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"Contextualising Action Research into Practice: my experience, difficulties and outcomes"

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Introduction

Contextualising theory in practice CED 305 Portfolio Topic: Action Research and Key Skills Project Title: "Contextualising Action Research into Practice: my experience, difficulties and outcomes" Vikki Pullen Introduction For my research project I used action research at my place of work to determine the attitudes of the learners towards key skills after their first term of formal lectures. In the course of this portfolio I want to analyse my experience of contextualising the action research theory in my practice. For my research project I analysed specifically the attitudes of two groups and their course managers. I did not focus upon the theory that led to me using Action Research. In the project I was product focussed and I would like to take this opportunity to contextualise the theory that I used in my practice and reflect upon my experience of using the methods of action research. For this portfolio I would like to discuss how I used the findings of my research project to further improve my practice during the spring and summer terms of this academic year. I will begin by contextualising my workplace to the reader and then discussed the reasons for using action research with my learner body. I will then discuss and analyse my experiences of the methods used and the theory supporting them. I will continue by outlining the difficulties encountered during the experience, and finish the portfolio by writing about the outcomes of the action research and how it has benefited my work in the college as a whole. ...read more.

Middle

It would have been unrealistic to have interviewed each individual student as out of the 136 learners on my register for the year I collected results from 102 learners. Robson states that the surveys of the type used in my research project "provide a relatively simple and straightforward approach to the study of attitudes, values and beliefs and motives" (Robson, 1993, p.128). In this case study I was looking for the attitudes of the learners towards key skills and wanted to ascertain their motivation towards the topic. I also wanted to look at the value they placed upon the qualification and what they believed their course manager's attitude to be towards key skills. I acknowledged Robson's criticism of surveys that "respondents won't necessarily report their beliefs, attitudes, etc. accurately" (Robson, 1993, p.128) as they will be hoping to present themselves in a positive light. This led to me not asking for the learners' names on the feedback sheet. I felt that I would gain a more honest response from the individuals if they could remain anonymous. This was particularly important as a number of the questions relate directly, on a personal basis, to the lecturer teaching the learners. o Interviews In order to prove my research project hypothesis I interviewed the course managers responsible for the two specific course groups analysed. I decided to use the interview technique in order to clarify my questions and ensure that I gathered the appropriate information for use in my research project. Robson argues that the "presence of the interviewer encourages participation and involvement" (Robson, 1993, p.129). ...read more.

Conclusion

This was very positive feedback and led me to the conclusion that it was the minority of the group who were vocalising their discontent and in effect 'bringing down' the moral of the majority. This indicated to me that I needed to be firmer in my discipline towards the disruptive group members during my lessons. Prior to this action research I was focussed upon a style of andragogy (Knowles, 1980) in the classroom and now I feel I am more focussed upon leading the group and ensuring a direction for the learners who want to learn. The other main outcome of the action research project has been the implementation of a college-wide key skills policy on the integration of the communication key skill. During the Easter vacation staff development week the team invited course managers to a training event to educate them on the criteria for communication key skills and the assessment procedure. As from September 2003 this key skills will be integrated into a module of the main learner course of study and assessed by the course leader. The key skills staff will offer support during the initial one year trial. Noddings states that "... before one paradigm actually replaces another, there may be a fairly lengthy period of "paradigm clash". During this time, it is not clear which paradigm will succeed" (Noddings, 1998, p. 124). I believe this statement to be true and feel that it will be difficult to convince some course managers to take responsibility for qualifications that have traditionally been administered by the key skills team. Only by supporting their work will the integration become successful and the 'winning' paradigm of the future. ...read more.

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