Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Digital learning and blended learning

Digital learning is any instructional practice that is effectively using technology to strengthen the student learning experience. Digital learning encompasses a wide spectrum of tools and practice, including using online and formative assessment, increasing focus and quality of teaching resources and time, online content and courses, applications of technology in the classroom and school building, adaptive software for students with special needs, learning platforms, participating in professional communities of practice, providing access to high level and challenging content and instruction, and many other advancements technology provides to teaching and learning. In particular, blended learning is any time a student learns, at least in part, at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home and, at least in part, through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Purposes for conducting Action Research

Practitioners have to consider their purposes for conducting research to allow the results of their research to be consistent with their purposes. Kenneth Zeichner and Susan Noffke propose three dimensions of purposes in Action Research: personal, professional and political.

Personal Purpose for Action Research

The central purpose of action research in this case is the improvement of the researcher's practice. The focus is on the teacher and his own students. Specific purposes can be among others:

  • To develop a greater understanding of individual student's thoughts and actions.
  • To develop a deeper understanding of teachers' experiences with particular educational innovations
  • To provide teachers an opportunity for personal examination and generation of theory.
  • To develop a deeper self awareness in practitioners such as clarification of their assumptions about education and recognition of contradictions between their own ideas and actual classroom practice.
  • To examine the impact of the research process on practitioners
  • To conduct research as an individual learning process valuing experiential experiential knowledge.
To summarize action research undertaken for personal purposes aims to greater self-knowledge, fulfillment, and practitioners' professional awareness.

Professional Purposes for Action Research

In action research undertaken for professional purposes practitioners:

  • uses action research as a form of staff development
  • seeks the legitimization of their role as producers of knowledge and contributors of to the literature of educational research  and theory.
  • develops action research networks of practitioners for the promotion of professionalism.
In action research undertaken for professional purposes teachers seek to extend their research beyond the classroom and influence the social and institutional contexts of their workplace. Their objective aims to not have the  analyses of their work depended from outsiders. According to Zeichner and Noffke this type of research helps to link educational theory and practice

Political Purposes for Action Research

In addressing political purposes Action Research can focus on:

  • Trying to make personal teaching practices more humane and just
  • Facilitating full participation of all those concerned in the research process.
  • Promoting social change with a focus on economic and social justice through collective efforts to increase educational opportunities for all constituents. Typical issues addressed are: gender, class, cultural equity and voice in education.
Zeichner and Noffke contend that all types of action research bear some kind of political purposes either by maintaining some kind of existing lines of power and privilege or seeking to transform them to become more humane. However action research done for political purposes aims to bring social change by allowing to provide greater social justice for all.

In reading action research reports the researcher's purpose or purposes have to be found out. A personal analysis based on the three types of purposes can be done in order to determine these purposes. Experienced researchers can focus on one or several purposes. Some reflections on the purpose of action research are recommended in the planning phase of the project.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Differences between Action Research and Formal Research


Action research is a form of applied research whose primary purpose is the improvement of an educational professional's own practice. Action research is equivalent to practitioner research, teacher research, insider research and self-study research when it is undertaken by by teacher educators on their own practice.

Action research may use any of the methods used in formal educational research. Action researchers can collaborate with colleagues, clients, or professional researchers usually university professors. It may also have other purposes besides improving one's personal practice.

Action research differs from formal research in many aspects. Formal rsearch is a form of generalizable knowledge published in acadmic journals. However some action research having some characteristics of formal research can be published in academic journals. Action research is published in online action research journal and websites of various action research networks. Other practitioners benefit from the knowledge generated by these reports.

Common differences between Action Research and Formal Research

Training needed by researcher

In Formal research extensive training is needed. In Action Rresearch, extensive training is not required.

Goals of Research

In formal Research knowledge produced is generalizable. In Action research Knowledge is to apply to local situation.

Method of identifying the problem to be studied

In Formal research: Review of previous research. In Action Research: Problems urrently faced.

Procedure for literature review

In Formal research: extensive, using primary sources. In Action research: more cursory, use of secondary sources.

Sampling approach

In Formal research: Random or representative sampling. In formal research: students or clients with whom they worked;

Research design

In Formal research: rigorous control, long time frame. In Action research: looser procedures, change during study, quick time frame, control through triangulation.

Measurement procedures

In Formal research: evaluate and pretest measures. In Action research: convenient measures or standardized tests.

Data analysis

In formal research: Statistical tests, qualitative techniques. In Action research: focus on practical, not statistical significance, present raw data, graphs

Application of results

In Formal research emphasis is on theoretical significance, increased knowledge about teaching and learning in general. In Action Research: emphasis on practical significance,improved teaching and learning in a particular classroom.

 Reporting outcome

In formal research: Published report, journal article, professional conference, In Action research: Informal sharing with colleagues, brief report, ERIC document, conferences.   



Monday, January 2, 2012

Statistics in Descriptive Research

The description of a sample implies that a researcher defines variables, measures them, and for each measure calculates one or more of the following descriptive statistics: measures of central tendency and measures of variability. Measures of central tendency are: mean, median and mode. Measures of variability are: standard deviation, variance and range. The researcher can also calculate the derived scores which help interpreting the sample's scores on the variables that were measured. Derived scores aid the interpretation by providing a quantitative measure of each individual's performance relative to a comparison group. Age equivalents, grade equivalents, percentiles, and standard scores are examples of derived scores commonly used in descriptive research.

Some descriptive research provide statistical information about aspects of education that interest  policy makers and educators. This type of research is the specialty of the National Center for Education Statistics. Many of this center's research results are published in an annual volume called the Digest of Educational Statistics. This center also administers the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which is a collection of descriptive information about the performance of youth in the different subjects taught in public schools. A noticeable NAEP publication is the Reading Report Card, which reports descriptive statistics about student's performance in reading at different levels. At a higher level the International Association for the the Evaluation of  Educational Achievement (IEA) does descriptive studies of the academic achievement of students in many nations including the United States.

The two main types of descriptive research differ by the time the variables are measured. In the first type the variables or the characteristics of a sample are measured at one point in time. In the second type which is called longitudinal a sample is followed over time.    

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Purpose of Descriptive Research

The most basic form of Research involves the description of the forms, actions, changes over time of the natural and non-natural phenomena. It also involves the description of similarities with other phenomena. The description of phenomena has led scientists to many scientific discoveries. For example the description of some parts of the universe by astronomers have led to the discovery of the structure of the solar system and the prediction of lunar eclipses.

Descriptive research in education involves the description of educational phenomena. Description viewed in research as understanding what people or things mean is an important goal in qualitative research. For this reason it is important  to know the qualitative and quantitative approaches in the planification of descriptive studies. This allows to make the best choices in undertaking descriptive research.

Descriptive studies primarily determine "what is". As examples some of the possible questions of being studied in descriptive studies are: What kinds of activities occur in a ninth grade science class and how frequently do they occur? What were the reactions of school administrators to innovations in teaching Biology?

Most educational studies tend to discover cause and effect relationships and testing new educational methods and programs. Researchers have to describe an educational phenomenon first before attempting to explain or change it. Some educational reforms took place with the findings of some descriptive studies. Some educational books like Life in Classrooms by Philip Jackson, The Good High School by Sara Lawrence Lightfoot and A Place Called School are based on descriptive studies.

Researchers administer questionnaires and interviews to a sample of research participants in order to collect data for their descriptive studies. This type of research called survey research leads to knowledge of opinions, attitudes and practices. Such knowledge has helped in shaping educational policies and initiatives to change existing conditions.

In summary the description of natural and non-natural phenomena involves the description of their forms, actions, changes over time and similarities with other phenomena. This type of research has led to important discoveries in astronomy. The description of different parts of the universe has led to important discoveries about this universe. Descriptive research viewed as understanding what people or things mean is used both in quantitative and qualitative research. Descriptive research means also understanding what exists by asking questions. Descriptive educational studies tend to discover cause and effect relationships and testing new educational methods and programs. Many educational reforms took place with the results of descriptive research studies. Some books written by educators are the results of descriptive studies. Researchers use questionnaires and interviews to collect data about their descriptive studies. The findings of such studies lead to the establishment of policies and initiatives to change conditions. It can be noted that conditions can be worsened if it is poorly designed and its philosophy doesn't lead to results that truly benefits the majority of people. Such type of research can lead to authoritarian and non democratic policies that don't lead to meaningful changes for the majority but reinforce the privileges of a minority.