University of Wolverhampton (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN11 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Pages: 1155-1156
ISBN: 978-84-615-0441-1
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 3rd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2011
Location: Barcelona, Spain
This paper has been prompted by an institutional instruction to revalidate all postgraduate programmes in a UK university. These kinds of top-down instructions often meet with groans at the prospect of administrative burdens with little impact on the nature of interactions between students and lecturers. However, in this instance in the School of Education, we decided to take the opportunity to begin rethinking our approach to our Masters Education programme. We wanted to challenge historical delivery methods and rethink the way we work and communicate with our students who, in the main, are studying part time and working full time as teachers in schools and colleges. We wanted our programme to become an example of our commitment to the ideology of ‘co-construction’.

With over 500 students enrolled on the MA Education programme and over 20 modules to develop, there was a clear need to identify an influential and manageable starting point for our changes. The 'Research Methods in Education' module became our focus point because all students progressing to the MA award will complete the module.

We decided to turn the module development into an action research project in itself to map the journey and share our findings. We also felt that this would be useful to discuss with the first cohort of research methods students who would become stakeholders in the project. We are at the beginning of the first cycle of this process. Another reason for creating an action research project from the development was that we wanted to share our work internally so the development could inform and guide other online developments. But we also wanted to share externally too, particularly in light of Wagner et al (2011) who note that, internationally, most degree programmes now contain a research methodology component.

To transform our thinking and the module, we decided to work with students online only. We established early in the development of the module that we wanted students to reflect not only on their interaction with the module content and the tutors, but on their own reactions to a distance, online learning environment too.

Youngblood et al (2001) point to a consensus in education literature that online facilitation is the teaching mode of the future. But for many universities, the emergence of virtual methods of education presents major challenges around technological and organisational change, pedagogical rethinking and some new relationships between academics and support and administrative colleagues. Laurillard (2002) considers the kinds of universities capable of adapting to changing environments and discusses the importance of 'an internal learning conversation that allows it to learn from experience, and adapt to its environment' (215). Our view was that successful online learning is a challenge to strategic and pedagogical structures and assumptions and not a simple process focussed on the digitisation of materials. As a result, the development would challenge the institution and create not only a successful online module, but a history too of pedagogical thinking, errors and accomplishments to guide others.

This paper will explore the landscape covered so far in the development of this online module and will involve:

1. an exploration of the pedagogy we have agreed;
2. the subject development of research methods;
3. the strategies we have planned to engage students online.
Research methods, action research, masters, pedagogical development.