but this book is concerned with teaching/supporting learningand what might be done to improve it through the process of carrying outpedagogical action research. Many denitions of action research in the literature usually involve referenceto the twin purpose of action with research and to it being carried out bypractitioners rather than by outside researchers. Some of the denitions includereferences to action research being cyclical, collaborative and constructivist,depending on which particular school of action research the author owesallegiance. None of this, in my view, has to be overly complicated. Theprinciple of pedagogical action research is very clear; it is to improve someaspect of the student learning experience. Put more formally, the fundamental 14. xvi Prefacepurpose of pedagogical action research is to systematically investigate onesown teaching/learning facilitation practice with the dual aim of modifyingpractice and contributing to theoretical knowledge. Pedagogical action research involves using a reective lens through whichto look at some pedagogical issue or problem and methodically working outa series of steps to take action to deal with that issue. As in all forms ofresearch (pure and applied) the ultimate aim is to publish, but of equalimportance is the imperative to change ones practice. As we go through thebook, elements of this denition will be explored in greater detail. My in...

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