Alberta’s MacKinnon Report: Academic Integrity Implications?

September 5, 2019

Cover - MacKinnon report 2019When I reviewed my Twitter feed this morning, I saw comments and questions about how recommendations in a recently-released report from the Alberta government might impact academic integrity in our province. The document is the “Report and recommendations: Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s Finances“. It was released by the Treasury Board and Finance branch of the Alberta government on September 3, 2019.

Naturally, when I saw the chatter on social media, my immediate reaction was concern. I looked at some of the news stories that had been released on the report over the past few days and my concern escalated into alarm. But before engaging in the social media debate, I opted first to consult the original report myself. After all, since I blog about the importance of consulting original sources, I thought it only fair to find and read the document before offering my commentary.

I reviewed the report this morning over two rather large mugs of coffee. I focused my attention on what the report said about education, casting a particular lens on the implications for academic integrity.

The report presents an overview of recommendations for K-12 education and advanced education:

On Education: The Panel recommends that the government should:

Recommendation 5: Work with education stakeholders to decrease the percentage of government funding that goes to administration and governance (currently 24 .6%) to a level comparable to British Columbia (17%).

Recommendation 6: Completely review and revise the current education funding formula to ensure enrolment growth is addressed and to provide incentives for sharing services and achieving better education outcomes for students.

On Advanced Education: The Panel recommends that the government should:

Recommendation 7: Consult with post-secondary stakeholders to set an overall future direction and goals for the post-secondary system along with appropriate governance models.

Recommendation 8: Work with post-secondary stakeholders to achieve a revenue mix comparable to that in British Columbia and Ontario, including less reliance on government grants, more funding from tuition and alternative revenue sources, and more entrepreneurial approaches to how programs are financed and delivered. This includes lifting the current freeze on tuition fees.

Recommendation 9: Assess the financial viability of Alberta’s post-secondary institutions. The government should move quickly to address the future of those post-secondary institutions that do not appear to be viable in future funding scenarios. (p. 6-7)

More details are provided on pages 33-38 for K-12 education and pages 39-43 for advanced education. As I read through the details of the report, I would say it seems clear that deep cuts to education funding seem imminent, including cuts to educators’ salaries.

With regards to K-12 education the report states, “A number of school boards that have very high to high expenses per student have student achievement outcomes that are below 50%” (p. 36). The report seems to indicate that a shift from a funding model that would fund schools based on enrolment numbers alone might shift to one based on “outcomes achieved” (p. 37). The report does not explicitly say this would be a pay-for-performance model. Nor does it elaborate on what these “outcomes” might look like.

The objection that has arisen in the media seems to centre around Recommendation #6 which talks about “achieving better outcomes for students”. I find the high-level language vague and leaves much open to interpretation.

When I turned my attention to the section on Advanced Education, I found this point jumped out at me:

Not all Alberta’s post-secondary institutions are successful at getting students to complete their studies and graduate over a seven-year period subsequent to beginning their course of study . Nine of twenty-six institutions fell below an average completion rate of 60% and one institution had a completion rate of 40%. (p. 40)

This would seem to indicate that we might expect a more intense focus on students completing their programs as a measure of success. If anything, I might be concerned that program quality or standards might end up being lowered in advanced education programs to ensure more students complete their programs, but I am speculating.

There are other aspects of the report that I found interesting (even concerning), but I will refrain from commenting on those, because I examined the report specifically through the lens of academic integrity.

In short, I think we need to pay attention. Funding cuts to education seem imminent. From what I read, it would seem that our government will put a more intense focus on institutional and student outcomes and achievement, but how that will unfold is unclear. In terms of the potential impact of all this on academic integrity, I was unable to draw informed conclusions at this point.

Let me be clear though, that I unequivocally support a commitment to student learning — and students having opportunities to learn — no matter where they live, how much money they (or their parents) have, or what their age is. Those are my values as an educator, a researcher and a human being, so naturally, I will be keeping an eye on this. I am interested to know how the report is interpreted and used as a tool for the government to make decisions. I believe the content of this report, as it relates to education, will no doubt impact students, parents, educators, educational researchers and administrators at every level.

I would encourage all Albertans, and educators in particular, to read the original report. Fill up your coffee cup (twice if you need to) and dig into it. There are places we can read between the lines, speculate and surmise. At the very least, the report seems to provide the government with a clear mandate to cut costs to the public sector, including education, but don’t believe me (or the media). Read the report for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Reference:

MacKinnon, J., & Percy, M. (2019, September 3). Report and recommendations: Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s Finances. Edmonton: Treasury Board and Finance, Government of Alberta. Retrieved from https://open.alberta.ca/publications/report-and-recommendations-blue-ribbon-panel-on-alberta-s-finances

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This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.

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Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning (Infographic)

January 16, 2018

A few years ago I started exploring the differences between formal, non-formal and informal learning. The result was a couple of research reports and blog posts, including this one which has been viewed over 250,000 times. For those who like their information in bite-sized pieces, here is a quick synopsis of some of the key points for you in a handy infographic:

Formal, non-formal and informal learning.jpg

Here’s a free, downloadable .pdf of this infographic that you can use for your own research or teaching purposes: Formal, non-formal and informal learning.compressed

It is important to note that this infographic is intended to give a quick snapshot of some of the most basic differences. A quick snapshot like this gives you a quick picture, but not the whole picture. There are more differences than what one infographic can show. Also, the lines between formal, non-formal and informal learning can be blurry sometimes. Understanding the differences deeply will probably require more reading. To help you learn more, I’ve included a number of other posts, some of which link to full-length reports.

Check out these related posts:

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Conceptual and Theoretical Frameworks for Educational Research

October 30, 2017

Sarah Eaton blog technology researchIn my experience it is not uncommon for graduate students to struggle to figure out how to develop a conceptual or theoretical framework for their thesis or capstone project.

Here’s a list of resources that may help you do just that. I have developed this list with educational research in mind. Some of the resources are from other fields, but may have strong transferability to educational research contexts. Conversely, researchers from other fields may find the resources in this list helpful.

I have curated resources that are, in my opinion, high quality and relevant to those working in post-secondary research context. I have tried to include resources that are publicly accessible and available free of charge. I have excluded resources that seemed to be (again, in my opinion) overly brief or were being sold for profit.

Remember, if you are looking for sources to cite in your research paper or dissertation, scholarly journal articles and book chapters are often preferable to other kinds of resources because they are considered more credible. If you are just trying to wrap your head around the basics, any of these resources might help you.

Web-based resources

Clarke, R. (2011). Conceptual framework basics.   Retrieved from https://youtu.be/vxA43z4B1ao

Kesterson, T. (2013). Developing Conceptual Framework: Part 1.   Retrieved from https://youtu.be/HrbL508aG4k

Maxwell, J. A. (2005). Conceptual framework: What do you think is going on? Qualitative research design: An interactive approach (3rd. ed., pp. 39-72): Sage. Retrieved from: http://www.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/48274_ch_3.pdf

Metha, R. S. (2013). Theoretical and Conceptual Framework as Blue Print of a House.   Retrieved from https://www.slideshare.net/rsmehta/conceptual-and-theoretical-framework

Schneider, D. K. (2005). The research plan and conceptual frameworks.   Retrieved from https://tecfa.unige.ch/guides/methodo/edu-tech/slides/res-design-intro.pdf

Sitko, N. J. (2013). Designing a qualitative research project: Conceptual framework and research questions.   Retrieved from http://fsg.afre.msu.edu/zambia/Conceptual_Framework_and_Research_Questions.pdf

Thompson, C. J. (2017). How to use a theory to frame your research study.   Retrieved from https://nursingeducationexpert.com/theory-frame-research/

Scholarly journal articles and book chapters

If you cannot find these articles easily, contact your local librarian. Often librarians can help you access legitimate copies of materials free of charge if you are having difficulty finding them.

Green, H. E. (2014). Use of theoretical and conceptual frameworks in qualitative research. Nurse Researcher, 21(6), 34-38. doi:10.7748/nr.21.6.34.e1252

Imenda, S. (2014). Is There a Conceptual Difference between Theoretical and Conceptual Frameworks? Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi/Journal of Social Sciences, 38(2), 185-195.

Jabareen, Y. (2009). Building a conceptual framework: Philosophy, definitions, and procedure International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 8(4), 49-62. Retrieved from https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/ijqm/index.php/IJQM/article/viewFile/6118/5892

Pearson Casanave, C., & Li, Y. (2013). Novices’ struggles with conceptual and theoretical framing in writing dissertations and papers for publication. Publications, 3(2), 104-119. Retrieved from https://doaj.org/article/227a9233d0d54cfeb08379902fbc0827 doi:10.3390/publications3020104

Saunders, M., N.K., Gray, D. E., Tosey, P., & Sadler-Smith, E. (2015). Concepts and theory building. In L. Anderson, J. Gold, J. Stewart, & R. Thorpe (Eds.), A Guide to Professional Doctorates in Business and Management (pp. 35-56). London: Sage.

Related posts:

How to narrow down your research topic http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Xf

Developing a Work Plan for Your Thesis https://wp.me/pNAh3-1X3

What if you’re wrong? A question for researchers http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Vq

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Update – January, 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


New article: Perceptions of ESL Program Management in Canadian Higher Education: A Qualitative Case Study

October 10, 2017

I’m pleased to share my latest article, which has been published in the International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research.

Abstract

ESL programs at post-secondary institutions must often generate revenue in addition to teaching students English. Institutions often impose explicit expectations on these programs to generate profit, creating unique challenges for those who administer them. This qualitative case study investigated challenges faced by ESL program directors at one university in Canada. Semistructured interviews were used to collect data from program directors (N = 3) on topics relating to administration, marketing, the mandate to generate revenue, and the complexities of ESL program legitimacy and marginalization in higher education contexts. Five key themes emerged from the data: (a) the necessity for directors to be highly qualified and multilingual, as well as have international experience; (b) a general lack of training, support, and resources for program directors; (c) institutional barriers such as working with marketers and recruiters with little knowledge of ESL contexts; (d) program fragmentation and marginalization on campus; and (e) reluctance to share information and program protectionism. Findings point to the need for increased training and support for ESL program directors, along with the need for institutions to elevate the profile of these programs so they are not viewed as having less value than other academic programs on campus.

Keywords: TESOL; TESL, ESL, EFL, language program management; administration; leadership; profit; revenue; marketing

Check out the full article here: https://www.ijlter.org/index.php/ijlter/article/view/980

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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

 

 


English for All: Technology in English at The White House

December 15, 2016

On November 29, 2016 I was one of approximately 30 participants invited to The White House in Washington, D.C. to take part in the English for All Technology in English event. It was an amazing event that brought together thought leaders from academia, government and industry.

Here’s an album of photos taken by an official U.S. Department of State photographer: https://www.flickr.com/photos/exchangesphotos/albums/72157677134648376

You can check out my complete report here: white-house-report

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


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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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


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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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


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