Joan Finn Junior Faculty Research Fellowship and Formative Design

Last week I had the honor of accepting the Joan Finn Junior Faculty Research Fellowship Award. The award, is designed to support faculty with nine credits of release time for a research project. I plan on using the time to develop an idea I have dreamed up over the last few years.

My Plan

Over the long term I want to create an online environment to support the teaching of sourcing skills and argumentative writing. My thinking is we decontextualize the inherent bias and perspectives found in the act of reading and writing texts. I want to teach sourcing as a mindset and not a skill set.

Building off of the work of Rick Beach and the lessons I learned studying under Don Leu I want to use role play and bias thinkalouds to contextualize sourcing skills within Internet Inquiry.

Basically students would interact in this online simulation. They would have to visit different buildings in the town. Each building would have its own purpose. Users would encounter an avatar on each side of a contemporary issue. They would also visit a librarian with a more neutral stance. Finally there would be a store where students would have the option to visit. There they could unlock features to customize their avatars by completing learning events centered on sourcing Finally there would be “field work.” Here students would have to conduct online research and collect and analyze data.

Second Life NSF Model

The long term version of my idea is to develop learning activities that can bolster adolescent students’ abilities to use online sources in their argumentative writing. Using the Fellowship I hope to create the biased think aloud videos.

It would be the first step in massive instructional design process. Hopefully I can use the materials I develop and the results I find to successfully seek out external funding.

Why Formative Design

For this work I will draw heavily on Reinking and Bradley’s(2010) work on formative and design experiments. As a Neag Fellow with the New Literacies Research Lab I worked closely with Dr. Reinking on formative design and hope to bring the learning to bear on the project. Reinking and Bradley suggest:

  • Formative and design experiments are grounded in developing understanding by seeking to accomplish practical and useful educational goals.

  • They are focused on less-controlled, authentic environments instead of the tightly controlled laboratory-like settings.

  • They use and develop theory in the context of trying to engineer successful instructional interventions.  Thus, they dwell in the realm of engineering science rather than social science.

  • They entail innovative and speculative experimentation.

  • They are interdisciplinary employing multiple theoretical and methodological perspectives and orientations.

  • They seek understandings that accommodate many complex, interacting variables in diverse contexts.

  • They seek generalizations from multiple exemplars rather than from random samples and controlled experimentation.

Basically formative and design experiments are meant for real classroom research. I cannot develop my entire vision as part of this project I hope to just focus on the biased think aloud. It is an intervention, rooted in theory  that addresses my pedagogical goal ( a more developed post explaining this connection is forthcoming).

My Pedagogical Goal

I will use pre-recorded interactive read alouds that contextualize the bias and perspectives inherent in websites about science topics. In other words students will be given a video of a website that is read and annotated by a narrator with a specific bias. The perspective included in the read alouds will help to contextualize the sourcing skills required for argumentative writing. This lack of contextualization of sourcing skills has long plagued studies designed to improve argumentative writing in science (Guzetti, Snyder, Glass, & Gamas, 1993; Abell, 2007) and the critical evaluation of websites (Goldman et al, 2012).

Distributed Design

One of the greatest take aways I carry with me from my time under Dr. Leu is that issues we face today in educational research are too complex for the broken single research model. If I was to fully envision the role playing I want to create I would need to be part of a team of theorists, programmers, ethnographers, instructional designers, statistician, and multimedia specialists. Ohh and funding. Funding would help.

Until then (and the project will begin full force next spring) I want to invite folks on board. If you are an educational researcher and you are committed to working endlessly for no monetary reward on the hopes of improving connected classrooms I welcome you. The most critical needs of the project would be someone with a background in multimedia, science education, and someone knowledgeable in item response theory. Though enthusiasm for the project and an ability to learn in the open is all this team (currently me) requires.

 

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