Triads, Posters and Postgrads: inquiry-based learning, research methods and dissertation support - January 2009


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Ana Vasconcelos, Jamie Wood, Kendra Albright, Bob Petrulis (Information Studies; CILASS). Presentation given at the University of Sheffield Learning and Teaching Conference in January 2009.

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Triads, Posters and Postgrads: inquiry-based learning, research methods and dissertation support - January 2009

  1. 1. Triads, Posters and Postgrads: inquiry-based learning, research methods and dissertation support Ana Vasconcelos, Jamie Wood Kendra Albright, Bob Petrulis (Information Studies; CILASS)
  2. 2. Content of the presentation <ul><li>Rationale </li></ul><ul><li>The IBL approach </li></ul><ul><li>The context of the module </li></ul><ul><li>Discussion triads </li></ul><ul><li>Poster session </li></ul><ul><li>Evaluation data </li></ul><ul><li>Reflection, discussion </li></ul>
  3. 3. Rationale <ul><li>DIS student body displays a huge diversity of research interests, experiences, and levels of understanding </li></ul><ul><li>Results in different levels of understanding regarding research </li></ul><ul><li>Previous student evaluations emphasized the need to build in more detailed support for research preparation in smaller groups </li></ul><ul><li>Focus group discussions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of exposure to research </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Choosing a topic </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How to scope </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Choosing an appropriate methodology </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Access to organisations </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. CILASS context <ul><li>Phase 1 project, Inquiry in Information Management , L1 UG module </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>In small groups, students choose research question and then undertake and report an original investigation. Inquiry process supported by workshops and online resources. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Phase 4 projects to develop L3 UG and PGT research skills in research methods modules </li></ul><ul><li>So, a key idea was to build progression in IBL into the Information Studies curriculum </li></ul>
  5. 5. The IBL approach <ul><li>&quot;Modelling the process of research within the student learning experience“ (CILASS website) </li></ul><ul><li>IBL: “self-directed inquiry or research. Students conduct small or large-scale inquiries that enable them to engage actively and creatively with the questions and problems of their discipline, often in collaboration with others.” (CILASS website) </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>Research methods in DIS appeared to be an ideal area for the application of IBL as both are about </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Supporting research process </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Understanding research process </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Developing research skills/ methods </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Connected to disciplinary research/ inquiry </li></ul></ul>IBL and research methods
  7. 7. Objectives <ul><li>Reconceptualise the module to develop relevant research skills and support students through research process (e.g. Conrad, 2003; Cryer, 1998); </li></ul><ul><li>Establish link between IBL conceptual design and research practice that culminates in a successful dissertation experience; </li></ul><ul><li>Provide opportunities for research evaluation and critique among the students by providing each other with research feedback during discussion triads and a poster session; </li></ul><ul><li>Increase awareness of and opportunities for DIS to partner with businesses within the Sheffield community. </li></ul>
  8. 8. The context of the module <ul><li>Re-design of the module into: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A common block introducing key and basic concepts and principles (first part of semester); </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>IBL seminars exploring in greater depth more specific aspects of qualitative and quantitative research (second part of semester); </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Two key events geared towards informal but relatively structured feedback: discussion triads (week 6) and poster session (week 12). </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Assessment of the module was maintained: dissertation critique and research proposal + literature review. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Discussion triads <ul><li>A structured approach to brainstorming; </li></ul><ul><li>Some prior preparation – an A4/flipchart/poster on: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>what the research is about (objectives) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>why it should be undertaken (rationale) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>how you are going to undertake it (methodological approach) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Roles: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The subject discusses his/ her project in order to deepen the understanding of the scope of the research. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The interviewer deploys interviewing skills to probe the why, what and how questions - to try to sensitise the subject to any hidden and blind areas. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The monitor observes the process, but must NOT intervene. Will provide feedback to both the subject and the interviewer. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Key points: falling into role and group dynamics; socialisation and learning in interaction; seeing through multiple lenses; deliverables; transferability; time efficiency. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Poster session ‘Champagne & dessert’ end of year event <ul><li>Development of posters with the extended ‘what, why and how’ of the research; </li></ul><ul><li>Posters were displayed at a session open to both the University community as well as the Sheffield business community; </li></ul><ul><li>Display arrangements deliberately mixed students from different cohorts and using different approaches; </li></ul><ul><li>Informal discussion groups; </li></ul><ul><li>Enhancement of the visibility of the work of individual students and of the department. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Evaluation
  12. 12. Evaluation (cont.)
  13. 13. Some comments from participating students <ul><li>“ A good opportunity to gain feedback and opinions about my research topic, methodology and literature review.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ It’s the best poster session I’ve ever had!!! Thank you very much. </li></ul><ul><li>It was a good experience.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Great!” </li></ul><ul><li>“ In the grand scheme of things, the timing of the event was not ideal (in terms of dissertation development) but it was nonetheless good.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I hope events like that will be open to me/us as alumni in the future.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Really good – found loads of useful resources for other people that I had not discovered. Thanks. “ </li></ul><ul><li>“ It would be nice say in 2 years to come to one of these to say hi. I’d pay too (say £2).” </li></ul>
  14. 14. Key learning points <ul><li>Learning in interaction and aspects of socialisation; </li></ul><ul><li>Establishing clear links to concrete deliverables; </li></ul><ul><li>Transferability of approach; </li></ul><ul><li>Overcoming logistic challenges. </li></ul>
  15. 15. References <ul><li>Conrad, L. (2003). ‘ Five ways of enhancing the postgraduate community: Student perceptions of effective supervision and support’. Learning for an Unknown Future: 26th Annual HERDSA Conference. Available online at: ; accessed 23/10/2008. </li></ul><ul><li>Cryer, P. (1998). ‘Improving the Experience of Postgraduate Research: a survey of the UK support provision for staff and students’. Journal of Further and Higher Education , 22 (3), 267-274. </li></ul>