Part way through my thesis research I have stood back to ask what is all this data saying? To this end I have produced a pause for thought document about the emerging findings. This is not the finished output, but in creating it I managed to consolidate my thoughts, and in sharing it I hope for any comments that may help refine further analysis or additional data collection.
Please feel free to leave any questions or comments in response.
And thank you to those who have assisted me in setting up the next round of interviews after a recent plea for help.
Preliminary Research Findings available here.
As I edit through my thesis I needed to cut out a short section that I had written about how mixed methods can be highly compatible with critical realism. As my work emerged I did not, in the end, use mixed methods. This section was hard won and so simply deleting it felt like a waste. Therefore, attached to this post is a short piece about the compatibility of mixed methods and critical realism, in hope that it may be useful to someone else.
Download the short article here: Marrying mixed methods and critical realism
In considering staff experiences of choosing and using feedback technology, one of the emerging themes has been the differing views on feedback technologies and efficiencies. While the jury is still out on the data and the process is incomplete, my observations are that efficiency can be conceived in different ways in the negotiation of technology. For some efficiency is a primary driver in the decision making process. The search for technology and the refinement of its use is motivated and shaped by the quest for efficiencies. For others efficiencies are a welcome benefit of technology – they are almost an unexpected gift – welcome, but not necessary. Efficiencies also appear to be conceived relatively; rarely are efficiencies discussed without a reference to the relative enhancement gains that can be made through a technology. Wherever there is a time saving there is a tendency to ‘re-spend’ the saved time making still more enhancements to the feedback – adding detail and depth for example. In this way efficiencies become difficult to identify as they are theoretically achievable but in reality they are trumped by the possibility for improvement. Efficiency also seems to be a veto concept for some; it is not a particular concern in the run of practice but is triggered only when a particular technology is likely to encroach other activities or provide an intolerable stress.
My ‘work in progress’ thesis for my doctoral studies at University of Liverpool is entitled Faculty experiences of feedback technology: A critical realist perspective. I have had a personal interest in feedback technology for some time, and through a process of practice based research and reviews of the literature it became clear that the lecturer or faculty voice is under-represented. Often feedback technology appears to be evaluated in terms of the student benefit rather than the experience of staff engagement. While there is a lot going on in the sector about making digital forms of feedback systematic, I was keen to discover what happens when staff have choice about the technology employed in feedback:
My research is therefore asking
- What influences the choice and use of technologies for feedback?
- What are the reflective processes through which practices develop?
- What is the impact of faculty engagement with feedback technology?
Beyond answering these questions the research also seeks to shed light on beliefs about feedback and faculty relationships with technology for pedagogic practice.
So far I have undertaken ten narrative style interviews where staff engaged with a range of technologies (inc. Jing, GradeMark, Dragon, Pebblepad, Track Changes, audio) have shared their motivations for engagement, some of the barriers to practice, and some of their underpinning beliefs about both feedback and technology. They have shared the deliberative process about how technologies were chosen and they have shed light on the institutional factors which shape practice.
The critical realist approach to analysis (particularly using the work of Margaret Archer as a theoretical framework) is particularly revealing the compexity of interaction between individuals, institutions and the wider environment.
I will release parts of the research on this blog as they develop, but I am hoping to interview a few more individuals who are involved in using technology for feedback within UK HEI’s (and will offer a token voucher as a token of appreciation). If anyone can help I would be very pleased to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can provide more details.
After attending a workshop on Smarter Lectures with Phil Race I went away and tried to gather together some resources which gave practical lists of tips and tricks to use in live, large group teaching situations. While I rarely offer large lectures, the principles of engagement are no different for large groups than they are for small – summarised as participative, active, and focussed on learning not on teaching and with a requirement for feedback, however the tools available to us to bring these principles to life may be different. I have attempted to gather up some practical reference points to help.
Quick reference activities for lectures (from Sussex University)
Four simple class structures for planning active lectures
Ten ways to work with millennial students and defeat lecture-induced mind paralysis by Brad Garner
The value of gapped handouts in science and content rich classes
Six ways to make lectures in a large enrollment course more manageable and effective
As a precondition to make these approaches work though it seems that an internal shift is needed – this is captured quite well in this short YouTube clip. It’s quite powerful when an educator says they wouldn’t have wanted their own child to be educated in the way that she was educating others. Paradigm shift in action!
Reflecting upon what makes a university operationally ready to engage with employers in collaborative provision, I have pulled together a list of “good conditions for employer engagement“. Its purpose is simply to provide prompts for discussion about how institutions can prepare to engage with employers to meet the development needs of the workforce. This list assumes that there is already a strategic level commitment in place and it is of course not exhaustive.