The research question…

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I’ve had several comments about exactly what my research question is – oops I did mean to put them in my sidebar.

So today I’ve changed themes for my blog (well I did that the other day) so I could get the links to the other social media tools I’m using (Twitter, Facebook and about to add LinkedIn). I’ve also changed my side bar and removed material that is less relevant to what will be my focus for the rest of this year and next – my research! I’ve added in the research questions so they are always there as the context for the postings – I probably should add in the methodology as well.

All of this work is in part to assist me (nothing like having the questions in your face all the time).. but also because as part of this professional doctoral programme from the College of Education at the University of Otago, I not only submit a thesis, but also a Research to Practice Portfolio. One of the components of this is a reflective piece in which I will reflect on how I have influenced a community of practice, and how this community has influenced my research work.  I intend to excerpt comments made here or in Facebook and my reflections on these comments for this reflective piece. Of course, I will not name anyone, nor disclose any identifying data – it may be that I only cut and paste a few words which is the evidence of either contributed to, or having received a contribution from the fluid community that may form around my work.  Thank you.

Planning a mixed method study

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Today I’m writing bits and pieces into my methodology chapter, and I thought that I should reflect here on four key questions that Creswell (2003) states must be addressed by the researcher during the planning stage.

1.  In what sequence will the qual and quant data collection be implemented?

This is an easy one as for quite some time now I’ve been clear about the order. In order to look at the self-directed learning of occupational therapists – especially why people do what they do as self-directed learners , I firstly need to find a range of learners across the self-directed learning spectrum.  After all, one would suggest based on the research that highly self-directed learners would talk about a range of ways of self-assessing, have clear objectives linked to the outcome of the self-assessment, use a range of activities that fit with their learning styles, and have detailed self-reflections. And that those who rate themselves as less highly self-directed (I can’t find a way of describing those at the other end – except to say not self-directed) would find those various steps harder to do and therefore produce less detailed self-assessments, have objectives that perhaps don’t easily relate to the self-assessment, be limited in the choice of activities (and perhaps feel they aren’t great learning activities but that’s all they can choose from) and perhaps have more superficial critical reflections.

Now this is probably very simplistic, but when the research on occupational therapists and self-directed learning is sparse, what do we have to guide us.  There is huge amounts on student self-directed learning, but after that it seems that we all assume we are competent self-directed learners, therefore research has not been required – hmm???

It follows then that I should use a self-directed learning readiness scale that is quantitative – that I can complete a quantitative analysis which will allow me to describe a large group of people. From this group I can then invite those who are ranged across from not self-directed to highly self-directed to gain more insight into the nature of self-directed learning in New Zealand occupational therapists – which is the analysis of the online portfolios people complete for the OTBoard recertification process, and the semi-structured interviews?

Make sense – I hope so.. I need to work on building this argument for sure in my methodology!

2.  What relative priority will be given to the qual and quant data collection and analysis?

Now this seems a ‘too-hard’ question to answer at the moment – but perhaps not. Because I’m really more interested in the nature of self-directed learning of occupational therapists -then the relative priority should be given to the qualitative data collected through analysis of online portfolios and the interview.  The quantitative data exists to give a snapshot of a group of occupatioanl therapists and their rating of their self-directed learning.  On it’s own the outcomes of this scale will not say a lot? Hmm can I say that?

3. At what stage will the qual and quant data be integrated?

I think the integration of the data occurs when I take peoples’ rating on their scale, take the information I gain from analysing their online portfolios and use this to frame up the questions for the semi-structured interview.  You rate yourself this way, but your portfolio suggests this and what do you think???

4. Will an overall theoretical perspective be used to guide the study?

At this stage the overall theoretical perspective is from Garrison and his model of a self-directed learner – but before I get into the analysis of the online portfolios and the interviews I better be sure that’s the way I will go as I think this will shape up the way I frame my questions too.  The SDLRS that I’ve selected uses similiar subheadings to Garrison’s model although I don’t yet know whether a theoretical framework was used in the design of the scale. I know the process used to decide what questions to ask in the scale – but what informed the design of the questions is not clear I think.

Would be interested in any comments on above – and I will post up on my blog the research questions. One of the other outputs in the EdD programme is a portfolio and part of this is to talk about how my community informed my research  – so here’s your chance OT community!

Exciting times for the occupational therapy profession

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I’m hoping that I’ve not lost too many readers while I’ve been absent from my blog! I find it hard to believe how quickly the weeks have gone by since I last posted.

I thought I’d quickly update what I’ve been involved in, and then hopefully, I’ll expand the entries in later postings. I enrolled in my EdD studies this year, and was totally engrossed for some weeks in the writing of an essay that argued for the importance and value of reflective practice and researching practitioners. Depending on my mark I may post the assignment later…! (okay – passed assignment well – so here it is! assignment-2-eddx901-for-blog )

One of the good aspects of this assignment was that I returned to readings I had considered earlier which is the work by Kielhofner and his colleagues in the UK – Kirsty Forsyth and Lynn Summerfield-Mann on the creating of scholarships of practice. I’m wanting to come back to this literature, and to explore the possibilities with a company I subcontract to here in Dunedin.

I also have been enjoying online collaborations with a group of practitioners and academics in the UK and US which has led to us presenting at the upcoming COT/BAOT National Conference. Last week we joined together using Elluminate to discuss what our presentation would look like. With 40 minutes for the presentation, and 4 presenters, we were able to quickly divide up the topics to be covered, and we’re using a Wikispace to join our efforts together. Its amazing how quickly we were able to reach agreement, given that we’ve never worked together, or met before! I know that as therapists we believe that the non-verbal cues are so important, but in this situation I haven’t at all felt the absence of these cues. Will be interesting to see what the others think (hope you guys use RSS feeds!).

I’ve also just heard that my nomination to a new group formed under the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) has been accepted. This group has been proposed and is being led by Louise Schaper from Perth West Australia. I’m sure the group will be openly talking about their work later, but the name of this group is the E-Health International Advisory Group. Louise and I have been discussing how we may use social networking tools (Web 2.0) to support the work of this group with membership from around the world.

Back soonnnnnnn!!!!

EdD musings

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On the second day of our residential school for the EdD (see my earlier posting), I had the opportunity to outline my initial thoughts about the topic I plan to investigate in the EdD. The first opportunity was during a class on quantitative research methods. The lecturer asked for some examples from the class – what were we thinking of doing, and then he went on to give examples of how a study framed by quantitative research methods might look. While the discussion was interesting, I realised that I need to be far more specific about the focus – which for me really needs to be about informal learning or unintentional learning and the creating of personal learning environments. Examples initially given in class were about me setting up for an example and online course, and then looking at the learning etc that occurs and other good ideas. However, the more the discussion headed down this track the more I realised that this isn’t what I want to look at (I did something like that in 1997/8 when I collected data for my masters thesis!).So.. at the end of the day, I sat with one of the staff of the programme and talked through again my ideas and this time I made sure I provided more of the background to my thinking and therefore where I might head. This person was able to understand what I was about which was a relief to me! So here it goes again – I’d be keen to see what others who stop to read this post think….. any feedback, resources or links gratefully welcomed!

My thoughts are…

we know that learning has occured when we see a change in behaviour

We continue to learn as we practice on a daily basis – some of this learning is formal, some informal, and some incidental or unintentional learning.

With increasing requirements learning has become more externally prescribed – ie HPCAA, performance appraisals and even audits against standards. The practitioner has less and less experience in defining learning needs, and determining how these needs can be met as learning becomes much more about the individual’s fitness to practice.

With external drivers such as I’ve outlined, formal learning becomes the focus for the practitioner, as with formal learning comes evidence of achievement. The practitioner has less experience in managing their learning, and in effect pays less and less attention to how it is they learn.

My thesis is that if we don’t pay attention to the ways in which we learn, we are less likely to be alert to or see alternatives for learning. We start to take what is offered even when it doesn’t fully meet our needs.

Other areas of movement – in some way linked…. a shift to lifelong learning, with an emphasis on being self-directed.

To engage in lifelong learning, we need to know what provides effective learning experiences for us, and we need to know what is possible for us.

So I’m interested in the intersections between professional development (specifically the informal, or unintentional learning that occurs), what tools are available to support this type of learning, and what this means for our profession (which is predominantly female, older, kinesthetic in learning style and probably other factors as well).

What I would like to do is work with a group of therapists (can be quite small) who are keen to look at learning how to manage their learning, keen to explore a range of tools that may support that process, and interested in describing for me how this type of learning compares with previous learning experiences. The group could be a group of academics, or could be a group of students, or a group of therapists who have the support of their senior manager to do this at work. Another group that would be great to work with would be a group similar to that proposed by Kielhofner and Forsyth (see for example this link)

This researchers are searching for mechanisms to close the theory-practice divide coining the phrase scholarship of practice… Working together therapists and academics created a community of practice. I wonder whether Web 2.0 tools could support the ongoing work of these communities of practice.

so if you’ve stayed with me until the end of this, please do get in contact with me – it doesn’t matter if you are in the northern hemisphere, as I will be on sabbatical next year and able to come to the other side of the world if need be!

Look forward to comments, thoughts, pointers etc.

Underway again!

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Well its been a while since I made an entry here – the end of year activities certainly caught up with me. After a good break and several holidays out of Dunedin, I’m not back to work, back to study, and back to blogging!  For those readers who have popped back from time to time, I hope you are still popping back as this blog will continue to be updated regularly in 2008.  There will be heaps to talk about as I’ve finally taken the plunge and enrolled in a EdD (Doctor of Education) at the University of Otago.  Its a professional doctorate, and on Monday afternoon 16 people sat around a ‘U-shaped table’ for the beginning of the first residential school. The programme is designed for distance learners, although funnily enough many of the first cohort are Dunedin based. However, as some of us were discussing – the reason for taking it, is that even when the programme is based in your home-town, flexibility is desired.

I’ll describe more about the programme (as I understand it from a student perspective) in a later posting but for now.. here is the link to the site (just in case you are thinking about your goals for 2009…). One of the requirements is to produce a portfolio of the impact on practice… so I’ll start by blogging my thoughts here, as a basis for this portfolio.

So a new entry is about to be posted outlining my thoughts and an invitation – do read on!