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Reading Reflections

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How would you describe your “research problem(s)” to the Research Scholars group? 

I have two main questions:

1. I wish to investigate the ways in which students approach reading and interpreting a primary journal article. 

2. I am interested in the ways that students interpret their own practical results, their level of engagement with the scientific process in practical class experiments, and

I am particularly interested in final year Bachelor of Science students, and whether there is a difference between those who are aiming for a career in research, a career in science broadly, or a career outside of science.  Although many different areas of higher education aim to instil skills in critical thinking in their students, I feel that science has a particular issue caused by the sheer volume of preceding information in the literature, and the difficulty of understanding recent papers as a novice who lacks this background. 

1. I wish to develop approaches to encourage a deep approach to reading journal articles, such that students can overcome their (real or perceived) lack of discipline specific knowledge and so really interpret the experimental evidence critically. 

2. I also wish to improve the design of practical activities that can give students a sense of ownership and self-design in a field that unfortunately requires practical materials to be prepared in advance, and the students to follow carefully constrained, reliable, procedures.

What theme(s) based on your readings, resonate with your “problem” and/or your proposed approach to address your problem.

I was particularly interested in the acknowledgement that you do not solve a problem and then it is done, but that this is an iterative process of experimenting and finding things that work.  I feel that this is the only way to tackle the sorts of problems we wish to examine.  I was also fascinated to hear that others had experienced a situation when the key was to fully articulate to the students what it was that you were trying to get them to do.  I have designed activities just to have them use a completely different approach than I expected, until I took the time to explain what I was looking for, and many of them became willing participants in the task, and commentators on its success.  I also found it interesting to consider that, given the difficulty of achieving scientific validity in a study, I should seek to get different sources to data to triangulate to look for a consistent message.

 Based on Pat Hutchings article, what taxonomy would you use to describe your research question and why?

I feel that I want to combine a ‘what is’ approach with a ‘what works’ approach.  I feel that I am not the only one thinking about these questions, and I know that others around me are trialling ideas that work well, and I wish to know what they are.  The main aim then, is to discover what approaches work and to disseminate this as far as I can to others who are teaching science at the same level.

Do you have any questions/concerns/comments that have evolved from your reading?

Gwynn Mettetal’s description of Classroom Action Research.  I am currently under pressure to achieve in education research in order to consolidate my role at the university.  While I am not interested in doing the sort of overview research that a member of the education faculty might pursue, I feel that I need to be part way between this type of research and practitioner CAR. I need (and want) to be able to influence teaching in more courses than just my own.    

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