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:
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.
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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- To introduce participants to the issues and challenges of conducting ethical research.
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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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.