Thursday, 23 June 2016

Influences on the student experience

Figure 1.  Draft conceptualisation of influences on the learning experience of work focused learners. Adapted from: Entwistle and Peterson (2004, fig. 3, p.421).

Recent graduates from the BA LTR course will firstly be interviewed via a narrative interview approach, the diagram will be developed further in the light of the analysis of that data.

Narrative interview underpinned by grounded theory.

Phase 1 open invite to: Tell me about your experience...

Phase 2 gap filling based on theory developed during phase 1.

Interpretation and Clarification – a reflexive feedback loop; checking my interpretation with each interviewee and gathering additional data. The analysis of individual interviews will be shared with the interviewee in order to provide the opportunity to comment on my interpretation and to withdraw any information should they wish to do so. This conversational feedback loop operates as a clarification progress (Northcut and McCoy, 2004, p.94) it aims to increase the reliability of my interpretation. This meeting will also be used for a short extension interview as a ‘gap filling’ activity. Prior to this meeting students will be provided with a link to the updated version of this diagram as a stimulus for participants to add supplemental thoughts.  


Entwistle, N. J. and Peterson E. R., 2004. Conceptions of learning and knowledge in higher education: Relationships with study behaviour and influences of learning environments. International Journal of Educational Research, vol. 41, pp.407-428. Elsevier.

Northcut and McCoy, 2004. Interactive Qualitative Analysis: A Systems Method for Qualitative Research. London. Sage Publications Ltd.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Social media and CPD

I was invited to spend a few months working on the #LTHEchat organising team early in Spring this year, if you have not yet joined one of the Wednesday evening chats you might find this information about the project useful.

Once fairly sceptical about the value of Twitter chats the experience has had an increasing impact on me during and beyond my time on the organising team. I don't really feel like I left I still feel part of the project team and I think that is partly due to the open and warm attitude of Sue and Chrissi who have been making this happen but do not take ownership in the traditional way - it is a thing that runs and runs with a different organising team every few months with minimal management by Sue and Chrissi who are keen to see it sustain but also keen to let others evolve it during their time at the helm - a great example of distributing and sharing ownership.

Some of the organising team, past and present, have been working on a short paper for the #SocMedHE16 The Empowered Learner? Conference on16th December 2016. We are due to have a Skype meeting this afternoon to discuss the peer review revisions and make some progress on revising the paper by collaborative writing in Google docs hence I woke in reflective mode this morning and need to put my thoughts down on e-paper to bring some coherence to them.

#LTHEchat has undeniably extended my professional network, one example of that is new contact between myself and Martina we were both in the 08 June LTHE chat which was on open CPD  The Storify of that chat can be found here. Martina read my latest ramblings on my blog and suggested we meet to discuss our research ideas. I had read Martina's profile and was contemplating making contact when she suggested this - we planned to meet in Skype and had a fascinating discussion about approaches to learning, in particular Deleuze and rhizomatic learning. Our  meeting prompted me to rethink about the nature of CPD - a question that is at the heart of the paper we are working on.

 I put this question to Martina in Skype this morning - 'Are we doing networking, are we doing autonomous CPD, are we disseminating and evaluating our research ideas - are we doing all three?'.

In my opinion CPD does not need to be a formal 'training', 'conference' or 'seminar' type event, it can be any opportunity to learn new information or to gain insights into others ideas that are of value to my professional practice and research activity. Twitter is currently my most important portal to CPD opportunities.

There is plenty of evidence that participants value the LTHE chat but in Twitter the limited characters are also a limit on how much info people feedback.

 Unless you use Twitter a lot the tiny micro snippets of participation can seem a bit limiting but that can also be stimulating too - gathering feedback via questionnaires is notorious for low returns, the task can be onerous whereas a quick tweet takes only moments to do.

When I first started using Twitter I was not impressed, aware of the need to immerse in, and play with, new things before value becomes clear I persevered but it was not until I had sent around 700 tweets / retweets that it really started to feel like a homey and valuable experience. Tweets do limit what can be said, OK you can link a series of Tweets to build a paragraph of contribution but it is still a set of bytes of info. The micro nature of contributions are also empowering as they force succinct and concise conversations, I now find that most times I rattle off a Tweet I am within a few characters of the limit by the time I have said what I want to say. I am looking forward to the day when Twitter start excluding links and images from the character count though as that does currently reduce some tweets to just a few words.

I had participated in a few chats, such as the #Edenchat prior to joining the LTHE organising team  but mostly as what Wenger called a 'lurker' or legitimate peripheral participant'. The micro contributions tend to prompt a rapid fire discussion, can be hard to keep up with and often require an intuitive interpretation of input in a way that sometimes feels not unlike when I was learning Spanish and to gain the fuller meaning had to fill in beyond the few words of each sentence that I could decode in a f2f conversation. If I pause to think about and write a contribution 30 or more posts can be added by time my two-penneth makes it to the chat but the Storify is always available afterwards so I can catch up later.

 I can see how it could be difficult convincing a peer reviewer who is not a Tweeter that such comments as the one from David above are sufficient endorsement of the value of what we do but to a Twitter user that kind of post is a strong endorsement.

This post has focused mostly on Twitter but my reason for writing it was also to help me understand why I blog - who am I writing for? My first attempt at blogging was way back when WordPress was first released when Stephen Powell and Pete Bradshaw and I had a little play with the new thing that was interesting but did not go far. My second and third blogs were about my transition to living in Galicia and that made more sense to me - it was a record of a period in my family's history.

This blog was started as a reflective research journal, I had attempted to create an offline private to me research journal long ago but never managed to sustain it. Myself as audience did not seem of much value, after all research has little value unless shared. Some of my posts have been directly addressed to my students so its purpose evolved but they were still also me articulating things I had found out through inquiry based practice. I have not looked too far into my audience but do notice spikes where usually around 60-120 hits across America or Europe or the far East happen in maybe 30 minutes which suggests people somewhere are pointing students at it. That initially tempted me to develop it for an audience but I decided to keep it as a research journal so I would not lose sight of my aims. As such I feel free to ramble my thoughts as I am doing in this post, that helps me consolidate them without feeling I need to formalise structure as for a journal article.

The first online community I belonged to was the OU PGCE course back in 1996 which was a closed community, then I joined Leonie Ramondt's 'Online Learning Network' community which was her MPhil research focus. That led to an invite to join the Ultralab where most of my first forays into designing and facilitating online community work was in closed communities. The diagram below is from a recent presentation about the Talking Heads / NPQH project run by The Ultralab for the National College of School Leadership. A double click on the next two images should open them in original and sharp size.

CPD for existing and new headteachers was at the heart of that project which was way back 2001/2 when open social media was not a big thing. The importance of knowing the audience was felt to be high at that time partly to give users confidence to contribute and also as protection when potentially sensitive info might be discussed. The CPD communities were carefully structured and facilitated.

That was so different to the open CPD that social media provides via blogs, Tweets, video talks, live streams etc. One of the threads in the LTHEchat on open CPD shows the value of closed is still appreciated. A few posts are shown below the whole can be seen in the Storify linked earlier on this page. There were more than a few posts about the positive aspects of open although only one is shown here.

The last one by Martina is exactly what we found in the Talking heads project and in several other Ultralab projects such as the British Thoracic society SpRIte project, the notschool project and the Ultraversity project although the latter does draw on both closed and open communities of practice. 

So back to what to do to respond to the peer review on our paper proposal. IMO we need a more systematic approach such as an analysis with an a priori coding being applied to understand the chat process and what participants get out of it or we could use a process where chat organisers reflect on their own experiences and then we systematically analyse those reflections. In both approaches the use of theoretical deduction to understand empirical data and derive some themes that could be illustrated by tweet chat extracts in the paper would add rigour to out proposal. I also suggest an extract of a video screen capture of a live chat as a means of conveying the experience to the conference audience.

Time to stop rambling, I have to get on with teaching. Even though there is no conclusion to pull this together yet I feel I am more prepared for inputting ideas into the paper proposal.