Beginning this fall, I will begin conducting Action Research on the courses I teach. What makes Action Research so well suited for course work is that it is “less a separate culture of inquiry than it is a statement of intention and values. The intention is to influence or change a system, and the values are those of participation, self-determination, empowerment through knowledge, and change.” (Bentz & Shapiro, 1998. ch. 10)
My intention is to design an LMS infrastructure that supports students success in a blended environment. With proper research, I will have a good idea of which elements work, and which elements need further development. Only with the proper tools will I get sufficient information to guide my decisions and changes.
I’ve been tinkering with various assets in the college’s Learning Management System (LMS), particularly the calendar, checklists, reminders and transformative assignments with online support. This will also be the initial testing of a preliminary infrastructure.
Should this prove workable, I’ll extend and expand the system into my other courses. But if the research reveals some issues, then it’s back to the drawing board and try, try again utilizing what I’ve learned this time around. What’s key is I don’t want my infrastructure to win – I want it to work.
Action research is the way to get my course designs ramped up intelligently.
Getting the right balance of research methods and timing is key. If I test too much, or inappropriately, I’ll bump into respondent fatigue – which happens when people get tired of answering your stupid questions and shut down.
I plan to use three online surveys – at the start, in the middle, and at the end – to gauge students’ interest and progress. I’ll use the LMS assets to track progress and checklist use. Regular student status reports will provide students a way to monitor their progress and attitudes. And finally, the big qualitative finish will be a focus group, the intention of which is to get at some of the questions quantitative methods always seem to throw up.
For example: let’s say surveys indicate 30% are dissatisfied about the calendars. Undoubtedly it is important to know how many are satisfied/dissatisfied, but that alone won’t bring insight to why. A well- run focus group can reveal many issues and give deep information.
Bentz, V. M., & Shapiro, J.J. (1998). Mindful inquiry in social research. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.