LEARNING FROM THE STUDENT
During my PhD journey, I engaged in a variety of projects to expand my knowledge of research. These experiences exposed me to every portion of the research cycle including literature review, research ethics board application, research design/methodology, data collection, data analysis and scholarly writing. I also engaged in comparative analyses of several methodologies including: case study, constructivist grounded theory, mixed methods, action research, and design based research. Therefore I have selected to demonstrate my knowledge of research through a research portfolio.
Artifact #2- Research Portfolio
During my PhD journey, I had the opportunity to engage in multiple research projects in which I summarized the purpose, methodology, tasks and outcome of each project in the table below. Regardless of the tasks completed within the cycle, it was important that I always considered the methodology, the purpose of the research and who was being impacted. According to Guba and Lincoln (1994), “Methodology is concerned with why, what, from where, when and how data is collected and analyzed” (Guba & Lincoln, 1994, p. 108) so I needed to consistently reflect on the questions: 1) Why am I am doing this research, what is the problem that needs to be resolved? 2) What type of data will I need to answer my research questions?, 3) Where will I get the data, and 4) Who will be involved in the research?
Guided by my ontological position that “there is no single reality and all individuals have their own and unique interpretations of reality”, I needed to keep an open mind to the interpretations of the primary and secondary research I uncovered (Kivunja & Kuyina, 2017, p. 35). In my view, this meant learning from the experiences throughout the research process, and learning from the subjects within the research; which were either students or teachers in the various research projects. Hence, I now share the lessons learned from the literature review, methodology and methods phases of the research cycle.
Of the five research projects I engaged in, I completed four full literature reviews which involved the review of hundreds of data sources. After the first literature review, I quickly appreciated the importance of maintaining a well grounded reference library to easily retrieve my sources. An annotated bibliography was also useful when the literature review was only one segment of the project and required further refinement by a third party, as in the study on large scale assessments.
After submitting my first article to a scholarly journal, I realized the critical analysis of my literature reviews could be strengthened after receiving the following feedback from the editors: “You have a clear focus on UDL but there are many critiques of this framework. I believe it would be beneficial to unpack this theory further in the manuscript for readers to have (a) an understanding of what it is (b) research that has been done with it and on it to support its value (indicating the arguments for/against), and (c) why it’s relevant to your topic and the current status/questions you’re asking. This would set for a stronger theoretical frame for the paper”. (Canadian Journal of Education, personal communication, Feb. 24, 2022).
I appreciated this feedback as well as other feedback received from my supervisor and research teams to consistently enhance my skills in literature reviews. My research projects, as well as my directed studies work has also allowed me to expand my knowledge of several methodologies including case study, constructivist grounded theory, mixed methods, action research and design based research.
The two research papers I submitted to journals were based on qualitative case studies where a small sample of teachers and students within a specific boundary were interviewed and observed to generate rich data about their inclusive educational experiences in online and physical inclusive classrooms. Merriam & Tisdell (2016) defined case study as “an in-depth description and analysis of a bounded system” (p.37). Case study focuses on what is being studied and the “what” is the bounded system. The bounded system in the first study was the Toronto District School Board; and in the second study, it was virtual classrooms within the Ontario Ministry of Education. In a quest to expand my knowledge of methodologies, I engaged in a research assistantship with Dr. Thorne to explore teachers' perceptions and experiences of assessment practices in inclusive environments. The selected approach was constructivist grounded theory in which I was able to deepen my knowledge in Dr. Fitzgerald’s ED-7010 Advanced Qualitative Methods Research course. Grounded theory discovers a theory for a process or action instead of describing a theory like other qualitative approaches. The theory is “generated or grounded in data from the participants who have experienced the process” (Strauss & Corbin cited in Creswell, 2013, p. 83). Traditional grounded theorists, Glaser and Strauss, believed data was discovered naturally through the participant interviews, and the research should start with minimal predetermined ideas, and without researchers’ prior experiences or influences of prior theories (Bhattacharya, 2017). However, instead of data being discovered, the constructivist grounded theory view by Charmaz (2006) was that researchers construct meaning with their interactions with participants and various data sources; which aligns with my epistemological view as well. In preparation for my dissertation, my directed studies involved a comprehensive analysis of mixed methods, action research and design based research (DBR) which enabled me to determine that DBR would be the most appropriate approach for my dissertation.
The final stage of the research cycle which provided me with substantial knowledge was the various methods adopted in participant recruitment, data collection and data analysis. Of all three areas, participant recruitment was the most challenging as it required understanding the needs, interests and time commitment of the potential participants. It also involved invitation requests through third parties or ethics approval from multiple organizations when direct contact with the participants was limited. This depended on the timely distribution of the invitation and the interest of the participants, if the benefits to them were unclear. In my first research project, I was fortunate to receive the appropriate ethics approval and recruitment support from a large school board. In my second study, I had direct contact with the participants which eased the process of participant recruitment. However, in my third study, my assumption was overly optimistic about participant involvement; that inservice teachers in the Master of Education program at UPEI would have the time or interest to participate in my study. This resulted in the decision to pause the project. In future, I will need to conduct a deeper analysis in the participant pool.
In each of my projects, I also had the opportunity to expand my interview, observation and transcription skills. This was my preferred phase of the research process as it enabled me to interact closely with the participants and truly understand their issues. The interview format I primarily utilized was semi-structured interviews to generate rich dialogues, and member checking followed the interviews to increase credibility of the data collected. The restrictions of in person research during the COVID-19 pandemic enhanced my skills in conducting online interviews, so I can now offer the flexibility of either online or physical interviews depending on the purpose of the research, and preferences of the participants. In relation to data analysis, I started my projects with manual analytical techniques, but I now enjoy the benefits of computer-based software, including SPSS statistical software and Atlas.ti 22 data analysis software. Based on the knowledge and/or experiences gained through all parts of the research cycle, I believe I am well positioned to continue extensive research either for myself or as part of a research team.
REFERENCES have been included in the full paper version of my eportfolio
Montgomery, D. & Snow, K., (Submitted). Supporting students with diverse learning needs using UDL in online learning: Voice of the students. The Journal of Teaching and Learning.
Montgomery, D. (Revised/Submitted). Integrating Technology with Instructional Frameworks to Support All Learners in Inclusive Classrooms. Open/Technology in Education, Society, and Scholarship Association.
Montgomery, D. (In press). (Review of the book Colour Matters: Essays on the Experiences, Education and Pursuits of Black Youth. Book by Carl E. James). Canadian Journal of Education.
Montgomery, D. (2022). The tiered approach to support all learners in inclusive classrooms. Charlottetown, PE: University of Prince Edward Island. Retrieved from https://islandscholar.ca/islandora/object/ir:24372/datastream/PDF/download/citation.pdf