CA2VES Webinar Series: Using Research to Reflect on Teaching Practice Q&A Sessions
- Would you recommend that a 2-year college instructor reach out to a 4-year research institution to find out how to do research?
Response: Absolutely. If you can find someone at a 4-year institution to help you understand that correct methods to set up data collection or begin a research project, definitely take advantage of this partnership. Professors at 4-year institutions are usually trained in how to conduct research collect and manage data and can be a great resource.
- Is there a recommended practice in analyzing research data? I don’t have a background in this.
Response: This really depends on your research question and what you are trying to find out. If you have a large data set you might need to use a statistical software program such as SPSS or Mplus. However, if you don’t have a background for doing this then you probably don’t need this. In general, I would recommend that you consider what your questions is asking and organize your data in a way that will help you see trends that will help you answer this question. For example, if you want to know your class average for each of your five sections of General Electricity that you have taught for the last five years, you might want to set up a spread sheet listing each of the five sections by year taught. Then you might calculate the aggregate average of each year or organize the information in other ways to look for trends that might help you answer your question.
- How would a 4-year institution use the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) theory to conduct a research study on a 2-year institution?
Response: A 4-year research university would probably not use a lens this specific in a study they are conducting, but this would be a very appropriate focus for an individual professor wanting to reflect on their own teaching practice. An instructor could take Vygotsky’s concept of ZPD as a focus to examine their teaching practice. This could be done through a post mortem reflection on how content is organized in the course to make sure content is organized appropriately. This instructor could verify their initial assessment through grades, their personal recollection or journal notes, student surveys, or other data sets to make sure that content and the course is organized in a way that is not asking students to learn things they are not ready for or need assistance to access.
- Has there been any research on getting student feedback more often than at the end of the semester term?
Response: I am not aware of research pertaining to the efficacy of collecting data more or less frequently but there probably is some if you look. I would say more is usually better then less, and I would collect as often as you need without disrupting your class flow. Some instructors (e.g Clemson) are only required to have a feedback session at the end of a semester term. Other instructors provide a survey at midterm to give them another data point halfway through the semester or to aid them in an upcoming evaluation or negotiation with administration. To be more responsive, an instructor could setup a feedback mechanism, at the end of a lesson or class, to find the effectiveness of a new instructional item that was introduced to the class (e.g. discussion). Don’t be afraid to let the students know that this is a new instructional item that you as the instructor would like to introduce to the lesson; people sometimes are afraid of change so informing them up front will help smooth the transition.
- When evaluating the assessment comparison between past years, if you see a decrease/increase in performance what would a researcher look for when evaluating how that metric changed?
Response: If you see a change in student performance try to think of something you may have changed in your instructional approach that might influence student outcomes. If an instructor changes the question type from say multiple choice to open response on an assessment then that might be an indicator of why the change occurred. It could be that the content delivery prior to the assessment was delivered differently than in the past throwing off the assessment metric. However, be careful in how you draw your conclusions. Just because there is a correlation in the change in assessment type with a change in student performance doesn’t mean that this caused the low performance. It could be that the instructor just forgot to give students the study guide for that assessment.
- Is there research showing that it is more effective when trying something new in your classroom (e.g. discussion group) to introduce it in one class or half or all classes rather than simultaneously?
Response: This really depends on research study you are setting up or research the question you are trying to answer. There could be very good reasons for an instructor to follow this strategy. The experimental nature of this strategy allows the instructor to compare student outcomes to see the effectiveness of the new teaching strategy. An expert in research methodology could help assist with setting up a research study to look into the best approach. Comparing within a semester or year could help with result outcomes. It is a good idea that if you are doing experimental research to examine your teaching practice that you have a control group with which to compare.
Any suggestion for how to get administration on board for research/grant projects?
Response: This can be challenging as administrators often feel that the focus of instructors should the quality of their teaching rather than conducting and sharing research. However, if you do your homework, you have a good chance of getting your administrator’s support. I would start with conducting a literature review to find out the authorities of your research interest and what they are writing about it. Write up a research proposal clearly outlining your plan and use the information from your literature review as support. Try to identify funding sources that you think would be most likely to fund your project. And do not give up. If your administration does not provide funding, at least get their verbal support to add to your proposal that you submit somewhere else. At the very least, do what you can to collect data on your topic on your own. Having some evidence to include with your proposal can be a deciding factor.