“The assignment consists of a portfolio of written work presenting tasks that underpin a staged process of investigating and improving a learning activity. It is very important that you identify your own area of investigation which leads into your design based experiment promptly so that you can begin to construct the portfolio and then add to this in sequence as each aspect of the module is taught.”
Task 1 Starting point (300 words)
The aim of this task is to describe a learning experience that is important to you as it is now. What are the intended learning goals of the activity? What typically happens during this experience? Are there any critical incidents that come to mind? What do you feel about this? Why do you think it happens this way?
Task 2 Mapping and critiquing relevant research (1000 words)
This task asks you to find examples of research which relate to and may help to explain the learning experiences you describe in Task 1. These must be empirical studies that report data drawn from the direct observation of learning – hence opinion pieces or papers that review research in an area are not suitable.
There are two subtasks involved:
Use the table provided to map out the main features of each of the studies (this can be submitted as an appendix to your portfolio)
Using this table as a reference, write a short critique of one study. Some of the questions below may be useful in guiding your approach.
Is there a clear research question or hypothesis identified?
Does it draw on any theories of learning explicitly or implicitly?
What research methodology has been chosen? Are the reasons for this clear?
Is the approach valid (i.e. is the method likely to answer the question)?
Is the approach reliable (e.g. has the approach to data analysis transparent to you)?
Are the findings clearly reported? Are they based on the data collected? Has the data been stretched too far in your opinion?
Do the conclusions follow from the findings? What generalisations are made?
Are practical implications identified?
Do these have any relevance to you in your professional context?
Are you convinced? Have your own theories changed?
Task 3 Applying theory to your experiences (500 words)
There are two subtasks involved:
Represent in diagrammatic form how different orientating frameworks apply to your own learning experiences, e.g. using a Venn diagram, mind map, odd one out, SWOT format.
Write a commentary on the diagram that explains how the theories compare and identifies which is most helpful in understanding the learning processes involved.
Are there any related grand theories you can use to inform your redesign of the learning experience?
Task 4 Designing a learning activity to test (1000 words)
You now need to think about a new Framework for Action that changes the way your learning experience is organised. Your write-up needs to explain the following:
What new materials, tasks and/or roles have you designed? (i.e. your proposed Framework for Action)
What is the learning trajectory you envisage and intended outcomes that you have in mind?
What is the research evidence or theoretical basis for these expectations (i.e. relate your design to the orienting framework, grand theory or any relevant more specific theories you are using)
What changes in the enacted behaviours do you expect?
Why do you think your design will produce these outcomes?
Task 5 Critique of research methods used in the experiment (500 words)
You need to explain how and why the methods you are using (e.g. participant observation; video; interview) will help you to test your hypotheses about the newly designed learning activity.
Why are these methods well suited to investigating learning processes in ‘real’ contexts?
What problems and limitations have you considered when applying them to the trial of your learning activity?
Task 6 Carrying out and reporting the design experiment (2000 words)
This section consists of a report of the outcomes from a design experiment that involves a cycle of data collection and learning activity, relating your innovation (framework for action) to previous experience.
You need to:
Document the instructional starting point: present data to show how the learning experience typically occurs or how it has happened in the past (this may include recording learning in action and/or other data).
Present data collected during a learning experience that employs your designed framework for action.
You are free to structure the write-up in any way you see fit, although the headings used for the mapping exercise in Task 3 may prove useful here. In any case, the report must contain the following:
Pseudonyms for all places and people who are directly referred to in the report.
It should not be possible to identify participants from their given names or their reported speech.
A short description of the context, including location, participants, the aims and objectives of the activity concerned.
Your hypothesis about the effect of your design.
A comparison of variables of interest with and without your designed framework for action.
A commentary explaining what the data tell us about learning processes before and after the introduction of your design.
You will need to make reference to theory when doing this.
Review your hypothesis in the light of the data you have gathered.
How has your understanding changed?
Are there any confounding factors or problems with the conduct of the experiment that make it hard for you to draw firm conclusions?
How might these be addressed by future cycles of research?
Ethical issues that were addressed before the research proceeded.
In particular you need to refer to steps taken to secure informed consent.
Examples of information sheets and consent forms should be included in the appendices.
Recordings are not to be submitted with the portfolio. However, you may want to present extract(s) of transcribed dialogue from video or audio recordings. (The length of these will vary but ten turns is around the maximum you should aim for).
Explain how the extracts were chosen.
Task 7 Next steps (500 words)
Use one of the design research frameworks discussed (e.g. Middleton et al) to explain how your micro investigation could be developed into an extended study of learning processes to produce a domain specific instructional theory.
What are the different stages that would characterise how this study evolves over time?
Task 8 Critique of design research as a methodology for improving learning in your context (40 credit version only) (2000 words)
This task asks you to critically appraise design based research as a methodology for innovating on and improving learning in your context.
The following questions may help in structuring your approach:
What is the predominant methodology that is used to investigate learning in your area of interest? (e.g. Randomised control trials, quasi experiments, action research, case studies)
What new perspectives does design based research add to this field of research?
What are the potential weaknesses in this methodology that make its use problematic?