Monday, July 8

Reading – Lewin’s chapter on quantitative data.

Guest – Matt from the library.

Reading – I rewrote the reading in a Word document so that it looked more like notes. Did a lot of indenting to create subcategories! Of course the article is given at this point to inform all of our critical look at studies for the next two years. In the grander scheme of things, this was a Coles notes version so that we can have a rudimentary understanding of statistics. Like everything we have been given so far, we are getting a basic foundation, and as time goes on, this will deepen according to our focus. The chapter itself is written well enough, and the key terms are italicized, which helps in notetaking.

Having taken stats classes 30-something years ago, I am used to the terminology, but much of it has lain dormant.  Some of it I truly have forgotten or didn’t remember the first time round. At the end of the day, what I have come to understand this week is that we don’t have time to absorb everything we read or are told, but at the same time, we are not expected to absorb it all…yet. With two, two-hour classes every day, chock-full of information, it is just enough that we keep up in the moment.  No time to think, because the next day will add more to our plates. But that is okay. There will be time later to let it all sink in; no need for us to expect ourselves to figure it all out right now.

Guest – Case in point: Matt from the library. In going through all of the benefits of Zotero, I managed to eventually keep up with him. This was not easy, as I had to flag him down numerous times to get unstuck. He helped every time, and I got through successfully. Do I remember how I did it all? Absolutely not. I came home to try going back to the site to play around, and could not remember much. Luckily he gave us his powerpoint presentation of the tutorial, so I can go back another time. Again, in the end the purpose was not to have us be proficient at using Zotero, but to know that it exists, and to see that it has some cool tools and features.

As for the program itself, it comes as advertised. Matt loves it, and in demonstrating its capabilities, it would be hard to argue his point. Someone with some basic knowledge of Zotero can save a lot of time; that is usually spent on formatting.  We’ll see how much that affects us at this level, but it is valuable information to hear someone say, “I wish this program existed when I was doing my post-grad degree!”

Reflection – While statistical methodology is important to know from a global perspective, its practical use in my English or Japanese classroom is minor. Having said that, in my English classes I often use a very simple example of statistics when I talk about a writer using words to change the atmosphere or mood of a written piece.  On the board, I write the following: W W W W W W W L L L. I then talk about sports reporting. I tell the students that while many people will say that numbers don’t lie, and that is true, statistics can reveal what you want them to reveal. A writer who wants to sound positive will say, “The Blue Jays have won 7 of the last 10 games!” A writer who wants to sound negative will say, “The Blue Jays are on a three game losing streak.” So how a writer wants you to feel can be changed even though it is the exact same set of data. Simple analogy, but gives students pause for thought.

Tuesday July 9

Reading – Public Comment Sentiment on Educational Videos; Women Scholars’ Experiences with Online Harassment and Abuse; optional – A Posthumanist Critique of Flexible Online Learning and its “Anytime Anyplace” Claims

Guests – Rich McCue, George Veletsianos

Readings – Many questions arose in reading the two required articles (the third I didn’t read, although I will later). Of course I had the opportunity to ask one question to Dr. Veletsianos directly when he linked into our video feed. The question I had pertained to the number of factors that might affect the results he found, even as he acknowledged them himself in the article (TED talk article).  That is, he identified three factors that influenced the results: gender, live vs animated, and topic. Just those three factors result in six scenarios. What happens when you insert race, or age, as an example, into the factors? It becomes very difficult to isolate variables when you have so many factors.

Guests – Rich came to introduce Excel and its functions for data entry. With five double-sided pages of notes for us, it was an Excel for Dummies introduction. The instructions were clear and well laid out, so I am confident that I can get through on my own. I made it through the first two pages, knowing that I would be going over it again, as well as the other eight pages, at home.

One of the many nuggets of information that Dr. Thom highlights is about a researcher’s background. How does knowing about the researcher affect what we interpret in the findings? Dr. Thom argues that it is very important. So, how did it affect me that we could see and hear and get feedback from a living, breathing researcher? The very one whose studies we just read? Clearly we were profoundly positively impacted by the opportunity to ask questions. Finding out about Dr. Veletsianos’s life growing up, as well as his family and how that has directed his research gave some context to why he studied what he did. This did not preclude his ability to tackle other topics, but it gave some understanding of why he studied what he did.

Reflection – When we are studying Shakespeare, I try to get students to see him as a real person, like them.  Of course there are theories around who really wrote the plays and what Shakespeare was really like. but that I leave for another discussion! I ask students to imagine that there had to have been times when he was just tired, and got a bit lazy in his writing.  Maybe it was late at night, and he’d been writing all day, and his candle was about to burn out, and he just wanted to go to bed. He might have been wanting to finish up a line before going to bed. He was working on Romeo and Juliet and had gotten to the scene when the nurse finds Juliet, “dead.” He knows that he needs ten syllables to keep her lines iambic pentameter, but just can’t think of the perfect words. So he writes, “O woe? O woeful, woeful, woeful day!” (IV.v. 52) and then, “O day! O day! O day! O hateful day!” (IV.v. 55) Maybe he is thinking, “Ah, I can’t be bothered! Good enough,” and then goes to sleep. Why is this important? I do this to “humanize” this historical figure, so that the students may interpret the plays as actual writing and not from the hand of God through Shakespeare. At the same time, we look at 16th Century England and the change of monarchy in 1603, right in the middle of Shakespeare’s writing period. We look at Holinshed’s Chronicles to see what storylines Shakespeare lifted to write his plays. As previously stated, it all helps to shape what we read.

Wednesday July 10

Reading – Assessing The Quality Of Mixed Methods Research: Toward A Comprehensive Framework

Reading – This reading was interesting, mostly because it was quite recent. What I mean by that is that the main claim and impetus for writing the article was that there was no “comprehensive framework” for mixed methods research. That information surprised me, because I expected that for something as important as having a standard set of criteria to assess the quality of mixed methods research, it would have been decided on long ago. The fact that the studies referenced are mostly from 2003-2010 shows that this has only recently been undertaken.

In trying to conceptualize a mixed methods approach, I came back to one of our first topics: Autoethnography. I see the two halves of the word divided also by type of research method. The auto(biographical) part lends itself to qualitative research, and the ethnographical part more to the quantitative.

Guest – no “guest,” but Heidi was the speaker of our group to report on her interpretation of the article, as well as her own reflections. She professed that she was stuck on the overlap between the writer, O’Cathain, and Tashakkori and Teddlie. There seemed to be reciprocal references that to her, indicated mutual support and bias for each other. This can be difficult to separate, but as Dr. Thom noted in class, this sometime cannot be avoided when a researcher’s own area is the same as a leading researcher. As O’Cathian aims to build on Tashakkori and Teddlie’s research, it is difficult not to either agree with or cite each others’ work.

Reflection – In thinking about mixed methods research, my initial reaction in trying to find context to make it personal was the reading on autoethnography. What came to mind was a paper I wrote for my teaching professional year course, History of Education in Canada.  I sought permission to write about the education of the Japanese-Canadian children in B.C. during World War II. While my paper was more of an examination of the schooling itself, I think it would have lent itself to an autoethnographical study had I looked at the case study of my parents and compared their experience to their local population, and then to the entire population of Japanese-Canadian children, versus the general population of children in B.C. as a whole. In order to make it truly autobiographical, I might have looked at the children born post-war, like I did, who grew up in a very different Canada than our parents.

Thursday July 11

Reading – Scholars Before Researchers by D. Boote & P. Beile (2005)

Guest – Pia from the library

Reading – The intent of the article is clear: do a proper literature review before doing research.  It was difficult to escape the paternalistic tone of, “Come on, people! Listen up!” that came from the introduction. The tone and writing changes slightly after that to be more academic in nature, but the direction is already set. Even in writing, “When considering the criteria and standards used to evaluate a dissertation, we need to keep in mind that most people with doctorates in education do not go on to pursue research careers. Most teach, administer, or lead (Passmore, 1980),” (p.4) the inference is that that doctoral candidate is not as dedicated to rigour. Or that the doctoral candidate’s supervisors have lower standards, because presumably, they allowed the dissertation to be accepted. This statement is problematic. No doubt a proper literature review lays the foundation for the research, but Boote and Beile risk falling into their own trap by citing Alton-Lee’s statistics. To be fair, there were two other studies cited, but to include the small sample of Alton-Lee’s without comparable statistics from fields outside of education, this presents a poor example of statistical relevance.

Guest – This was a refresher from our introduction on July 4. Pia went through a demonstration of narrowing our searches. I remember from her first visit that she used the threshold of ~200 results, and as I searched for articles, I tried to adhere to that standard. It was helpful, although understandably, there was still a lot of sifting through even the most basic descriptions of the studies, to find something applicable. This again, was intended to be an introduction to searching the library database. Three things I took away from this session were: not to check the “Discipline” box, but rather, the “Subject” box; that we should expect to book 30 minutes with Pia when we are prepping for our project; and that as good as Zotero is, it is most useful for doctoral students, where there may be hundreds of references and citations, rather than the tens that we may be dealing with.

Reflection – Certainly on a smaller scale, at the high school level we expect students to be able to do basic research papers and academic writing at more of the grade 12 level. Below grade 12 students are still working on proper grammar and essay writing, so it requires a dedicated unit to teach about academic writing and APA format. This is not to say that it is not worth doing, and with high school students it is easier than with primary or elementary, but it is difficult to make the topic “interesting.” I don’t teach English 12, but I know that students in English 12 do cover research papers.