Category Archives: Research Questions

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Research Questions … yes again!

Mood: rushed rushed
Now Playing: Baat Meri Suniya To Zara (Kuch Naa Kaho)

Well, James said I had to rephrase my research question. My current research question as it stands is as follows:

How does the use of software modes influence the learning of mathematics with respect to the three task types?”

Well, first of all he didn’t like the word modes since I were referring to it as types before. But then him, myself and Doug came to a consensus that since I already introduced the term boxes then I could use the term boxes instead. Anyway, James problem with the research question as it is stated here was that to him it sounded as if I was going to do a survey of mathematics teachers to discover whether using software mode or not has an effect on how mathematics is learning. Instead he suggested a research question of the following format:

What are the differences between the software modes in their effect on the learning of mathematics with respect to the three task types?

However, I didn’t like the use of ‘what’ particularly as this indicated that I was comparing the three software specifically and as there were not very strong evidence to show that there is a specific difference I don’t want to use what.

I think perhaps if I developed the hypothesis or what I’m trying to do maybe it might be easier to determine the appropriate research question. Ok the first hypothesis is that:

  1. Students perform differently depending on task type (this is not actually a hypothesis Galbraith and Haines found this out)
  2. Students’ performance/approach to solving different task types would vary depending on the software used

I think the second hypothesis is what I’m trying to do … but one word that could combine performance and approach … because performance to me only indicate the scores but I also want to look at the approach they are taking but I want to be careful with the word approach because then I might get into tool appropriation when I am more concerned with their cognitive processes. Hmm, but I have a slight problem with the term solving since interpretive tasks do not seem to be really solving but rather a sort of reasoning of what might be happening although I guess in some sense that is solving – but supposed the students did not solve the problem but yet gave an answer so probably answering might be better. Maybe I could put them as two questions (that might make James a bit antsy :D)!

But I think the research questions could be:

“Do students’ performance when answering the three task types vary depending on the software box used?”

and if so or not

“Do students’ approach to answering the three task types vary depending on the software box used?”

and if so or not

“Why do students’ approach to answering the three task types vary depending on the software box used?”

Yup I think I could work with that since the first would use the scores, the second one would use the explorations and explanations to answer these questions since these could be quantitatively based. And I could see the third question being answered qualitatively.

Ok just to send this off to Doug and James.

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Just thinking about my research

Now Playing: Aaye Ho Meri Zindagi (Raja Hindustani)
Topic: Research questions

I have no idea what I want to talk about – but I’m bored and so I thought I would post something here. Well, so far I’ve gotten about 4000 words done for my literature review – but most of it ain’t that great – its just me writing very verbosely and saying many things twice. But as James say, its at least 3500 (well at the time its was!) words on paper that won’t have been there before … so that’s some kind of encouragement.

I think James might be worried about me a bit … I met on Friday – up to that point I didn’t think I was faring that badly, but he wants to see me enthusiastic about something, but I must admit there is nothing I find that I could have a burning passion for.

There was the socialization concept with Biglan’s classification of disciplines that Smart and Elton used to explain the differences between disciplines. I mean that sounds ok – I think there is a gap somewhere around there – not sure if I’m burning for it though :).

There is also Galbraith and Haines use of the three types of problem: mechanical, interpretive and constructive – very nice concepts: but still not sure if passion exists there.

Hmm … what else there is the cognitive load theory that John sort of warned me off since it is a huge literature quagmire (my words not his!) … but that sounded kind of interested – but might get into conflict with other people’s views, so best not raise that ants’ nest.

So, what else peaks my interest? I don’t know … I know in the end I just want to compare black box and white box software and see how this fares in the learning of linear programming, but from what conceptual angle I’m taking it from I don’t know. I could perhaps use Galbraith and Haines questionnaire on mathematics-computing attitudes which seems like some kind of fun – will get some quantitative data to play with – but not sure how it will get me to answer the questions of black-box and white-box software.

Actually, more I come to think about it … I definitely want to see how disciplinary studies molds a student for different uses or perspectives on the use of black-box and white-box software – and this might be the socialization theory. Disciplines do shape students mind, but also their background – so all that is saying that disciplines is a covariate (if found to be significant) in the way that students use software – particularly I think from the discipline they emerge from. In that sense – if we are looking at what discipline they emerge from – we should find stronger socialization at the graduate level – such as in MBA programmes teaching linear programming and masters programme teaching optimization and masters programmes in engineering concerning with teaching production management etc. Obviously will have to look at the socialization of the persons discipline before they enter their masters degree and the current discipline that their masters degree is in. Therefore, one should expect that the socialization concept should be stronger for the master’s students and less for undergrad students learning linear programming and probably increases from their Year 1 to Year 3.

As such, one should expect their mathematics-computing attitude to be shaped by the different years they are in (i.e. higher up they go – more socialization with that discipline – will their high school subjects influence this also?) – particularly with respect to black-box and white-box software. Indeed I expect the business people to be again a more soft-applied approach – hmmm … this looks good – a factor analysis of the mathematics-computing attitudes should help in investigating what dimensions could be found – won’t it be great if three dimensions were found with respect to the mathematics-computing attitudes and they relate to the hard-soft, hard-applied and life-nonlife dimensions. I know John thinks the last dimension is a bit loopy but it would be great to see that … but won’t it be nice to also see how approaches of study (not sure how this will actually act – but there has been some literature that this differs from disciplines but not using a Biglan’s framework – as far as I could see – although the SOMUL project may have done some of that) may interact with the mathematics-computing side – I know a lot of purely quantitative stuff – but I can try it for a pilot and see how it works … and probably go more wide scale after if it proves good – but I can still intersperse this with some real life observations or interviews (because I do want to do this – but just not seeing how it will fit into my study).

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Questions I want to pilot

Mood:  a-ok
Now Playing: That’s What Daddy Wants (Wayne Hancock)
Topic: Research questions

So, got the observation set up over in Cranfield on Monday – and I am still wrestling with what I expect to get out of it.

So, I’m brainstorming here – all I keep remembering is that I’m looking at the learning and teaching of linear programming in various learning contexts – although it is really learning rather than teaching.

Ok, let’s see what are the main goals of this pilot study:
1. Pilot my observation skills
2. Pilot my interviewing skills

So, essentially I’m piloting two methods of data collection.

Just got an idea – I wanted to use Galbraith and Haines mathematics computing attitude scales – I was thinking I could have pilot here in the OU with people who would have perhaps did linear programming or mathematics at the undergraduate level or perhaps using OU students – not sure what I’m looking for in that case – but just as pilot to compare how these attitudes may differ from discipline or possibly by students taking the course, if whether their attitudes of mathematics-computing compare well to the course that they were undertaking.

Or perhaps I can interview people who did linear programming here in the OU and as them how they felt about it, what kind of software they used and what they thought about the software etc. It might be a long time ago for these people and they mightn’t even remember the course.

I could possibly interview OU students who did the course?? Got to go through SRPP for this – but still need to come up with what I’m looking for … probably could call it exploratory research just like exploratory surgery 😀

Still haven’t got to the questions I want to get from the pilot study … I think from the observation/ interview study at Cranfield I want to see:
1. What kind of approach is used in teaching linear programming for this course? I.e. is it more like a soft-applied approach or a hard-applied approach etc
2. How are the lectures presented?
3. The amount time spent on formulation, solutions etc and the problems given to the students
4. The amount of interaction that the students have between them and the teacher
5. When is the software whipped out for the students to use and what are the problems and comments that the students have when using the software
6. What they do when they are behind the computer – i.e. follow teacher’s instructions to the law or do their own thing

From the teacher interviews:
1. Why the particular approach is used for these particular kind of students? i.e. soft-applied/ hard-applied – and whether a different approach would have been better in the teacher’s opinion
2. Would this course be sufficient to meet their future goals in their field?
3. How much they think linear programming would be used in their future jobs etc.
4. Why the choice of software?
5. Would they have preferred a different software?
6. What problems they see with using the software and problems that student’s bring up?
7. How do they go about assessing student’s linear programming accomplishment
8. What kind of problems are set for them – in assignments, tests or projects?

As for the interviewing of students at Cranfield and maybe in the OU:
1. What they think of linear programming – is it a hard or easy concept?
2. Do they think it will be easy to implement? Or do they see themselves using the concept or using some other concept
3. What they found hard about linear programming?
4. What they enjoy most or least about studying it?
5. Do they enjoy using the software for linear programming? What they enjoyed the most/ least?
6. Would they have preferred some different kind of software?
7. What problems they see when using the software and learning?

Well, these seem all like questions I want them to understand – but to what purpose? To merely illustrate how linear programming is taught at one institution (or learning context) and to highlight the problems/ challenges of teaching linear programming (and with software)?

Seems good to me 😀

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My draft research question

Mood:  a-ok
Now Playing: Hippy (Atomic Kitten)
Topic: Research questions

So, based on my supervisory meeting last month in December, the research question that I’m currently working with is:

How do students learn linear programming using software in various learning contexts?

I originally had learning environments but Doug thought learning contexts might be more suitable. As it is, this research question is still broad and they did suggest using a number of sub-questions to focus into what I need to research.

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I have no clue about research questions!!!

Mood:  don’t ask
Now Playing: Jack The Ripper (Link Wray)
Topic: Research questions

Well, I’m suppose to make an entry into my research blog today .. but have no clue what to write about since I’m pressed for time (got to go catch a bus).

I’ve read so many papers and yet I’m clueless about my research question. I think I’m just going to use ‘How do students learning linear programming using software?” and then put a lot of sub-questions to answer that and make up a methodology of observations, interview, questionnaires (inventories) and examination of scripts. Although it seems like a lot of work and I have no point to why I’m doing it and how it will answer my research question.

I’m clueless at the moment.

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