Designing Synchronous Online Interactions and Discussions

May 17, 2016

IDEAS 2016: Designing for InnovationA few weeks ago I co-presented a session at the University of Calgary’s IDEAS 2016 conference. This year the theme was “Designing for Innovation”. My colleagues, Barb Brown and Meadow Schroeder and I presented on how to effectively design synchronous sessions for e-learning.

The three of us are all award-winning educators, and each has her own approach to how we design and deliver real-time sessions via Adobe Connect in our classes. We offered ideas and tips on what we do and how we do it. Our paper has been included in the conference proceedings, which have just been released. Here’s a link to our paper:

Brown, B., Schroeder, M., & Eaton, S.E. (2016, May). Designing Synchronous Online Interactions and Discussions. In M. Takeuchi, A.P. Preciado Babb, & J. Lock. IDEAS 2016: Designing for Innovation Selected Proceedings. Paper presented at IDEAS 2016: Designing for Innovation, Calgary, Canada (pg 51-60). Calgary, Canada: Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary. Available from: http://hdl.handle.net/1880/51209

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Designing Synchronous Online Interactions and Discussions http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Ks

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12 Phrases to Avoid in Your Academic Research Papers

January 18, 2016
Image courtesy of patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Over and over again I see these phrases in research papers. Every single time I ask students to consider an alternative. Here are a dozen phrases to eliminate in your academic writing and why:

#1: I hope that…

#2:  I believe that…

#3: I feel that…

#4: In my opinion…

Research is not concerned with what we feel, believe or hope. It is also not concerned with our opinions. Research is about posing a substantive question that merits an in-depth investigation and  providing credible evidence to address that question. These phrases may work in reflection papers or journals, but less so in research writing. Omit these touchy-feely phrases and focus on the business of providing evidence to support your discussion.

#5: Clearly…

#6: As you can clearly see…

#7: As this clearly demonstrates…

This can come across as defensive. It may seem like you are implying the reader is an idiot if he or she do not agree with you. Even if you feel that way, refrain from letting the reader know, as it will undoubtedly annoy him or her.

#8: As stated previously…

#9: As I have already mentioned / pointed out/ stated…

#10: As already noted in a previous section of this paper…

These phrases can sound condescending. I have yet to see a case where these phrases (and the remainder of the sentence that follows) add anything useful to the discussion. Keep your writing precise and pithy. Avoid repeating yourself.

#11: The only conclusion is…

#12 The only logical conclusion is…

This can sound arrogant, defensive or both. The underlying message is that anyone who disagrees with you is an imbecile. It makes it sound like you flat out reject the possibility that there could possibly be any other conclusion, which is rarely (if ever) a good idea in research. (Remember the Copernican Revolution.)

Instead of using phrases like these that can make you sound arrogant or defensive (even when that is not your intention), focus instead on writing in a pragmatic and straightforward way that lets the evidence speak for itself.

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Here’s a quick link so you can send this post to a friend:

12 Phrases to Avoid in Your Academic Research Papers

https://drsaraheaton.wordpress.com/2016/01/18/12-phrases-to-avoid-in-your-academic-research-papers

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EDER 603.23 – Writing Educational Research

January 2, 2016

Sarah Elaine Eaton, speaker, presenter, keynote, technology, social media, Calgary, Canada, educator, education, professional developmentI am thrilled that I have the opportunity to teach one of my favourite courses again in the Winter semester. Even better, I already know many of the students who are enrolled and I welcome the opportunity to work with this academically strong group again.

Here’s a downloadable .pdf of the course outline:

EDER_603.23_L09_Eaton_W2016 (approved)

This term, all the instructors who will teach the course in the Winter semester worked to collaboratively design a common outline for all sections of the course. We will use a common approach to teaching, assignments and due dates.

The objective of the course is to engage students in thinking about publishing their work in a public format. Here is an example from a previous student of mine in this course who published her first refereed conference paper as a direct result of her work in this course:

Quinn, E. (2015). Designing a professional learning model to support creativity in teaching and learning. Paper presented at the IDEAS: Designing Responsive Pedagogy, Calgary, AB. Retrieved from: http://prism.ucalgary.ca/bitstream/1880/50852/3/IDEAS%202015%20FINAL.pdf

I hope that this example inspires students in the Winter semester to seek publication of their own research in a credible (e.g. peer reviewed) format. Now is an exciting time for graduate students who want to work towards sharing work in a published format. There are more opportunities than ever before for graduate students to learn what it takes to have their work published in conference proceedings or journals.

Here’s a quick link so you can send this post to a friend: EDER 603.23 – Writing Educational Research – http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Jy

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APA Checklist for Term Papers

December 1, 2015

My students often struggle with the finer points of APA formatting and style. While I always encourage them to read the APA manual in detail themselves, with the end of the semester looming, that doesn’t always happen. So, I put together this handy checklist for my students to help them format their paper like a pro.

Feel free to use it yourself or share it with your own students:

Here’s the checklist in .pdf format: APA Checklist for Final Papers.

Here’s a quick link so you can send this post to a friend:

APA Checklist for Term Papers: http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Jd

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So, yesterday was a pretty stellar day at work…

September 11, 2015

Werklund School of Education Teaching Excellence Award 2014-2015There are moments that mark our careers, our lives and our memories. Yesterday I had a very special moment, surrounded by friends, colleagues and mentors. In the company of about 20 or so other winners of awards presented by the Werklund School of Education, I was honoured and humbled to receive the 2014-2015 Teaching Excellence Award.

I know there were some pretty special people working behind the scenes who made this happen and some pretty phenomenal former students wrote letters of support to the selection committee.

Moments like these don’t happen very often. We enjoy them, savouring the opportunity to share with those around us who make the work worthwhile and bring joy to our professional practice.

That happened yesterday. Today it is back to work, connecting with students at the beginning of another busy fall semester. I’m thrilled to be teaching two groups of Master’s of Education students this semester. They really do keep me inspired on a daily basis.

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EDER 603.21 – Research Methodology in Education (Summer 2015)

July 1, 2015

I get to teach another one of my favourite courses this summer. This one has undergone a facelift recently and now, all the instructors who teach it in the summer will use the same texts, themes and assignments. We have collaboratively developed the course outline and learning tasks. Here’s an overview of what we came up with:

Course Description

This first course in educational research methodologies provides the background necessary to make intelligent decisions around the kinds of research questions that might be asked and the sort(s) of insights and answers particular methods can provide.

Extended Description

This introductory course is designed for graduate students in the first year of their cohort-based Master’s of Education programs. It focuses on various issues, methods, and techniques in educational research. The course includes some of the issues and dilemmas that frame the context for contemporary research, as well as a preliminary consideration of research strategies, methods, and techniques in a manner intended to assist participants in selecting research questions, methods, and strategies for further study. Participants will also be encouraged to approach research articles and reports with a critical perspective and develop some skills and techniques for this kind of close reading. In relation to a subsequent course, EDER 692 Collaboratory of Practice, this first course will have a focus on action research in education.

The field of education sits at a point of intersection of many other domains – including neurology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, and the many disciplines represented in various subject area specialties. This positioning compels a particular sort of methodological breadth across all programs in education. For that reason, it is not the purpose of the course to develop extensive technical (operational) competence in any particular method of research. Rather, the broader aim is to support an initial understanding of the nature and purpose of various approaches – all of which are useful in understanding educational phenomena, though they may appear to differ substantially.

Over the past 50 years, there has been a proliferation of theories and associated research methodologies in the field of education. A principal aim of the course is to nurture a sort of ‘methodological connoisseurship’ – by interrogating the distinctions and commitments that are associated with various approaches to inquiry rather than by championing specific emphases and approaches. To achieve this end, we should aim for a radical departure from traditional research methods courses that focus on clusters of specific methodologies. The emphasis here will be on the decisions, attitudes, and commitments that take one to a particular approach and that compel certain methods.

The guiding question or attitude is not “How is this perspective or methodology different or wrong?” – which is deemed unproductive as every frame can be critiqued. The orientation is more toward “How is this perspective or methodology right?” To that end, among the simultaneous considerations are: What is the focus (the subject, object, phenomenon, unit of analysis) of interest? Does it change? If so, at what pace? Is it self-transformative and do other agents or phenomena (e.g., educators and researchers) participate in its change?

Course Objectives

  1. To review the range of purposes for, and products of, educational research – including the gathering of empirical data, the application of theory, the generation of theory, and the critique of theory.
  2. To establish a basic literacy in research methodologies. Participants should be able to offer preliminary definitions of principal approaches to research in education and to distinguish among them according to phenomena examined, theoretical commitments, and relevance to their own research interests.
  3. To appreciate that methodological breadth is better articulated in terms of complementarities than conflicts, recognizing that methods are developed in conversation with the phenomena they are intended to ‘investigate.’ As such, any comparison of methods demands a range of questions, including queries on what is being studied, who is doing the studying, the purposes of study, the time frames of the inquiry, etc. Details around technical differences among methods are at best secondary considerations in this conversation.
  4. To interrogate the personal pre-judgments and methodological positionings that frame one’s questions, orient one’s selection of techniques, influence the details one notices, and affect the inferences one draws.
  5. To introduce participants to the issues and challenges of conducting ethical research.

Learner Outcomes

Throughout the course of study students will be able to:

  • Identify viable and interesting research questions and ideas, both in their own potential research endeavours and in the work of published academics (LT1, LT2, LT3)
  • Identify, compare and critique a variety of educational research methodologies based on their primary assumptions and methods (LT1, LT2)
  • Evaluate the relevance of educational research methodologies with special consideration being given to stated research questions and the knowledge being sought (LT1, LT2, LT3)
  • Differentiate between the central tenets of qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis strategies with special consideration being given to the strengths, weaknesses and relevance of each in education (LT1, LT2, LT3)
  • Assess the validity of a variety of research methods, both qualitative and quantitative, commonly used in education (LT1, LT2, LT3)
  • Examine and interrogate the relationships between research questions, research methods and interpretation of findings in educational studies (LT1, LT2, LT3)
  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of ethical considerations in educational research, particularly with regard to the use of human participants (LT2)
  • Formulate and evaluate their own preliminary research questions in response to both their research interests and professional context. (LT3)
  • Understand how action research applies to educational settings and contexts (LT1, LT3)

Here’s a link to the full course outline: EDER 603 21 Summer 2015 – Eaton

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If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


A Review of the Literature on Rural and Remote Pre-Service Teacher Preparation With a Focus on Blended and E-Learning Models

June 29, 2015

U of C logo - 2015Over the past several months I have been working with a team in the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary to investigate the benefits and challenges of a blended pre-service teacher education program. We did an extensive survey of recent literature and our work has been archived on the U of C’s digital space.

We are excited to share the results of our work. You can check it out here:

Eaton, S. E., Dressler, R., Gereluk, D. & Becker, S. (2015). A review of the literature on rural and remote pre-service teacher preparation with a focus on blended and e-learning models. Calgary: University of Calgary. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1880/50497

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If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


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