Artefact #1

Description

For the first artefact in my e-portfolio, I have selected Assignment #3 from MDDE 602, a Qualitative Data Analysis, completed in the fall semester of 2012. I chose this artefact because it represented an important turning-point in my thinking about research and it has influenced my thinking in the remainder of my program. It also represents the type of struggle that is sometimes necessary in order to develop new skills and competencies. It is precisely because of the effort, challenges and affective involvement in the completion of this assignment that I regard it now as a great accomplishment and a milestone.

This assignment required me to apply the research skills that had been learned in the first units of the course to analyze a transcript for data that could then be used to interpret the main concepts, problems and issues represented in the data. 

 

Associated Competencies

The following competencies were developed during the process of completing the Qualitative Data Analysis assignment:

1. Problem Solving, Analysis, & Decision Making
1.1.Recognize problems
1.2.Define the aspects of problems
1.4.Find and access information
1.5.Critically evaluate the relevance of information for a given situation
  
4. Communication & Interpersonal Skills
4.1Write clearly and in a style appropriate to purpose (e.g. assignments, essays, published documents, and theses)
4.4Support the learning of others when involved in teaching, mentoring, moderating, collaboration or demonstration activities
  
5. Research 
5.1Frame effective and meaningful research questions
5.2Identify, discuss and apply theoretical considerations to proposed research
5.3Access and critically evaluate sources and content for quality, applicability and relevance
5.6Summarize and synthesize information with a view to pursuing deeper understanding
5.10.Demonstrate the use of communications and other technology-based research tools 
5.11Describe and adhere to ethical practices and institutional policies throughout the research process.
  
6. Management, Organization and Leadership
6.1Analyze the current and future climate of the distance education and distance learning industry, and formulate strategies to respond to that climate

Reflection

I’m grateful I took MDDE 602 as my second course in the program as it really set the stage for the rest of my Masters studies. It was truly a paradigm shift. Before taking the course I did not recognize the value of research; I identified myself primarily as a Child & Youth Worker (CYW), not as an educator, and did not understand the role of research. This artefact marked the beginning of an important shift in my attitude. 

The assignment involved analyzing a transcript to identify and code relevant themes embedded in the data (1.1, 1.2, 5.3, 5.6). This task was one I had never attempted previously, so I started by trying to simply find the themes after a couple of read-throughs. However, it became evident that this was not going to be an easy assignment. In my journal notes for this assignment I discussed the ethical dissonance I experienced in having to trust someone's oral account from a transcript without actually being able to observe the conversation (1.5). This was difficult because it ran counter to my counselling training which relies heavily on body language and on being careful not to impose ones own ideas onto another person's words.

These cognitive challenges brought forth many questions about the process of analyzing, interpreting and then using data ethically and accurately (5.11). I was able to discuss these questions with classmates and the instructor to help me determine the best way to proceed thereby resolving the internal struggle with being a passive observer and embracing new methods for interpreting quantitative data (1.4). After analyzing the data the assignment required that I compile the information in a meaningful way using standard charting and coding procedures (4.1, 5.10)

The content of the transcript also allowed me to consider some of the major themes in distance education and to begin considering the nature of what research still needs to be done in the field of distance education (6.1). As this was only the second course in the program, these ideas were new and exciting. I became convinced that I had chosen the right program and was eager to apply what I was learning to my professional and personal decisions. I now understood that research questions and methods involve real people, real questions, and therefore, real results.I started paying attention to the research activities at work, met with key personnel involved in these projects and began expressing my interest in getting involved.

During and after the course, I had a number of opportunities to apply my new skills, knowledge and enthusiasm. For example, the faculty of the Child & Youth Worker program agreed to be part of a research project aimed at assessing the impact of using assistive technologies (such as Kurzweil) as embedded elements in the curriculum for all of our students, not simply as add ons for the few students who were designated as needing them. It was titled "Enhancing Faculty and Student Capacity, Experience and Comfort with using an online learning environment:  educATe - to support Literacy and Assistive Technology (AT) in a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) e-learning environment". I was able to ask pertinent questions (5.2) contribute to the aims of the project, and implement the technologies into my teaching as I was now better equipped to understand the need for the research and the potential outcomes of the research. Other research questions and smaller projects developed as a result of our collective experience with this project and I was a key player in determining the scope, scale and specificity of the goals (5.1).

My teaching practices were also affected by my new appreciation of research. I found myself talking with my students about the value of research in our field, and how they could be involved at the front lines as Child & Youth Workers (4.4). I became more aware of the research that was being conducted by leaders in the CYW circles and was better able to understand the reports, publications, and proposals I read. I could follow along better in coordinators meetings and knew what they were talking about. I could use the professional language common to research conversations to better articulate what I wanted, needed, and hoped for in my career (5.10).

Additional Thoughts

The MDDE602 course information includes the following statements which I believe now accurately describe some of the take-aways I gathered from this course:
 
 
"The research process is one of discovery and learning that plays an essential role in much human activity. It is pivotal in the creation, evaluation and application of information. Understanding the process and results of the research enterprise allows professionals in any field to participate in the creation, use, and dissemination of new knowledge and practices." (Blodgett, 2012)
and
MDE graduates will act as developers and gatekeepers of knowledge in their discipline or field. To this end, the program allows them to develop a high level of content knowledge with an understanding of the scope and nature of the research and publication enterprise that creates and shapes that knowledge." (Blodgett, 2012)
 
    
As I reflect on my experience in this course, I can see how essential it was for me. Every subsequent assignment, every paper, every collaboration with peers required the application of some balance of skills and theoretical perspectives from this course. I gained the confidence necessary to keep going in the program and was able to immediately experience the benefits of having learned a new specific set of research skills. 
 
Blodgett, C. (2012) Course Introduction. (Moodle course materials). Retreived from http://cde.lms.athabascau.ca/mod/book/view.php?id=18917

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