Not To Be Trusted With Knives

{November 14, 2008}   Research Methods Rule!

So, I’ve picked up a new class to teach next term: Research Methods. I am stoked because I *love* research methods.  This may or may not be because I’m a nerd.

Thus far, I have two issues with this course.  One is trying to find a good text book.  As you can see from the photo, I’ve got quite a sampling of books (plus I have a number of other evaluation copies on their way to me).  I haven’t reviewed them all in depth yet, but from scanning them, I haven’t found one that gives me what I want.  The problem I’m having with a number of them is that they overwhelmingly focus on quantitative methods and barely even touch on qualitative methods.  I should clarify here what I mean by “Research Methods,” as I’ve discovered from talking with people, “research methods” means different things to different people.  I’m not talking about library research (which was a number of people’s first impressions when I said I was teaching RM); I’m referring to designing scientific and social science research projects – experiments, quasi-experiments, survey research, qualitative interview type research, etc.)  It includes things like the philosophy underpinning different research approaches, research ethics, research writing and a bit about analysis of research results (but not super in depth as there is a separate statistics course).   I’d been hoping to get a kinesiology methods text (as this is a Kin Research Methods course), but so far the books I’ve seen have really skimped on the qualitative.  Like, a 400 page textbook will have 20 pages on qualitative research.

The second issue I’m having is that, while I’m super stoked to be teaching this course because (did I mention?) I love research methods, but everyone keeps telling me that it’s a course no one wants to teach because students don’t like it.  I even got a book on “best practices for teaching stats & research methods” and the whole intro was all “Students hate taking research methods. It’s like torture to them!”  And I’m all “*gasp*! How could anyone not love methods??” I think methods is super interesting and can be readily made interactive (hello! create a research proposal! hello, critique a research paper! hello, conduct a research project!) and relevant (even if you aren’t going to go to grad school and do research yourself, you need to be able to critically assess research that other people have done to, say, know what the best evidence is for any given situation).  And making things interactive and relevant, in my experience, is key to catching students’ interest and helping them learn.  But, seriously, I’ve been told by multiple people that students are really resistant to research methods course.

So, I’m putting the question to you, dear blog readers: Have you ever taken a research methods course?  If so, what did you think of it?  What would you recommend?

Rebecca says:

I had to take two in my undergrad, one on Intro to Stats, and the other was a Qualitative Analysis course (we had to take the first one, and then had to take either Qualitative or Quantitative Stats Analysis). I didn’t mind them, but I’m also a nerd. And my prof used Monty Python clips to illustrate different kinds of arguments. So it was fun.

In grad school, I had to take a more library-related Research Methods, and part of the final project was designing a research methods class, which was a blast.

Raul says:

We should have an in-person chat. I’ve takend both (quantitative AND qualitative) and I’ve taught them too 🙂

Tod says:

Seriously geeky.

kitkat says:

I haven’t had to take anything like this (so far), but as an instructor of classes that students don’t normally want to take, I can say that it’s much more rewarding to show students that a class they thought they’d hate can actually be really cool and helpful. It’s a cycle–if students don’t love it, then instructors won’t want to teach it, and if the teachers don’t love it, students won’t want to take it. So, if you’re enthusiastic, you’re halfway there.

(I came here through Kris’s blog)

Beth says:

Yes, that’s kind of what I’ve been thinking. If the prof walks in expecting that the students are going to hate the course, I imagine that would rub off on the students. I’ll have to remember to really convey my enthusiasm.

Especially since the class is at 8 in the morning!!

Beth says:

P.S. Welcome to my blog, kitkat! I’m always happy to steal some of Kris’s many readers!

Raul says:

Also, I’d be happy to guest-lecture if you want me to! not that I know anything about exercise science!

jscholmes says:

dr. beth – i t.a.ed a class for my fabulous supervisor that was just ask kalev. i think you are definitely on the right track – it is about student engagement and interactivity. i *love* the idea of having them develop a research program, conduct interviews, conduct participant observation – whatever – just as long as you keep them busy, actively doing the thing that they are there to learn: research. it is going to be a wicked awesome class – i can’t wait to hear all about it!

Kelly says:

I took a 500-level Research Methods course last year for my Master’s in Educational Psychology. I am a super-nerd, and love research but this was still my least favourite course for sure. Our textbook was alright “Social Research Methods” by Bryman & Teevan (2005). Boring, but easy to read and understand.
Student engagement would’ve helped a lot. All we did was design a couple questionnaires a la Survey Monkey. Not so fun.
I like your ideas. I think the topic has potential. Bring in some really old, disasterously-designed research articles and make students pick out all the flaws in the methodology.

[…] is insanely, insanely busy.  In addition to my day job, I’m teaching two new courses: the UBC one and one at SFU1 and I’m playing on two hockey teams.  Oh yeah, and I’m supposed to be […]

[…] is insanely, insanely busy.  In addition to my day job, I’m teaching two new courses: the UBC one and one at SFU1 and I’m playing on two hockey teams.  Oh yeah, and I’m supposed to be […]

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