October’s Research Reflection in ILT6720
I recently wrapped up a section within my literature review on self reflection and I kept thinking about everything I’ve been learning and working on this semester. It’s been a tough couple of weeks but well worth the effort as everything feels like it’s finally coming together. I have yet to feel like a “natural” researcher, but I’m very proud of how far I’ve come in this course and the work that I’ve produced!
- How did your participation in course activities this month contribute to your understanding of action research (specifically) and the role of research in educational technology (generally)?
In September, my research partner Jason and I received feedback on our initial action research proposal that prompted us to basically start over. I was incredibly disappointed and disheartened because I felt like I just wasn’t “getting it.” I didn’t truly understand what we were doing and I think I was just going through the motions of reading and writing, reading and writing, reading and writing. To be blunt…I felt very naive and slow to understand. I was stranded on an island and everyone else had figured out how to get off the island except for me. But reading what everyone had to say in our class discussions really helped me have an epiphany of sorts and my research process has felt much more smooth and focused!
My epiphany was really just a simple realization that action research is not what I was trying to make it into…a tidy little puzzle that would fit together so long as you performed each step perfectly and within a specific way. Action research is actually incredibly messy! It has a lot of “h-ha!” moments and even more “this doesn’t fit” moments. Everything does not automatically come together to fit into the puzzle by itself. The researcher has to analyze the literature and find themes and differences and create the puzzle themselves. I think this last part was truly driven home for me when Jason and I began to dissect our literature and fit it all into a synthesis chart. I was finally able to see how all of the different pieces of literature could come together.
Throughout this action research process, for me personally, educational technology has become an invaluable resource that I don’t know if I could live without! How on earth did researchers do all of this way back in the day? How did they find what they needed and collaborate with others without the use of so much technology?! I remember writing a paper in college about 12 years ago and having to wait for a journal to arrive in the mail via an inter-library loan. I can’t even begin to imagine how long a literature review would take if we were not able to have so many resources at our fingertips. And all of the collaborative tools that are so readily available: working collaboratively in a document via Google docs, the ability to share articles through software like Mendeley, and meeting via video-con whenever the timing suits. It’s simply amazing. And it’s all been free!
- Why is it important for researchers – from whatever field, and inquiring via various methodologies – to familiarize themselves with peer reviewed literature?
The more a piece of literature has been peer reviewed, the more times it has been checked for accuracy and validity. Becoming familiar with peer reviewed literature will help researchers distinguish between quality work and lesser quality work. It will also determine the quality of the researcher’s work as well. Citing from lesser quality work could be detrimental to the researcher’s project.
- How have you become a discerning consumer of scholarly research through your literature review activities this month?
I am so incredibly new to this type of research (scholarly) that I feel it’s taken me much longer than I would have preferred for me to become a “discerning consumer of scholarly research,” but I’m getting there! I’ve received some great tips from my research professor’s screencasts and some of the resources that he provided that taught me to pay close attention to specific aspects of each piece of literature that I find and tag to read. I check the date of each article, how many times the article has been cited by others, and if the article has a well written literature review within it. I’ve also learned to seek out more literature from the citations and references of the high quality articles I’ve already read.
- Ask yourself a question about your research activities, and provide a meaningful answer.
My question to myself at this point is, “How can I gain more confidence in my action research abilities and practices?” Sadly, the most meaningful answer I can come up with is to just keep doing. I need to keep reading and I need to keep refining my research, fitting the pieces together and knowing when to let pieces go. I also need to keep practicing my scholarly writing. I am so used to infusing my writings with my personality and I feel like I have to physically shut off the creative side of my brain and just state the facts. I also need to keep working on my state of mind…action research is messy and I can’t make it work in a perfectly regimented way where I am working towards a specific (predicted) outcome. Strangely enough, I feel like I have to be very precise (and academic) in my scholarly writing, but laid back in my actual approach to my action research project.
- What are your enduring curiosities about (action) research, and how might you pursue these interests?
Right now, my enduring curiosities about action research all revolve around what happens after the “action” part has been implemented. Does it always work out well and everyone lives happily ever after? If the researcher moves on (as Stringer has with his work with Australian Aboriginals – which is very large scale, to me at least), do they ever check back in? What do researchers do if their action planning fails? I suppose I will be able to answer these questions for myself at least (although on a much smaller scale than making change within an actual school), when I finish my project for this semester.