All entries for Friday 11 December 2015

December 11, 2015

Planning for the next few months!

Well this is about the final blog post for the year! Well that’s the plan anyway but given that I could come up with a potential blog post discussion at any time I will probably post up more anyway, I can’t really predict it and I shall not fight any opportunity to post up my ideas, but regardless at the moment I do not have any plans to post up anymore this year.

So then, all the scheduled formal plans and activities of the year have been completed and have gone further with things than I originally planned, and this is something that I am very pleased with because I can now move the project forward onto the next phase as has been discussed and confirmed by a conversation I had with my supervisor, sooner than I had expected. I have written a schedule for next year and have written a detailed schedule for the next few months up to Easter but as I have experienced in the past there is little point in making extensive long term plans because plans can change depending on the efficiency of completing particular tasks at particular times. But regardless, planning is important so that you can have a guide as to where you are going and place priorities on upcoming tasks and activities.

So, the next step really is to intensify Philosophical, Ontological and Methodological thinking. Now that I know what methodology shall be used along with the methods, I can now intensify thinking specific to them and their specific application within my own research. This will be an academic challenge as I will be going to levels of thinking that I have probably never reached before, but in order to progress and proceed and develop ourselves as individuals we need to take that leap of faith and go for it. This shall contribute towards the completion of the Literature Review and Methodological chapters of the thesis. This will obviously go beyond Easter but the important thing is to engage with this more intensified level of thinking as early as is possible.

The other next step is to think about the practical issues of the research and in this case: what is the specific context of the research or in other words what are the participants, what shall be their characteristics, what shall be their interests and in what way shall I engage with them and in what way shall I encourage them to take part in the research? Additionally, what technology shall be the focus, and in what way will they be used? Will they be used to compare certain learning processes between different groups of learners? Will they be used to compare different learning characteristics between different technologies? Some of this I have worked out and some of this I have not. Current ideas were presented to the supervisor and he was happy with them but obviously they need more elaboration. I have had more ideas about the context specifics following the discussion that I had with him earlier, so shall confirm these ideas with him at a later time!

The other key next step is basically develop a better understanding of the methodological issues surrounding the methods and methodology of the research: reliability, verifiability, validity, generalisability, and work out the ways in which each of these, and more, shall be mitigated and managed, along with, for example, the way that the issues identified in a particular method can be mitigated through using other methods that are proposed.

Another plan for up to next Easter is to begin thinking about the conference paper. Warwick University has a post graduate research conference yearly, and at the next conference I plan to present a conference paper with the intention of trying to turn it into a full on research paper at a later time. The conference paper shall be based on the questionnaire method that I am developing, which I have the belief of being quite unique and original but shall have to do some more literature searching and investigating before I can really say that my questionnaire is unique. Plus, I’ll be redesigning the questionnaire as well.

Those along with considering the structure of the Upgrade paper are the key tasks for the months leading up to Easter, and of course beyond but by Easter I’ll have a better idea of what I can complete up to the later summer months.

Lots to do but in the meantime I’m now on a Christmas holiday! I have literature to search for but there shall be no intensive thinking sessions or beginning of any new tasks till after Christmas. I might post up a couple more blog posts during the smaller literature search tasks if I feel inspired to do so, but I don’t formally plan to do so. But then, when has research and idea development ever followed a formal time frame?

Hoping you have all enjoyed my blog posts during the past few months and during the past year. If I do not post on here again till next year, hoping you all have a Merry Christmas / Solstice / Yule / Pancha Ganapati / Hanukkah / whatever you choose to celebrate at this time of year, and have a wonderful New Year!

‘till next time, be good, else Santa won’t deliver you any presents!

Brief reflection of the past year

It’s that time of the year where I begin to wind down and begin to reflect upon what I have achieved, and I think I can safely say, in conjunction with the meeting I have just had with my supervisor, that the past year, indeed ever since I started the Ph.D. has been a success. Of course there will be many issues to tackle as I intensify thinking about the Philosophical, Ontological, and Methodological aspects and issues of the research, and there are issues that I have discussed on here and documented elsewhere, but it’s brilliant that these have been identified early in the research process.

Despite ongoing battles with Ontological and Philosophical thinking in terms of the way that qualitative and quantitative data can be properly integrated within a Grounded Theory context, the Methodological and Methods aspects have been sorted. The methodological context shall deal with both qualitative and quantitative data, with qualitative data being dealt with by Grounded Theory and its inherent coding analysis techniques (the use of some of which are debatable: need to explore this further next year), whilst the questionnaire shall deal with both qualitative and quantitative data. The qualitative data within the questionnaire shall be analysed using coding analysis (possibly line by line coding as used within Constructivist Grounded Theory) and quantitative data shall be dealt with using descriptive statistical analysis and analytical methods that are used to explore correlations and links among various variables. The problem here at the moment is that it’s quite difficult to ascertain which analytical methods to use without viewing the actual data, according to a Professor that I spoke to a couple of years ago. The deciding of the specific context also depends on the context e.g., the use of ANOVA requires the comparison of multiple contexts within the research. It is unknown at this time precisely whether or not there is a need to compare any contexts, but ideas about this are forming and should be finalised before next Easter. But either way, I feel that my understanding of all this has definitely improved since beginning the Ph.D. and obviously there will always be room to learn more!

Having decided upon the methodology very recently the other key aspect has been developing the structure and ordering the content of the literature review. Back earlier this year I did decide upon a type of literature review approach known as a “Critical Interpretive Analysis,” but because I have decided to use Grounded Theory as the overall methodology this was no longer an option. This is because Critical Interpretive Analysis generates a theoretical model of investigation built from the literature and experimented with the data but this is something that is not really compatible with a Grounded Theory approach. Therefore I reverted to my original literature review structure and content ordering developed during the previous year, and placed it within the context of a Grounded Theory study. I think this will work: a lot of effort, but I think this will work.

The other key success this year has been the conference: a really enjoyable, fascinating experience presenting my research poster and discussing it, and to be told from people a couple of years into their Ph.Ds. that it actually inspired them. It’s moments like that that itself inspire you to continue with what you are doing, and to know that what you are doing is not a waste of time or effort. You wonder sometimes if anything you do really is worth all that effort, but it’s moments like at the conference that really inspire you into continuing and pursuing what it is you really want to do. That really was a key moment very early into the Ph.D. and it has encouraged me to present again at next year’s conference, but to push towards presenting a conference paper about a certain aspect of my methodology.

I could say so much more, but I don’t need to. The key successes of this past year have been the conference, the deciding upon the methodology, and the deciding upon the structure and content ordering of the literature review. Much still to do with regards to these aspects particularly fully developing an understanding of the methodology, the methods, compatibility issues, methodological issues and so on, but these will be dealt with and detailed appropriately in the thesis. It all takes time and the key thing to remember on any learning journey is if you do not understand something immediately then never give up. I never gave up understanding the purpose and role of the literature review within a Grounded Theory context and yes that was a challenge, but I did it.

And yes, it will be a challenge to understand and deal with the Philosophical and Methodological problems of combining or integrating qualitative and quantitative data, but I shall do it, and I will work it all out. It will just take time, and probably some head banging against the keyboard, but it will all be worked out.

‘till next time, try not to bang your head too hard on the keyboard!

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