Category Archives: Royal Roads University

Culture of Inquiry

interview-word-map1

At Niagara College Taif, we face the daily reality of a culture where regular attendance, at any level of their education, is simply not considered important to the student. At the secondary school level, attendance is disturbingly low and there does not seem to be any repercussions for missing classes. Therefore, the vast majority of the students who register with us are quite shocked at our preoccupation with their attendance record. In many cases it is the first time they’ve been reprimanded and made accountable for it.

To help motivate our students to attend on a regular basis, we are launching an iPad project with two major goals in mind. First, to give the students a new reason to come to class. Even in Saudi Arabia, students love to play with technology. iPads are not foreign to them but using them in class as an integrated tool for the course is.

Second, the use of the iPads is designed to help build better critical thinking and problem solving skills in our students. No ‘Technology for Technology’s Sake’ here! The iPad is an integral part of the course. Assignments, test, projects and capstones will all make use to the tablet.

Niagara College Taif launched in August of 2014 and has been in operation for only one year. Our student base is still building but for the time being, we are dealing with rather small numbers of students. This, coupled with the lack of research directly related to iPad use of this nature in Saudi Arabia has pointed me in the direction of an ethnographic inquiry. I am very interested in finding out how the Saudi culture, values and everyday life influence their educational decisions. Is this the way to go? I’ll find out soon enough

Interview map: https://contextualresearch.wordpress.com/week-07/class-13/

Open Access Research

ResearchWhen I was a kid, I had to walk barefeet, uphill both ways, in knee-deep snow just to get to the city library so I could do my research on tadpoles for my science class. If I was lucky, my mom had given me a nickel or two to make photocopies. Sometimes you could actually make out an image on some of them!

OK…most of that is an exaggeration, expect for the price and quality of those early photocopies. I doubt anyone will disagree that research, at all levels, has changed drastically since those days.

In my day-to-day work at Niagara College and through my Masters’ studies and Royal Roads University, I find myself researching ‘stuff’ all the time. I even assign research projects to my students. Suffice it to say research is a big part of what I do. For the record, I much prefer handing out and marking research assignments!

By its very nature research is exact, detailed, time-consuming, frustrating and, unfortunately, necessary. Research is not my most favorite activity. There! I said it. That’s right…I went there!! I consider myself a more creative, outside-of-the-box, kind of guy. I have been rather successful with this approach, but even I realize the importance and necessity of research. I’m lucky in that, through Niagara College and Royal Roads University, I have free access to many research databases. Even with all that access, I still often run into websites, journals and databases that require a paid subscription to view their documents.

The biggest part of my frustration with this situation is that part of me understands the business and financial side of research. At the same time, I often find myself needing to have access to that research to better understand and advance my own work. I am not claiming to be looking for a cure for cancer or trying to convince anyone that I am so special everything should just be free for me but at some point we need to figure out what the ultimate goal of research is. Should it only be available at a price or should it be accessible by all to continue to build on it and achieve more with it?

Today’s digital students have to come to expect open access for almost everything. They, certainly more than we have, freely make available all manner of information on the internet. Not just social media but it is all linked back to this. Creative Commons is growing by leaps and bounds and yet important and vital research is still hidden away behind the registration-fee curtain.

In her August 4, 2014 blog for Electronic Frontier Foundation, Maira Sutton writes that progress is the result of ideas and research being shared and the internet is the most powerful tool for this. Maria talks about two cases of students who illegally accessed and shared research papers online. The penalties vary from country to country but how can making significant research available to all be worth 35 years in prison?

Granted the above example is extreme and rare and I am not advocating copyright infringements or any illegal activity whatsoever but I do believe it is time that all of us give open access research more thought.

Cultures of Inquiry Reflection

129Cultures of Inquiry Reflection

André Roy

As with epistemology, I find that I use bits and pieces of all cultures of inquiry without realizing there were so many varieties. As I glanced down the list for the first time, I found myself dismissing some while be drawn to others. As I read more, I realized that while there are similar components among all of them, some of the key differences were either appealing or not. The variances also help in choosing which one will be of more benefit for a particular subject matter.

The three cultures of inquiry I will reflect on are Hermeneutics, Historical and Action Research. Some of the concerns with Hermeneutics include a need for a substantial contextual understanding of the subject before you can even begin your research. Without a thorough knowledge of your subject, you can struggle through your research making it difficult to clearly lay out your interpretation of the concepts and ideas.

The Historical researcher is confronted with the challenge that ‘history’ is not simply events that have taken place in the past. Depending on the context, history can be looked at from the point of view of the present and/or future. Given that anything can be studied historically, knowing when to utilize historical research over other cultures of inquiry is a bit more of a challenging task.

Early users of Active Research would look to change processes or behaviours without any input from those involved. That lack of self-determination or empowerment made any changes more difficult to implement. The opposite can also prove troublesome. It is not always easy to get the input and participation of those involved in the ultimate goal of the research.

As to epistemological assumptions, Hermeneutics can be seen as the opposite of behaviourism. While it is the search for change, it does not look for established behavioural patterns to implement that change. The new concept is simply presented and adapted by all.

Historical researchers, however, look more to identifying what is unique; what makes their concept different and better that what was in place before.

With Active Research, change is achieved by consensus or input from all involved. Much like connectivism, the knowledge and skills needed for change is gathered from many sources. No ONE person is expected to do all the work on their own. Both the goal and procedure used are reached collectively.

A look at the relationship between researcher and the subject of research shows that with Hermeneutics one must not only have a passionate understanding of the subject but also be able to present it so it is grasped by those less passionate. One must always consider the context of the data used in the research to the context being presented. The two will often vary and, therefore, need to be clearly defined.

The Historical researcher is always looking for similarities and trends and therefore should enjoy form and patterns. A meticulous attention to detail coupled with extensive note-taking are all part of this culture of inquiry. The ability to read and develop a clear understanding of the original language of the subject matter is also most helpful.

The Action Researcher should take on the role of facilitator. They will help to plan the fact-finding process so that all involved can better understand and reorganize the new information to achieve the desired result. Critical thinking and problem solving will keep the participation of those involved on the right track throughout the exercise.

My personal reaction to the above three cultures of inquiry is, quite obviously, based on my experiences and current line of work. I have spent the last four years mapping our college’s courses and programs and helping faculty to develop curriculum to answer any and all concerns exposed in this process.

I have also been responsible for assisting our faculty to incorporate technology into all their courses. Be it online testing, e-portfolios, digital presentations, hybrid or online delivery, adaptive technology, etc., I have always realised the best results when the faculty member and I worked as a team.

I had originally chosen Hermeneutics as an example of what I did not like; a method, given the choice, I would not use. However, the more I read, the more I came to realize that this could be beneficial to me. I have been working on the curriculum for our new campus in Ta’if, Saudi Arabia for 6 months. Since there is no faculty in place and no one to work with, my interpretation of what is needed and required is the only source of information. My subjective understanding of the curriculum, in this situation, is what will be used to achieve our goal.

As I have already indicated, I believe all research has a historical component to it. I have always looked at the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ things were done to gain a better understanding of the direction we need to move in today. It is an approach I truly enjoy due to the success I have experienced with it.

Active Research is my go-to culture of inquiry. However, like Hermeneutics, my reasoning for that has also changed. While a great deal of the research I am involved in lends itself to being active, it simply is not the ONLY way to go. My preparation for Saudi has clearly demonstrated this. Having the input and participation of those involved and affected by the result of the research certainly increases their ‘buy-in’. My experience is such that change without input is rarely successfully implemented.

Therefore, while my preference is the Action  Research approach now I can see that when the situation does not allow for  participant input, Hermeneutics  may be a great alternative.

 

References

Bentz, V. M., & Shapiro, J. J. (1998). Mindful inquiry in social research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.