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?

{October 2, 2008}   UBC Learning Conference 2008

I’m at the UBC Learning Conference. And I’ve been taking my notes here in WordPress to publish a blog posting at the end of the day. Inexplicably, WordPress just ATE the first 1.5 hrs of notes.  Gone even from the revision history. Not impressed.

Now it’s part #2 of the Learning Goals session:

  • Francis Jones, Brett Gilley
  • course level goals (usually 2-6ish; help students decide if they want to take the course)
  • module (topic) level
  • lesson/assignment level
  • students must do their own learning (we can’t do it for them) and the goals must focus on what students will do, not on what instructors do, nor on content itself (e.g., “I want to “cover” topics X, Y, Z”)
  • think about how you will know if students acheive the goal
  • think long-term – what do you want them to know 2-5 years down the road?
  • as experts, we often forget what we did know when we were novices
  • (it’s weird that the previous presenter was named Beth, because Francis keeps saying “As Beth was saying earlier…” and my Beth-centricity1 makes me, for a split second, think he’s talking about me!”)
  • one of the people at my table reminded me of an acronym to remember the characteristics of good learning goals (Specific, Measureable, Action-oriented, Realistic, Timely)
  • activity: we are supposed to write down a topic from a course we teach, them 1-2 learning goals.  I teach several things, so I’m going with my main job (an addictions research training program).  Topic might be the neuroscience of addictions.  A Learning Goal I have listed in my online course in this topic is:
    • by the end of this module (as this section is taught through online, self-directed modules), students should be able to:
      • describe the basic neurobiological aspects of addictions
    • Is this SMART?  Hard to say how “specific” is specific enough.  Measurable, in that you can tell if you are describing this – could be better if I said “fully describe”?  Action-oriented = “describe” is an action verb. Realistic – I think so. Timely = “by the end of this module”
  • Now they are talking about domains (Cognitive, Skills, Attitidues”). Now it’s Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning. I’m not really hearing anything I don’t already know, as I’ve been to quite a few learning/education workshops and conferences.
  • Now we are to write exam questions (one at low level of Bloom’s, one at a high level) based on our learning goal:
  • lower level: illustrate the way in which drugs of addiction interact with the dopamine system of the brain.
  • higher level: categorize drugs of addiction by neurotransmitter(s) they affect (analysis level); defend the view of “addiction as a disease” using neurobiology (evaluation)
  • one group shared the questions they developed around the goal of “effectively work in teams”: justify the breakdown of work within the team in terms of (a) equality of effort & time, (b) knowledge/skills each students is acquiring (to make sure students don’t just each do the stuff they already know), (c) breakdown the skills you used in your team

1Props to Dan for his use of Dan-centric, which I, being Beth-centric, have adapted here.

et cetera