Alison Le Cornu: My dream: Learning design project proposal

Improving a 1hr15m face-to-face session

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Alison Le Cornu
11 January 2013

Describe a learning situation you are involved in, a change you would like to see in that situation, and how you think you can bring about that change.

I am one of the core tutors on an MA in Consultancy for Mission and Ministry which is run through York St John University. It is a part-time MA and the students get most of their content through paper-based distance learning materials. Alongside that they attend three residential schools a year. Intake is approximately 10 students a year. They register for the PG Dip in the first place, and then go on to do a dissertation if they want to, but at that stage they no longer attend residentials. This means that there are two year groups which attend each residential.

I teach two principal areas on the residentials. Firstly, I teach Practical Theology, which has an emphasis on theological reflection, and secondly, I teach research methods. Both are with the second year cohort. After every residential I find myself reflecting again and again on the balance between the content and new material I need to give the students, and the practice they need to have in using it. Rather oddly, it is the research methods session which I find more challenging. Since each student is planning an individual dissertation, they tend to interrupt and ask questions that are very specific to their own needs and concerns, and the session can often shift to become a poorly-structured, conversational hour and a quarter, at the end of which I feel I have not achieved my aims or objectives, nor have the students achieved the learning outcomes for the session. I have a number of questions about this:

  • Is that as big a problem as I feel it is? Surely allowing students to (in a sense) take over the session and have their questions answered is quite a good thing, even if we don't achieve all that I had set out to do?
  • What techniques might I be able to build into the design of the session that might meet my own aims and those of the students in a half way house?
  • Do these challenges actually suggest the course team needs to revisit the content of the paper-based module materials so that more of the questions which arise can be addressed outside the residential school in their own private reading and study?
The change I would like to see is fundamentally in the class dynamic. I want the students to be much more actively involved and engaged with each other, so that the session is spent with every one of them participating (and hopefully learning) to the maximum. 
Although there are obviously many, many books on social science research methods, there are times when it is useful to refer to a book that focuses specifically on empirical research within a specific subject discipline. One such book is about to be published and I have acted as a pre-publication reviewer. I am now thinking through whether 'flipping the classroom' might be a good way forward. Using this book as a means whereby students get many of their questions addressed before attending the residential, I can then use the session to develop their understanding. 

 

 

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Morris Pamplin
8:14pm 11 January 2013


Hi Alison,

"Since each student is planning an individual dissertation, they tend to interrupt and ask questions that are very specific to their own needs and concerns, and the session can often shift to become a poorly-structured, conversational hour and a quarter, at the end of which I feel I have not achieved my aims or objectives, nor have the students achieved the learning outcomes for the session."

Ah, I really feel for you! In a previous job I taught research methods to Access students and always found something very similar. If you go over the content in an abstract way the students can struggle to apply it to their own project; if you help each student to apply it to their own case, you teach the same class x number of times. I've always thought that subjects like research methods are difficult not because they're theoretical, but because each student has to apply the theory to their own situation: difficult for them because it requires mastery, difficult for you because they're all coming up with different answers.

I wish you well with this project and with the MOOC.

Alison Le Cornu
2:38pm 12 January 2013


Thank you Morris. It is good to know others struggle with this sort of thing!

Hope to 'meet' you again virtually at some point during the MOOC.

Alison

Karen Pinney
5:54pm 12 January 2013


Hi Alison

I joined this MOOC with the idea of exploring how I can better teach research to second year undergraduate students (I am the module leader for Research in Practice at my university). These students need preparation before they start dissertations in their final year.  I have to teach the research skills to students from many different degree subject areas (tourism, hospitality, food, retail, sport, hair, beauty sports therapy an many more). Often these are taught in groups with the students doing the same degree programme but increasingly these are being mixed and a class can have students from many different subject areas. So I totally understand your situation.

I have designed a course that seems to work OK but am looking for ways to improve it - I plan to start a pilot of an alternative way from February.

I would be interested in working with you to explore how this could be done and am happy to share my experiences with you.

KarenLP

Marion Waite
12:07pm 13 January 2013


Hi Alison

I teach postgraduate research methods online, this is within a healthcare context. compared to other two modules, which I also teach online within the same programme (Mastering Professional Practice & Evidence-based Practice) I have exactly the same problem as you. Students are less inclined to work collaboratively (to quote one of them 'blind leading the blind') and just want to post questions to tutors about their own projects. I would be very interested in how your flipping the classroom idea goes.

Marion

Karen Pinney
2:15pm 13 January 2013 (Edited 2:17pm 13 January 2013)


Hi Alison and Marion

My planned pilot project for teaching research from February is to make use of a flipped classroom and develop activities that encourage students to find useful resources using some online tools.

It seems we share similar challenges. How would you feel about joining up as a team to will work together throughout the MOOC on a learning design project?

 

KarenLP

Alison Le Cornu
6:19am 14 January 2013


That would be good for me Karen. Thank you for suggesting it. Marion, what do you think? Sorry for the delay in replying; I've had a busy weekend. I need to get back to the session instructions and see what we're expected to do next! 

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