Brainstorming about PhD research: Methodology

Mood:  chillin’
Now Playing: Travelin’ Man (Rick Nelson)
Topic: Methodology

So, as part of the U500 session I attended on Tuesday we were also required to put together a list of tasks that we will undertake in the coming year. So, I listed a generic list of tasks, so here the are:

1. Literature Review
2. Decide on Methodology/ Methods
3. Negotiate Access with Universities
4. Pilot a study (still thinking about it!)
5. Observation of teaching LP in universities

Well, decided to expand on these just not to make it look so generic. So, first up is the literature review, which I’m looking at different types of software including example-based, problem-based and context-based as well as black-box and white-box software. Besides that my literature review may have to include something on cognitive learning (so far looked at a paper on cognitive load theory) and then something on computer-intensive curriculum and learning strategies with computers.

Deciding on the methodology or methods is difficult and I have no clue about that as yet. I was thinking I might have to do some kind of experimental design. The normal experiments that happen in schools is that the class is split and one group of students do one things and the other group do something different and then compare these groups – not sure how that is going to work – since I’ll need access to a group of students to do that – and to keep the experiment of the two groups homogeneous somewhat such as same lecturer, same sort of approach (maybe depending on what I’m doing). Also, if I want to do it for several classes or disciplines, I’ll also have to keep in mind that LP may be taught less or more in some disciplines or subjects as well for varying lengths sometimes in 2 hrs or 10 hrs!

I just scribbled something her on measuring student’s usage of the software – not quite sure what I mean but perhaps how they use the software and what length etc., but then I was also considering to do a questionnaire of the student’s attitude towards the differing software or I can do a pre-test/ post-test experimental type thing, give them both kinds of software and see what they think about it afterwards – mot quite sure if this will measure anything useful in this contest since giving a questionnaire before they even know LP and then giving them one after they know LP – how’s that going to help anything – probably could get their attitude to what they expect the software to do for them and then see what it actually did – but this is all from their perception which may be ‘coloured’ and hence cannot provide actually what the software may/ may not have done for them – I guess that is why there is triangulation of methods in cases like these.

So, decided to group the pilot study and the observation study into one since I probably can do both in the same instance. So, for the pilot study I was thinking I can observe how students use the various software or how teachers employ the software and interview the students and teachers as to what they think about the using of the software etc. But before I can do this, probably, I should do the following:

1. Create a list of nearby universities with linear programming courses
2. Get the course lecturers contact details
3. Write to them to gain permission to come observe and interview them
4. Get a list of dates/ times when LP is being taught so you can travel and visit them


  1. Friday, 2 December 2005 – 1:57 PM GMT

    Name: Liz Dobson
    Home Page: http://on its way

    I’m going to be doing some observational research on Higher Ed students. I did some video observations of stop-motion animation students collaborating and recorded and analysed the data in 2 different ways. I looked for categories (almost like grounded theory) and also coded their types of engagement… such as PE – positive encouragement or R – reject suggestion. It was good to use a pilot to modify my observation and what I want to get out of it.

    On a separate note – we do programming in our department. If you send me an outline of what you are interested in observing perhaps we could do something here (if it isn’t too far though I suspect that it is)

  2. Friday, 2 December 2005 – 1:58 PM GMT

    Name: Liz

    By the way, what are the ethical issues of gathering data on students for the OU? Is there an ethics comittee there we need to apply to do you know?

    Liz 🙂

  3. Friday, 2 December 2005 – 2:12 PM GMT

    Name: Anesa Hosein

    The observation of people in your department sounds like a great idea – but it might be far – so if I can’t get anyone near here will pick you up on your offer … but should warn you that linear programming is not in anyway related to computer programming, its actually a mathematics area – so if your department deals with that … great!

  4. Friday, 2 December 2005 – 2:19 PM GMT

    Name: Anesa Hosein

    Yup there is a committee … it is called the SRPP (Student Research Project Panel) – got to send an application through there. Don’t know the exact ethical issues but do know students can’t be asked to fill in questionnaires etc. during the exam period and the same student cannot be asked to participate in a study for two years (I think)after participating in the last one. And obviously there are the other ethical issues of confidentialty and privacy etc.

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