Research Methods, Learning Theory & Instructional Design – the trifecta!

I am looking for your personal reflection here. Were you intentional in your decisions? What steps were determined easily and which steps were more difficult to take?

I like the concept of action research for it allows you to try a variety of assessments before you go to far down a path and then find out it may be a dead end.  There is a natural order to making instructional design decisions.  I always look at the learner and try to establish their base of knowledge.  I want them to grow from that point forward.  I feel that too often assumptions are made that are not valid about the learners experience and knowledge.  It is worth the time to form a focus group and learn more.  After that I want to know what my options are for delivery.  Will online work or do I need to take a blended approach.  The next step is to really assess how much information is going to be created and how can it be arranged for easy access and formative feedback.

How hard is it to develop a research method that both matches your theory and created curriculum? 

A research method is just a process used to answer a research question. There are many different research methods. Just to name a few, correlational, experimental, quasi-experiment, longitudinal, cross-sectional, single subject, design experiments, etc. Then you can mix and combine these to form even more. So the hard thing is to determine what method or combination of methods will serve your time and resources that you have available. Research can get very complicated very quickly if the wrong decisions have been made. The theory and the instructional design does not always require a research project. If you have a new theory or approach and you want to see if it is going to be effective, then a research project might be in order.

What was simple and what was difficult?

From a social constructivist approach using an instructional design format from 5E was an easy decision and even easier to implement using Canvas. Thinking through the many possibilities listed above could be a difficult task, since each one would have to be analyzed for suitability. Narrowing the choice if done correctly can be very difficult due to the selection criteria.

The topic for discussion relates learning theory and instructional design and research methods. As always, lets start with learning theory. The highest level for this discussion is a constructivist theory which simply indicates that learning depends on what we already know and what we can already do and then to build upon that foundation. This theory was applied to an online environment using a learning management system (Canvas), which incorporated an instructional design methodology known as 5E Model. It starts with ENGAGE and moves to EXPLORE, then EXPLAIN, then EXTEND or ELABORATE and then EVALUATE. There are behavior expectations with this approach from both the teacher and the student.

The question becomes, how can we research to see if these behaviors actually took place. To be specific, from the learner’s behavior associated with the ENGAGE portion of the model might involve being attentive in listening and asking questions that show an interest in the lesson. It might also involve responding to questions that are presented (or not responding to questions). This level of questioning might demonstrate their personal entry point of understanding.

The same evaluation of behavior can be provided for the teacher. Keep in mind that each section of the 5E’s has specific concepts and attributes that establish the expected behavior for both the student and the teacher. With a foundation of expected behaviors being identified and understood, the next step is to review a potential research method to see if the 5E instructional model actually worked with the intended audience.

Research methods at a high level would include quantitative and qualitative approaches. For this research project associated with online learning, a mixed method approach would provide both quantitative and qualitative evaluation. Refer to the diagram below that shows the continuous process used. The research could include a survey instrument and a semi-structured interview protocol. Starting with a quantitative data collection and data analysis from a survey and then followed with interviews of the students and teachers. Qualitative data analysis can take place using the constant comparative procedure and then identifying, coding and categorizing patterns found within the data.

This can become a very extensive research initiative, but if properly implemented could verify the value of the 5E learning model. To answer the question regarding the research method, it is not hard to select a method, but to employ a thorough research initiative is not an easy assignment. It requires established a good research question and a course of action that can provide reasonable outcomes that can receive peer review and further improvements.

Mixed Methods Approach

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