The qualitative outcomes of education

Serene imageI came across this description while preparing a short form case study for a project I’ve been involved in, and thought I’d better make a note of what was described as the qualitative outcomes of education.

As teachers, we should strive to create environments:

  • In which learners are empowered, are safe to express themselves, to ask and respond to peers’ questions without feeling oppressed, domesticated or silenced
  • That encourage intellectual freedom to ‘think-aloud’, ‘try-out’ new things and reflect on lessons learnt
  • In which the psychological distance between knowledgeable others (peers and experts) is reduced
  • In which learners are equal partners in knowledge production (participatory parity)

Posted to Diigo 06/25/2012

“When I look around at the risk/reward curve for higher education it’s grim. We’ve really gone past the point where raising tuition higher than inflation and then financializing the payment system has become abusive. I certainly never intended for myself an academic career and, were the academy to suffer, I’d just go do something else. I don’t have a commitment to it or to really, frankly, almost any institution that assumes that it has to be stable forever.

Plainly, universities are the kind of institutions that are ripe for pretty radical reconsideration. Probably because the founding story of many institutions and particularly the ones that we think of as the kind of original avatars of American higher education was “notable gentlemen X donated their library.” Right? So literally just access to written material became an important enough gesture that you would organize a university around it. And whatever [laughs] — whatever it is people need more of today, it ain’t access to written material.”


Conducting research in higher education: a workshop

Photo from PB.Images on Flickr

I recently attended a workshop by Professor Sue Clegg from Leeds Metropolitan University. The aim of the workshop was to provide support for staff who are conducting research in higher education. The workshop considered appropriate paradigms and methodologies, discussed strategies for data collection, data analysis, and interpretation.

Lots of literature bemoaning the fact that research in higher education lacks a theoretical base

Highlighted the anxiety behind using theory, but not clear what it means to use theory

As researchers, we often feel that we need to appeal to an authority to give our data a sense of legitimacy

“Intellectual craftmanship” – there isn’t a rulebook, research isn’t pure and it’s often “messy”

The movement from theory to data and back again isn’t linear

“Sometimes a theory just grabs you, and makes sense to you”, but you can also be “intellectually promiscuous”

Learn to use your life experience in your intellectual work…you are personally involved in every intellectual product you have worked on (Wright Mill, 1959)

There’s a lot of critical literature on the nature of reflection and it’s lack of transparency. There are things that can’t be articulated, or are not articulated well. Seemingly transparent, “good” processes (like reflection) are not self-evidently good

Anecdotally, students don’t know “how” to reflect. They often give back what they think they’re supposed to…what is the “right” answer, they write reflections according to a script. BUT practitioners in certain fields have reflection embedded into the professional consciousness (as in physiotherapy), and see it as a dominant path to development. “Science” as a field doesn’t allow much room for the self in research.

Evidence based research / practice in higher education and the social sciences is often procedurally rigorous, but not scientifically rigorous

Some things work in some circumstances, but we don’t know how or why

“Where” does something sit in the curriculum? Or is it deeply integrated and spread throughout with little to specify a location?

Introduced to the notion of the “kind” teacher

The future is not empty and open, it is already stratified. Black students in this country don’t have the same life options as white students. In the UK, working class students don’t have the same options as middle class students

Having said that theories are often messy, one also needs to pay attention to them

Research philosophy and paradigms

Having a philosophy and situating yourself within a paradigm tells your reader what your stance is, locates the research in a broader context, guides (but doesn’t determine) the approach or method, and brings a coherence to the legitimacy of the knowledge claims you make

The dominant form of realism has historically been positivism, which equates broadly to things that we can see and touch and hear, and a relationship between cause and effect. Positivism tends to “flatten the world”

BUT, often the cause of an effect can’t been observed e.g. positivism can’t explain the complex interaction between patient and therapist

Realism is important in the sense that it is falsifiable, i.e. the experiment can produce results that show the hypothesis to be wrong

Much research in South Africa is grounded in material reality and a desire for real social change

Speaking about philosophers being “interesting writers to think with

Experimentation maps onto positivist or critical realist assumptions. Interpretive approaches are more tricky

Pluralism at the Method level can be good thing, as the quantitative / qualitative dilemma is about having the argument at the wrong level. Have multiple perspectives at the Method level

It is important to have thought about the problem and make knowledge claims that are appropriate to the approach you’ve used in terms of validity, reliability, credibility

Where am I coming from, and what assumptions am I making about my knowledge claims?

Theories can be fashionable and used only to lend credibility to an argument i.e. inserted after the fact. Theories can be thought of as a framework to think with.

Writing for publication

We don’t always pay attention to the “obvious” things when it comes to writing

If teaching is immediate gratification, writing for publication is deferred gratification

Sharing your work with others is part of participating in a larger conversation

Writing doesn’t have to be empirical, can be new insights or new ways of framing issues. Think about writing short “thought” pieces. What are the alternative places to publish that can get ideas out quickly, to be widely read, to establish yourself in a field?

Much of writing is about defining and understanding your audience. Do I write for a discipline specific or interdisciplinary audience? Are there multiple audiences? Are they practitioner audiences?

How do you demonstrate the impact of your work?

Is there a moral obligation to publish results that are new and innovative? Writing and sharing can be a virtuous activity.

Research the journal you’d like to publish in BEFORE starting writing. It’s easier to target your writing for an audience / journal, than to write a generic paper and “massage” it to fit something after the fact.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-03-28

Research development workshop: why do research?

I’m attending a research development workshop on campus for all staff members who are just beginning their PhD’s. I’ll post my notes here as we progress.

Why engage in research?

  • It’s expensive (manpower, finance, cost, equipement)
  • Dependent on motivation, commitment, hard work, ability, enthusiasm
  • BUT…
  • It enhances learning and intellectual development of staff
  • Keeps staff abreast of current developments
  • Allows interactions with peers from other institutions
  • Through collaborative programmes, it promotes institutional interactions, generating a source of funding
  • Promotes interaction with parastatal organisations e.g. NRF
  • Contributes to RDP of the country
  • Contributes to the development of a strong PG school
  • Transforms the approach to learning → allows you to engage in parallel thinking

Mechanics of the process

  1. Honours, or Basic Science degree → enthusiast with focus on higher education
  2. Masters → to get a Masters without going through to PhD is a “tragedy”
  3. PhD

Selecting a topic

  • Self choice by virtue of preference
  • Have a general idea of fields of interest e.g. curriculum development
  • No particular preference, explore what’s available
  • Theoretical or experimental / practical

Critical factors for success

  • Self motivation (since one is not driven by examination) → weekends and evenings
  • Choice of supervisor
    • Expert in the area
    • Must give guidance
    • Must inspire the student
    • There must be a relationship that goes beyond the research topic
    • Must be able to agree to regular meetings that have set objectives
  • Work consistently

Benefits of conducting research

  • Develops you as an academic
  • Allows you to engage with your peers more confidently
  • Allows you to rationalise research programmes
  • Promotes inter-departmental / institutional interaction
  • Harness internal and external funding for research, as well as for attending conferences
  • Research reward funds

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-03-01

  • Revisiting the Purpose of Higher Education and Courses. Why teaching content isn’t enough #
  • First two weeks of OpenContent at UCT #
  • The Open Source Way: Creating and Nurturing Communities of Contributors #
  • Why technology is not disrupting the university sector #
  • @weblearning I like it, thanks for the heads up 🙂 #
  • RT @weblearning: “key difference between informal and formal learning is .. permeable classroom walls” writes @bfchirpy #
  • Establish Authority by Creating Value. A few suggestions on ways to better establish yourself within your field #
  • Highlighting E-Readers. Short comment by Downes on a post highlighting issues with e-readers for scholarship #
  • Short post on the predominantly content focused nature of course planning #
  • RT @melaniemcbride: one of the downsides of fewer [bloggers] is a preference for the shotgun-share over [hard work & analysis/commentary] #
  • @KEC83 #Diigo ed. acc? Been trying on/off for 6 months with not even a single response from them. Very disappointing #
  • @RonaldArendse looks interesting, but I think it’s going to be a while before we’ll see anything like that locally 🙂 #
  • Policing YouTube: Medical Students, Social Media and Digita Identity #
  • Sunset at Mont Flour in Stellenbosch is beautiful #
  • apophenia » Blog Archive » ChatRoulette, from my perspective. Thoughts on the video service by danah boyd #
  • Johannes Cronje: Wendren’s PPC Bag. Cool example of South African innovation #
  • @meganbur welcome to the revolution 🙂 #
  • At for UWC writing retreat. There are worse places to be. Some good insight into the writing process #
  • @sbestbier Thanks for the suggest, much appreciated 🙂 #
  • Science in the Open » Blog Archive » Peer review: What is it good for? #
  • It’s not peer review if you aren’t familiar with the subject « Connectivism #
  • elearnspace. everything elearning: Scholarship in an age of participation (Siemens) #

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Posted to Diigo 02/18/2010

  • The impact of digital tools on conducting research in new ways

    tags: education, research, technology, digital

    • we need to toss out the old industrial model of pedagogy (how learning is accomplished) and replace it with a new model called collaborative learning. Second we need an entirely new modus operandi for how the subject matter, course materials, texts, written and spoken word, and other media (the content of higher education) are created.
    • “Teachers who use collaborative learning approaches tend to think of themselves less as expert transmitters of knowledge to students, and more as expert designers of intellectual experiences for students — as coaches or mid-wives of a more emergent learning process.”
    • The bottom line was simple: professors should spend more time in discussion with students.
    • “Collaborative learning has as its main feature a structure that allows for student talk: students are supposed to talk with each other . . . and it is in this talking that much of the learning occurs.”
    • With technology, it is now possible to embrace new collaboration models that change the paradigm in more fundamental ways. But this pedagogical change is not about technology
    • this represents a change in the relationship between students and teachers in the learning process.
    • Today, universities embrace the Cartesian view of learning. “The Cartesian perspective assumes that knowledge is a kind of substance and that pedagogy concerns the best way to transfer this substance from teachers to students. By contrast, instead of starting from the Cartesian premise of ‘I think, therefore I am,‘ . . . the social view of learning says, ‘We participate, therefore we are.‘”
    • one of the strongest determinants of students’ success in higher education . . . was their ability to form or participate in small study groups. Students who studied in groups, even only once a week, were more engaged in their studies, were better prepared for class, and learned significantly more than students who worked on their own.” It appears that when students get engaged, they take a greater interest in and responsibility for their own learning.
    • “The scandal of education is that every time you teach something, you deprive a [student] of the pleasure and benefit of discovery.”
    • Like Guttenberg’s printing press, the web democratizes learning
    • Rather than seeing the web as a threat to the old order, universities should embrace its potential and take discovery learning to the next step.
    • One project strategy, called “just-in-time teaching,” combines the benefits of web-based assignments with an active-learner classroom where courses are customized to the particular needs of the class. Warm-up questions, written by the students, are typically due a few hours before class, giving the teacher an opportunity to adjust the lesson “just in time,” so that classroom time can be focused on the parts of the assignments that students struggled with. This technique produces real results. An evaluation study of 350 Cornell students found that those who were asked “deep questions” (questions that elicit higher-order thinking) with frequent peer discussion scored noticeably higher on their math exams than students who were not asked deep questions or who had little to no chance for peer discussion.
    • The university needs to open up, embrace collaborative knowledge production, and break down the walls that exist among institutions of higher education and between those institutions and the rest of the world.
    • “My view is that in the open-access movement, we are seeing the early emergence of a meta-university — a transcendent, accessible, empowering, dynamic, communally constructed framework of open materials and platforms on which much of higher education worldwide can be constructed or enhanced. The Internet and the Web will provide the communication infrastructure, and the open-access movement and its derivatives will provide much of the knowledge and information infrastructure.”
    • The digital world, which has trained young minds to inquire and collaborate, is challenging not only the lecture-driven teaching traditions of the university but the very notion of a walled-in institution that excludes large numbers of people.
    • If all that the large research universities have to offer to students are lectures that students can get online for free, from other professors, why should those students pay the tuition fees, especially if third-party testers will provide certificates, diplomas, and even degrees? If institutions want to survive the arrival of free, university-level education online, they need to change the way professors and students interact on campus.
    • The value of a credential and even the prestige of a university are rooted in its effectiveness as a learning institution. If these institutions are shown to be inferior to alternative learning environments, their capacity to credential will surely diminish.
    • Professors who want to remain relevant will have to abandon the traditional lecture and start listening to and conversing with students — shifting from a broadcast style to an interactive one. In doing so, they can free themselves to be curators of learning — encouraging students to collaborate among themselves and with others outside the university. Professors should encourage students to discover for themselves and to engage in critical thinking instead of simply memorizing the professor’s store of information.
    • The Industrial Age model of education is hard to change. New paradigms cause dislocation, disruption, confusion, uncertainty. They are nearly always received with coolness or hostility. Vested interests fight change. And leaders of old paradigms are often the last to embrace the new.
    • whilst the educational technology community has tended to espouse constructivist approaches to learning, the reality is that most Virtual Learning Environments have tended to be a barrier to such an approach to learning
    • In such an age of supercomplexity, the university has new knowledge functions: to add to supercomplexity by offering completely new frames of understanding (so compounding supercomplexity); to help us comprehend and make sense of the resulting knowledge mayhem; and to enable us to live purposefully amid supercomplexity.
    • A teacher/instructor/professor obviously plays numerous roles in a traditional classroom: role model, encourager, supporter, guide, synthesizer. Most importantly, the teacher offers a narrative of coherence of a particular discipline. Selecting a textbook, determining and sequencing lecture topics, and planning learning activities, are all undertaken to offer coherence of a subject area. Instructional (or learning) design is a structured method of coherence provision.
    • When learners have control of the tools of conversation, they also control the conversations in which they choose to engage.
    • Course content is similarly fragmented. The textbook is now augmented with YouTube videos, online articles, simulations, Second Life builds, virtual museums, Diigo content trails, StumpleUpon reflections
    • Traditional courses provide a coherent view of a subject. This view is shaped by “learning outcomes” (or objectives). These outcomes drive the selection of content and the design of learning activities. Ideally, outcomes and content/curriculum/instruction are then aligned with the assessment. It’s all very logical: we teach what we say we are going to teach, and then we assess what we said we would teach.
    • Fragmentation of content and conversation is about to disrupt this well-ordered view of learning.
    • How can we achieve clear outcomes through distributed means? How can we achieve learning targets when the educator is no longer able to control the actions of learners?
    • I’ve come to view teaching as a critical and needed activity in the chaotic and ambiguous information climate created by networks. In the future, however, the role of the teacher, the educator, will be dramatically different from the current norm. Views of teaching, of learner roles, of literacies, of expertise, of control, and of pedagogy are knotted together. Untying one requires untying the entire model.
    • For educators, control is being replaced with influence. Instead of controlling a classroom, a teacher now influences or shapes a network.
    • The following are roles teacher play in networked learning environments:

      1. Amplifying
      2. Curating
      3. Wayfinding and socially-driven sensemaking
      4. Aggregating
      5. Filtering
      6. Modelling
      7. Persistent presence

    • A curatorial teacher acknowledges the autonomy of learners, yet understands the frustration of exploring unknown territories without a map.
    • Instead of explicitly stating “you must know this”, the curator includes critical course concepts in her dialogue with learners, her comments on blog posts, her in-class discussions, and in her personal reflections.
    • How do individuals make sense of complex information? How do they find their way through a confusing and contradictory range of ideas?
    • When a new technology appeared, such as blogs, my existing knowledge base enabled me to recognize potential uses.
    • Sensemaking in complex environments is a social process.
    • Imagine a course where the fragmented conversations and content are analyzed (monitored) through a similar service. Instead of creating a structure of the course in advance of the students starting (the current model), course structure emerges through numerous fragmented interactions. “Intelligence” is applied after the content and interactions start, not before.
    • Aggregation should do the same – reveal the content and conversation structure of the course as it unfolds, rather than defining it in advance.
    • Filtering can be done in explicit ways – such as selecting readings around course topics – or in less obvious ways – such as writing summary blog posts around topics.
    • “To teach is to model and to demonstrate. To learn is to practice and to reflect.”
    • Learning is a multi-faceted process, involving cognitive, social, and emotional dimensions.
    • Apprenticeship is concerned with more than cognition and knowledge (to know about) – it also addresses the process of becoming a carpenter, plumber, or physician.
    • An educator needs a point of existence online – a place to express herself and be discovered: a blog, profile in a social networking service, Twitter, or (likely) a combination of multiple services.
    • Without an online identity, you can’t connect with others – to know and be known. I don’t think I’m overstating the importance of have a presence in order to participate in networks. To teach well in networks – to weave a narrative of coherence with learners – requires a point of presence.
    • the methods of learning in networks are not new, however. People have always learned in social networks
    • Education is concerned with content and conversations. The tools for controlling both content and conversation have shifted from the educator to the learner. We require a system that acknowledges this reality.

Posted from Diigo.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-02-15

  • @ryantracey Agreed. The process, rather than the certificate, should be emphasised #
  • RT @wesleylynch: Video comparing iphone and nexus – Can’t imagine how the iPhone will survive, Android is already better #
  • RT @psychemedia: Are Higher Degrees a waste of time for most people? IT professionals are hardly “most people” #
  • University finds free online classes don’t hurt enrollment #
  • Mobile Learning Principles – interesting, but unrealistic in a developing country. “Mobile” does not = smartphone #
  • Presenting while people are twittering, an increasingly common backchannel. Be aware of it and use it if possible #
  • Presentation Zen: The “Lessig Method” of presentation. Great resource on improving your presentation skills #
  • About “P”! « Plearn Blog. This post raises some interesting questions about the challenges of using PLEs #
  • Crazy Goats. I don’t usually share this sort of thing, but this pretty amazing #
  • Learning technologies in engineering education. For anyone interested in integrating “distance” with “practical” #
  • Think ‘Network Structure’ not ‘Networking’. I always thought “networking” was too haphazard to bother with #
  • Clifton beach earlier today. I think I like it here #
  • @davidworth Hi David, thanks for the blog plug #
  • @sharingnicely: go around institutional pushback when policy is unfriendly to OER #OCW #
  • @dkeats: free content enables students to use scarce financial resources to acquire tech instead, which grants access to vastly more content #
  • Butcher: the curricular framework must drive development of OER – content comes after learning #OCW #
  • Neil Butcher from OERAfrica: OER can’t work without institutional support #OCW #
  • Why is copyright in OER even an issue? Copyright applies equally to OER and non-OER #OCW #
  • If you think of a degree as a learning experience, rather than a certificate, formal accreditation is less important. See P2PU #OCW #
  • Is there a difference between OER and #OCW I’m wary of the emphasis on content as a means of changing teaching practice #
  • @dkeats Improvement in quality is always important, isn’t it? No-one is aiming for mediocrity #
  • OCW workshop at UWC today, OCW board present incl. MIT OCW, should be a good day, quite proud its happening here #
  • RT @cristinacost: RT @gconole: Sarah Knight on JISC elearning prog including excellent eff. practice pubs #
  • RT @c4lpt: MicroECoP – Uisng microblogging to enhance communication within Communities of Practice #microecop #
  • Making the Pop Quiz More Positive. I like the change of mindset that the post suggests, pop quizzes aren’t punishment #
  • @cristinacost Looks good, you’re further along with your project than I am with mine, I might have to come to you for advice 🙂 #
  • Problem-Based Learning: A Quick Review « Teaching Professor. Nice, short summary of why PBL is a Good Thing #
  • @cristinacost What’s your interest in Buddypress? I recently set up WPMU/BP platform for physio dept social network to explore CoP #
  • Microblogging to enhance communication within communities of practice #microecop #
  • There’s a war goin’ on here, donchaknow? Retro copyright posters at EdTechPost #
  • Post by Howard Rheingold on crap detection on the internet should be required reading for everyone online #
  • Scroll down for the 5 C’s of Engagement on Postrank’s “What it is” page. Is it useful for building social presence? #
  • Great post on 3 strategies to manage information: Aggregate, Filter and Connect. The last one is hard (for me anyway) #
  • Great post on the importance of not only filtering information, but using it meaningfully #
  • Siemens’ post on moving from educational reform within the system, to a “no boundaries” approach #
  • Web 3.0 and Its Relevance for Instruction – interesting article on how a next generation web could be used in education #
  • Freedom helps kids learn more « Education Soon #

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Post to Diigo (weekly)

    • The e-textbooks typically cost at least 80 percent of the print price.
    • “They tend to read backward and forward. It’s characteristic of the learning process.”
  • tags: no_tag

    • Higher education’s purpose is to equip students for success in life
  • tags: e-learning, context

    • E-learning context is very important. It is common to find educators who perceive e-learning as internet-only education that encourages a static and content-focused series of text pages on screen. Others envisage the shallow and random online messages that are typical of a social real-time chat session, and wonder how that type of communication could add any value to academic discourse. Some may have experienced e-learning done poorly, and extrapolate their experience into a negative impression of all e-learning.
  • Nice, short summary of why PBL is a Good Thing


    • PBL promotes learning by emphasizing the formulation of questions raised by the problem rather than definitive solutions to it
    • Linking the problem to individual experience positively impacts motivation. It’s the principle of connecting what is new to what is already known
    • PBL relies heavily on active learning. Students work on the problem. They do research, make decisions, prepare reports, and give presentations
    • Real-world problems do not generally fit within the boundaries of a single discipline
    • the goal is to solve the problem with an application of relevant content
    • Students work on problems in groups or teams, thereby gaining experience and skill in small-group dynamics
    • Reference: Graaff, E. D., and Kolmos, A. (2003) Characteristics of problem-based learning. International Journal of Engineering Education, 19 (5), 657-662

Posted from Diigo.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-12-14

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